An entire empire ruled by engineers? I like that idea

Written by
Aidan Harte in 2012

There are probably a lot of books about alternate histories, and a bunch of them are always set in Victorian London. Irenicon, and its sequels are set in an alternate Italy that does not have Rome as its centre of history and civilization, rather an empire ruled by engineering geniuses who can manipulate the forces of water, founded by a Bernoulli (who is of course, based on the real life Daniel Bernoulli).

Rasenna is a town divided between north and south, ruled by nobility born either side and supported by their skilled militias, but poor and angry after most of it was wiped out by the book’s idea of a superweapon, a giant flooding wave of water generated by Rasenna’s mortal enemy, Concord. To this day, decades after The Wave arrived in Rasenna, the river Irenicon still acts strangely, flowing upwards and drowning anyone who falls in.

The story picks up as Giovanni, an engineer from Concord, arrives in Rasenna to build a bridge, a symbol of reunifying the town, and also a method by which Concord could invade the rest of Etruria (or Italy). The bridge serves as a way for the people of Rasenna to rebuild, examine what they want, who they are and what they have lost. Giovanni also wants redemption, from what though, we do not know.

The story centres around Giovanni and how he acts to bring the town, so split down partisan lines, together, not just literally by building a bridge, but the people who have been living all their lives waging a war on the other side of the Irenicon. We also deal with Sofia Scaligeri, the heir to the position as the leader of Rasenna, who has a revelation about her fate and powers and how she is linked to the mystrious creatures that dwell in the river.

Now, I normally do not read much alternate history books, but for some reason, Irenicon had me hooked from the get go. It has a good blend of action, politics, war, mystery, great characters and a world that is well defined and built. There is even a prophecy (every fantasy book needs a good prophecy!) and a deep lurking evil.

I recommend Irenicon based on its writing, which is engrossing and interlaced with world building. The characters and the storyline are reasonably compelling, but not overly complicated. You can probably guess what will happen by the end of the book. Whether you can predict the ending, you will still have a jolly good time reading it.

Rating

The first in The Wave Trilogy of books makes for a compelling case to read on.

Read this if you…

Enjoy alternate history with elements of fantasy thrown in for good measure.

Don’t read this if you…

Didn’t pass fluid mechanics in university…(just kidding)

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