The saga of Northland, a sophisticated hunter-gatherer civilization thriving behind a vast wall shielding it from the invading waters of the North Sea (Stone Spring, 2011), continues in a tumultuous alternate 1159 B.C.
Drought and famine grip Europe and Asia. The eruption of an Icelandic volcano spreads ash through the atmosphere, chilling the air and further damaging the ecosphere. The Northland’s trade with the Americas has gained them both maize and the potato and thus may hold the key to staving off starvation. A deposed but extraordinarily charismatic Hatti (Hittite) queen and her lover (actually owner), an ambitious Trojan scavenger, seek access to these foodstuffs, while political infighting in Etxelur (the region closest to the Wall) about whether to grant such access has already led to murder. This is worldbuilding at its very finest. Baxter’s research of ancient cultures and natural history (detailed in a helpful afterword) and his extrapolation of what Northland societal structure might be like create an utterly real-seeming physical, political and economic landscape. His understanding of the human heart and its frailties paint convincing and powerful character portraits, particularly when exploring the various ways in which people will behave when pushed to the absolute end of their emotional endurance.
Gripping, well researched and sharply intelligent.