About the book
An original new fantasy in which The Indian Rebellion of 1857 takes place in a very different England—one where magic rules, and the only hope for the future lies in the story of King Arthur.
It is 1852 and the Indian empire of Rajthana has ruled Europe for more than 100 years. With their vast armies, steam-and-sorcery technology, and mastery of the mysterious power of sattva, the Rajthanans appear invincible—but a bloody rebellion has broken out in a remote corner of the empire, in a poor and backward region known as England. At first Jack Casey, retired soldier, wants nothing to do with the uprising, but then he learns his daughter, Elizabeth, is due to be hanged for helping the rebels. The Rajthanans offer to spare her, but only if Jack hunts down and captures his best friend and former army comrade, who is now a rebel leader. Jack is torn between saving his daughter and protecting his friend, and he struggles just to stay alive as the rebellion pushes England into all-out war.
378 pages (hardcover)
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton
Published on: December 1, 2011
This book was sent to me by the author for review.
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I’m not exactly sure what causes some undeserving books to get a ton of attention while some very deserving books get almost no attention. It makes no sense to me, and it seems incredibly unjust. Some authors write some real gems, and they don’t get nearly the limelight that they deserve. That’s not just in speculative fiction. It happens in all genres. However, I feel a little bit of warmth and a burning in my bosom when I can shed some much deserved light on a true gem that has been wrongly overlooked.
I’m a big fan of alternative history, and I don’t read nearly enough of it. When I get the opportunity to read an alternative history book, I get pretty excited; especially when that alternative history is dealing with a period of time that doesn’t get that much discussion in my neck of the woods. Land of Hope and Glory focuses on the colonization issues between India and England, only this time the shoe is on the other foot and India is colonizing England. With a culture as ancient and complex as India’s and a situation as important as the one discussed in this book, the author had to do his research to present everything with the justice it deserves.
Luckily, Wilson did just that. While I’m not Indian so I can’t vouch for how authentic and accurate some of the finer details might be, for what I do know many of the cultural nuances, though somewhat elaborated for plot purposes, do ring true. Wilson blends two cultures seamlessly, showing how England would be different if India had conquered it. For example, cooks must be blessed and purified before they can serve food to their Indian masters. Peasants smoke from hookah pipes in the pubs and things like that. None of this is overly obvious. Instead, Wilson weaves these subtle cultural alterations throughout the book. There is just enough there to help the reader get a sense of time and place while pushing their imagination in the right direction as the story progresses.
Wilson seems to stray from overdone tropes of a heroic, blessed and chosen good guy on some quest against all odds. Instead, Jack Casey is a retired soldier who just wants to live peacefully. Then things happen and he must leave his comfortable life to fulfill a task for the Indian army to save his daughter from being hung. Mixed into this is a brewing revolt as many of the English citizens are rising up to kick the Indians out of their country and take back what is theirs. Wilson’s world is fascinating and Jack could be your neighbor, just trying to do something to save his child.
Mixed into this is a little magic and some faintly steampunk elements that will be sure to satisfy readers who enjoy that kind of thing and plenty of the infamous Indian caste system and religion. However, none of this is overdone. In fact, the magic and steampunk is woven into the book just enough to make things more interesting without slapping the reader in the face with the fantasy of it all and the religious bits of it are not only fascinating, but help bring home the fact that you are reading about a very ancient, very powerful and very real (if exaggerated) culture.
Balance is one thing Wilson does well, and it helps the realism of his book immensely. Jack is an incredible character, balanced by the fact that he truly could be your neighbor. The world is incredible and filled with the fantastic, balanced by the fact that Wilson is amazingly realistic with his culture and how the colonization of England would affect many minute details of English life. Honestly, when seriously thinking about this book as a whole the only real complaint I have is that some of the writing toward the beginning is a bit clunky and the ending feels a little rushed. However, that’s a small detail that is barely noticeable when you look at Land of Hope and Glory as a whole.
Land of Hope and Glory is, from what I understand, the first book in a series. It lays an impressive foundation for what will come next. This is an example of what an incredible idea can become in the hands of an author who has the thought and ability to execute it, and all of its tiny details, nearly perfectly. Land of Hope and Glory will dazzle your imagination, and fascinate you with Wilson’s spin on a volatile, poignant period of history.