Review: Lincoln’s Wizard by Tracy Hickman & Dan Willis

Lincoln's Wizard coverIf you’re looking for a fresh look at a pivotal time in American history, Lincoln’s Wizard by Tracy Hickman & Dan Willis just might be the answer. Not to be confused with works of REAL history (as Matt Mitrovich so eloquently explains in his post a couple weeks back), this first book in a new Steampunk series has all of the genre elements we cherish from SF/F/H and a little more.

Soon to be released from WordFire Press in both trade paperback and eBook format, the book covers the bizarre and fantastic sciences of Steampunk, but loyal fans of military and historical action will appreciate it too. Barely over a couple hundred pages in length, this fast-paced story will go by quick and leave the reader wanting more.

What can the reader expect to experience in this story?

Lieutenant Braxton Wright is a brilliant young engineer in the Union Army. More comfortable working with paper and numbers than a musket and lead balls, he finds himself as part of a crew aboard an iron war machine that has the potential to turn the tides of war. His own design, the Monitor is an aquatic craft with unimaginable fire power able to stealthily navigate the waterways virtually unnoticed. But the vessel’s true strength emerges when it rises from the depths and walks on three towering legs, giving it a strategic advantage over the slower moving and more vulnerable troops on the ground below.

The Confederate Army, strong enough to force the United States government to relocate further north in New York City, evidently has a couple powerful weapons of their own. A small flying squadron of fire breathing dragons piloted by an elite group of men known as the Southern Knights seem like formidable foes to the large fleet of Union airships. But the South has an even deadlier advantage on the ground, where their “Gray” army is eerily unstoppable. Dead soldiers scraped off of the battlefields are injected with a chemical solutions that re-animates them into zombie soldiers – their name is influenced more by the color of their skin than the color of their uniforms.

An army that can bring their dead back to life can force any enemy into an endless war, a war the North may never be able to win.

However, Allan Pinkerton, the founder of Pinkerton National Detective Agency – and the head of Union intelligence – convinces President Abraham Lincoln to send a select squad behind enemy lines on a secret yet improbable mission. Not without some consternation, newly promoted Captain Braxton Wright would be the man to lead this mission. As the President put’s all of the hopes of ending the war on the young engineer’s shoulders, it can be assumed that the brilliant and resourceful Wright is the “wizard” indicated in the title.

Lincoln’s Wizard is a fast paced story from the start. Billed as Dragons of the Confederacy #1, readers can be confident that there will probably be more adventure to come. With this assumption, there should also be no surprises when the last page is turned and we are left with a number of unanswered cliffhangers. This is NOT a stand-alone book. Similar to a television “pilot” episode, this is merely ACT I, an introduction to the characters and a prologue to the bigger picture of Dragons of the Confederacy.

 The Monitor
The Monitor

Sure the plot is imaginative with fantastic machines and the setting comfortable because of the familiar historical elements, but the essence of the story lies in the character development. Unfortunately, aside from a brief but insightful introduction of the Lieutenant Marcus Burnside of the Southern Knights, protagonist Braxton Wright is the only other character readers will be able to build a relationship with in this first book of the series.

There are a few other characters who will presumably become key elements in future instalments, but they seem to remain distant, or purposefully secretive here. The human like “Tok” robot named Stan reads like the Star Trek character Data and can easily steal the scenes if the author’s wish to use that angle down the road. The lady Hattie Lawton is a forceful agent working for Pinkerton and seems to have a sordid history that we are not privy to – yet. And Wright’s longtime friend Doctor Lawrence “Laurie” Hancock is an enigma. Thought to have been killed in an earlier battle, his awkward actions gives readers the sense that he may be more of a spy than the known espionage pair of Wright or Lawton.

I guess we have to wait for the next adventure(s) to find out.

Filled with airships, dragons, zombies, robots, and a wide array of other gear driven inventions, Lincoln’s Wizard by Tracy Hickman & Dan Willis is a fresh Steampunk take on the War Between the States. Though this is just the beginning, it is a good start, and Dragons of the Confederacy is bound to become a popular series in the genre.

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