CHAPULTEPEC by Norman Zollinger


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Mexican history again serves as a backdrop for Zollinger (Not of War Only, 1994), this time in an ambitious story of the French imperial adventure of the 1860s. Having left the US Army after the Mexican War and joined the famous French Foreign Legion, Captain Jason James is back in Mexico to prepare the way for Napoleon III's establishment of a Catholic empire in Central America with the Austrian Prince, Maximilian, on the throne. The valiant, handsome James must face ghosts from the past, most notably a death threat from a cousin who, like the US, is conveniently distracted by the American Civil War. Meanwhile, Sarah Anderson, beautiful, Boston-bred, and French-educated, also arrives in Mexico to handle the affairs of her murdered brother. Joined by American Marine Lieutenant Matt O'Leary and Cipi, a dwarf gifted with prophecy, among other soldiers and servants, the pair becomes enmeshed in the politics of France's adventure in Mexico. Both Jason and Sarah are expatriate Americans, but each is also faced with divided loyalties: Sarah is friend to Maximilian's consort, Carlotta, yet develops an affinity for Benito Juarez and his revolutionaries; and when Jason becomes a colonel in the Mexican Imperial Army, he's divided between sworn duty and deep commitments to his native democratic principles. Falling in love, the two wrestle through their conflicts against the background of a Mexico ripped apart by internal politics and bloody warfare; not only will their love last, but because of their social and political connections, they'll find themselves on hand for most of the important events in the short, tragic rein of Maximilian I. Few of the characters ever really come to life, and Zollinger's dialogue is bitten to death by anachronisms (""jettison,"" ""completely looney""); but the story is romantic and the history is real, giving a pull to this blood-and-dust tale of mid-19th-century politics south of the border.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Forge/Tor