Much Fall of Blood
Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer
Baen, Jan 25 2011, $7.99
The Byzantine Empire shuts down the trading route between the Mediterranean and the east by closing the Dardanelles. Golden Horde leader Jagiellon invites the western states to use a Roman land route. Accepting the invitation, Prince Manfred with his bodyguard Eric of Iceland leads diplomats from the Holy Roman Empire and the Venetian city-state to meet the Golden Horde leader. On the trip they encounter exiled Khan Mongol and his warrior sister Bortai.
Countess Elizabeth Bathody pretends to befriend Prince Vlad of Valhalia after liberating him from his incarceration by King Emeric of Hungary. However, when the opportunity is right, she plans to use his blood to enhance her already vigorous demonic power and as bait to capture the inhuman beasts lurking nearby. Instead these werewolves enable Vlad to escape from the malevolent female who he rejects as evil. Vlad and his dragoons unite with Manfred and his Knights of the Holy Trinity, and Bortai and her Mongol horde to fight Jagiellon and his Golden Horde; while immoral Hungarian King Emeric and his magical forces wait to take out the winner. The demon god Chernobog encourages deadly chaos with the only hope for Manfred and his allies rests with blood magic that Vlad fears though is enticed.
The third Heirs of Alexandria alternate historical fantasy (see The Shadow of the Lion and This Rough Magic) is a terrific entry as humor and romance enhance the magic and military prime themes. The story line is fast-paced with multiple subplots that deftly come together over the course of the tale although to much good luck happenchance on the hero’s side as the continent seems very small detracts from an overall fine entry in a wonderful saga.