Most of the world’s resistance leaders and the Lifeweavers are gathering for a peace conference in Helsinki, Finland. But according to the intelligence materials Alessa recovered during her raid of a Kurian stronghold, the enemy has already inserted an agent among the delegates.
David Valentine is chosen to be head of security for the Army of Kentucky representatives—and Alessa ignores his order to stay behind. Now, thrust into a lethal intrigue that threatens the entire peace process, she learns that the Kurian agent may be the least of her concerns.
For the Lifeweavers themselves are about to reveal something that will devastate the Resistance to its very core.
“I wouldn’t miss a book of his Vampire Earth series. They’re great.”—Charlaine Harris
“These quick, engrossing reads about post alien invasion and enslavement Earth continue to entertain me. [Baltic Gambit] is a very strong installment.”—BoingBoing.net
“Gritty realism, Lovecraftian villains, and boffo action scenes.”––S.M. Stirling, National Bestselling Author of The Given Sacrifice
Readers who have followed the Vampire Earth series since the beginning have probably noticed that the series is partitioned into groups of three-book story arcs. The first set, beginning with Way of the Wolf, showed the background and training of the hero, Val. The second grouping covered his rise as hero of the resistance, disgrace and fall, and his later recommitment to the cause. The third set was about the establishment of a new, unique Freehold in Kentucky. In the current set, we’re seeing Vampire Earth through Valentine’s comrades-in-arms. Appalachian Overthrow was fan-favorite Ahn-Kha’s time to shine.
In Baltic Gambit, it’s Alessa Duvalier’s chance to be in the spotlight. Something about the trip to Northern Europe seemed appropriate for the woman who trained Valentine to be an insurgent. She’s a rather tragic hero, like one of the desperate and doomed women of Russian literature. If Valentine is the heart of my series and Ahn-Kha the muscle, Ali is the guts of the work (it’s no accident that she’s always suffering digestion problems, I sometimes like to echo a metaphor physically). She’s the most careful of the major characters, and probably the most dedicated to her profession, with the possible exception of Colonel Lambert. In her way, she’s done more for the Resistance than any of my other characters, yet she’s a complete unknown outside her “band of brothers.” She’s the most cold-blooded killer of all of them. She destroys Reapers with the methodical nature of a careful hunter, but it’s the Quislings that she really hates, having grown up under them and being at the mercy of powerful human collaborators serving the Kurian Order.
She selected and trained Val, and has seen her pupil grow to at least equal the master. They’ve been together, on and off, for ten books now. I enjoy a male/female partner dynamic, and wanted to do one where there was very little sexual tension, resolved early on and now mostly a matter of a few earthy jokes. Ali mostly casts a gimlet eye on David’s womanizing, and after a couple of half-hearted attempts to seduce her and a good deal of bored cohabitation, they’ve settled down into a working relationship based on mutual esteem as professionals. Plus a quiet little friendship that’s been rocky at times. They have all the sexual tension of a married couple of long years. Still, a part of her is curious about him.
Writing in my favorite redhead’s point of view presented some challenges. Ahn-Kha, being an alien, had to sound as though someone helped him phrase his muddled diary notes, kept of scraps of this and that, into a first person narrative. With Duvalier, I’m back in the usual 3rd person limited point of view, only this time it’s limited to a different set of eyes and personality. Like Val, she’s a bit of a cold fish and doesn’t get overwrought. She’s more cautious than he is, and more suspicious on a micro level (Valentine tends to be paranoid on a planetary scale). I also had the opportunity to spend some time looking at Val through a different set of eyes, and a sensibility that understood him better than any other human alive. I don’t believe Val’s character changed when viewed through her eyes, but since we’re no longer in his point of view, his heroism looks even more heroic and his selfishness made me dislike him here and there, which was a new experience for me.
I also felt it was time for a happier novel. While there are plenty of dangers on their trip to the Baltic for the all-resistance conference, plus an untimely death or two, this book has more a few pleasant interludes. We meet friendly Canadians and Northern Europeans, see how their world has changed, and get a few dollops of culture at their destination. After the past few years, I needed everyone to have a break for a while. Hopefully the lighter tone makes the shocks of the novel more startling for the readers. But don’t be deceived into thinking nothing happens: after the midsummer events in the days of the far north, the Resistance is never going to be the same.