An alternate universe risks destroying its own timeline (or perhaps several timelines) in this new novel by the author of Allegiance (2013, etc.).
Steampunk novels are often set in or near London, and a cameo by Queen Victoria is practically de rigueur. So it’s a pleasure to encounter a steampunk work in which England has a decidedly diminished role. These four interwoven stories (three previously published elsewhere) take place between 1897 and 1914 in an alternate Europe where Éire (Ireland) is a powerful nation that also rules over a splintered England as well as Wales; Alba (Scotland) remains independent. Áine Lasairíona Devereaux, the young queen of Éire, aided by her most trusted agent, Cmdr. Aidrean Ó Deághaidh, struggles to establish political ascendancy over treacherous members of her own government, defuse Anglian rebels seeking independence, and build amicable relations with a turbulent Europe and Africa in the potential run-up to this universe’s equivalent of World War I. The kicker is that physicists and mathematicians in Éire and elsewhere have made significant progress in time-travel research. Dissidents of all sorts seek to turn that research into a weapon, creating fractures and disruptions that cause memory confusion, madness, destruction and death. The book ends on a note of hope, albeit an uncertain one: Given what we know of time travel, both negative and positive events can be overwritten.
Feels slightly unfinished but in an interesting and appropriate way.