Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Beyond the Gap by Harry Turtledove

Count Hamnet Thyssen would much rather be safe home in his castle in Raumsdalia than away in the northern Bizogot country. However, when Emperor Sigvat II summons him and orders the count to go north beyond the glacier that has always been the northern border of the world. According to a jarl of the Bizogots, Trasamund, a gap has opened to the other side, allowing them to travel beyond the glacier. Along with Ulric Skakki, a man who, though not always the most trustworthy off the field of battle, you would always want right by your side on it, Eyvind Torfinn, an earl of the empire, and the husband of Hamnet's ex-wife, and Audun Gilli, a mage found drunk in the sewers, the count and jarl set off to explore beyond the edge of the world. However, much to the count's dismay, during one stay in a serai, similar to an inn, Gudrid, Hamnet's ex-wife, joins the group along with a small group of imperial guards led by Jesper Fletti. Throughout the whole trip, she causes trouble by bedding many of the Bizogot jarls, including Trasamund. After passing through the empire's northern border, the group stops at many of the Bizogot nomad tribes' camps. Each one welcomes them like family, and the group learns more about the Bizogot way of life then they might have liked. Before continuing through the glacier, the group stops at Trasamund's tribe, the Three Tusk Clan's camp. There, a Bizogot shaman, similar to a Raumsdalian mage, joins them. Her name is Liv, and enchants the count with her beauty. Then, the group sets off through the gap, and make it through the glacier within the short summer. On the other side, they encounter many new animals, but not what they came looking for, the Golden Shrine, said to be where god is closest to man. In this frozen wasteland, they encounter a group of fierce nomads who call themselves the Rulers. They ride mammoths, and believe they're above everyone else. What worries Hamnet and others, is that they might have a reason to believe this. However, Eyvind Torfinn manages to talk their way out of being killed, and they are set free. However, one of the Rulers' sorcerers wasn't fooled, and tried to track them. The group makes its way back through the gap, and it's winter by now. The snow and wind is terrible. However, Count Hamnet is happier than he has been in a long time. He and Liv had fallen in love. Hamnet convinced her to ride south back to the empire with him. Along the way, the group attempts to convince the other Bizogot tribes that the rulers are a threat, but they refuse to acknowledge it. Even Emperor Sigvat II wouldn't acknowledge this threat. Frustrated, Count Hamnet rides back north with Trasamund, Liv, Ulric, and Audun to do his best to stop the Rulers. On the way, a messenger arrives from the emperor, ordering him to return to Nidaros, the capital. He tells the courier he refuses, and left it at that. The group arrives in the Three Tusk Clan's grazing land to find out that the Rulers had already arrived, and had killed most of the nomads. However, they joined up with a herd of musk-ox and tricked the Rulers. Many of the remaining Bizogots died, but the Rulers were forced to retreat. Now, the group plans on riding south to convince the other tribes to join them now that they have physical proof.

Beyond the Gap, by Harry Turtledove, is like no book I've ever read. The characters are all unique, and their small squabbles make the story far more interesting. Gudrid's affections with many characters adds for a minor conflict present throughout the entire book. I stayed up late reading, and had to force myself to put it down. The action, once it started, was non-stop. The relationships with real things, such as real animals and drinks, helped make it seem more real than it really was. This is probably the best book I have ever read.

Content: Sexual Content Drug References

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 10

Reviewer Age: 13
Reviewer City, State and Country: Chambersburg, PA United States

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