The Cold War following World War II was a very tense time in the world, the threat of Nuclear War could be seen and felt nearly every day from the news to the fiction being produced at the time. While the Cold War in G.T. Almasi’s debut novel Blades of Winter, the first in the Shadowstorm trilogy, is the backdrop, its players are somewhat different. Alix Nico is 19-year old member of Ex-Ops, the spy organization of the United States and she’s following in the footsteps of her father, the famous spy Big Bertha. Like her father, Alix has received mechanical and biological enhancements to make her an optimal tool/weapon for the US government. Alix’s mother also works for the government and provides a both support and conflict for Alix.
Set in the 1980s, the United States’s greatest enemies, at least the threats against which Alix and Ex-Ops defend the US against are Greater USSR, Greater Germany, and China. This imagined balance of power brings Germany out of defeat from World War II because of one critical event – the successful murder of Adolf Hitler by his own men, allowing the Nazi party to flourish. This tenuous balance of power reminded me a bit of the changing enemies of George Orwell’s 1984.
Presented in both Alix’s voice as the first person narrator and ‘official’ government communiques and news clippings, Almasi achieves a great level of authenticity in Blades of Winter. The dialogue between Alix, her colleagues, her lover, and her mother all ring true. The slight changes, or ripples in the lake, Almasi’s world posits lends a more plausible feel. History and urban legend have combined in the Shadowstorm saga to give the Nazis a greater level of technological prowess allowing for the advancements in biomechanical enhancements employed by Alix and her peers. The novel brings things a bit more contemporary with conflict in the Middle East taking center stage towards the end of the novel.
While Almasi has done a great with job with pacing and of setting a well-realized backdrop populated with believable characters, I still felt the novel was a bit uneven. I even appreciated the communiques and news clippings, but the balance between those “non-fictional” elements and the story itself felt a bit too packed. One of the credos of writing is to pack everything you can into your work, but I felt Almasi was a bit too ambitious with Blades of Winter.
Alamasi is a clever writer who, based on this opening salvo of the Shadowstorm series, holds much promise. The second installment Hammer of Angels will hopefully even out as the series progresses and much of the world’s foundation has been established in Blades of Winter.
© 2012 Rob H. Bedford
I’m not one to criticize the physical aspect of a book, if anything I try to highlight when something about the book’s design is a positive standout. However; Blades of Winter was published in the “tall format” of mass market paperback, which seems to be a growing trend in the publishing industry. I have to say I’m not a fan of it; the binding is too tight and makes for a slightly more difficult reading experience.