2016’s OathBound isthe fifth installment in Melissa Scott and Jo Graham’s ongoingseries, Orderof the Air .
Historybooks may later claim World War Two did not properly begin until1939, but the opening shots are already being exchanged in 1935.Germany is busy re-arming. Italy has revealed the essentialmeaninglessness of League of Nation ideas as its invasion of Ethiopiacontinues, unopposed by any save the Ethiopians and a handful ofvolunteers.
Somevolunteers join the struggle of their own choice. Others, like JerryBallard and his friends, are recruited.
Ballardis in Cairo, on the track of Alexander’s long lost tomb, whenBallard’s old friend Ras Iskinder comes to him in desperation.Emperor Haile Selassie had the foresight to order arms and ammunitionagainst Italy’s next attack. Now the attack has come but, thanks tointerference from Italy’s agents in North Africa, the munitions arestill stuck in transit. Iskinder appeals to his old friend forassistance.
Ballardcannot himself transport Iskinder’s cargo, but his friends (Alma,Mitch, Lewis, and Stasi) can. Alma and Mitch co-own GilchristAviation. and, as luck would have it, she and her team are in Europeat this very moment. They have entered an airshow with an airplanethat could have been custom-made to move important cargos to themiddle of nowhere on virtually no notice.
Thereare complications. There’s Himmler and the ring of power Stasinotices on his finger. There’s the fact that Alma and her friends areflying into a very real (if undeclared) war zone. And there’s thefact the determined man who blackmails his way onto Alma’s plane isnone other than Count von Rosen, HermannGöring’s nephew!
Inan earlier review I mention that certain figures have plot immunity,because Scott and Graham are using historical figures whose deathsare a matter of record and not scheduled to occur until long afterthe series. In this book, that works in Alma and company’s favoursomewhat: Carl Gustav von Rosen — aviator, humanitarian,mercenary — did not die until 1977. Having him on board with Almaprovides a pretty good guarantee that the 1930s mission of mercy toEthiopia won’t end in a ball of fire at 10,000 feet.
Atthe same time, the Second Italo-Ethiopian War is also written intothe history books; the heroes can make small differences here andthere, but in the end, Ethiopia can only end up occupied by theItalians. Well, at least until 1941.…
Thereis a lot going on in this book; an airshow, Axis shenanigans inEurope, Ballard’s quest for the tomb in Cairo, and the war in NorthAfrica. The various plot threads do end up entangled, but the generaleffect is a bit scattered. Still, I am enjoying the Orderof the Air adventures. Even though I know events can only get grimmer, I amcurious as to where all this will lead.
It belatedly occurs to me that this is exactly the sort of fantasy with a diverse cast many readers are looking for. I almost failed to mention that because I expect Scott and Graham to have casts of all races and orientations. Of course, not all readers will be familiar with that aspect of their work. If you’re looking for protagonists who are not the usual sort of cisgender white male, consider checking out these books.