The series combines history with fantasy. In this case, the general history, geography, and combatants of World War II are re-created in a world where magic works.
Most of the action in the series takes place on the main continent of Derlavai, which is implied to be the center of culture, education, and military power on the unnamed planet it is on. It is located in the southern hemisphere. This means that directions are reversed - going northwards, the climate becomes hotter, going southwards - colder; going eastwards, the countries are richer and more highly developed, going westwards they are poor and backward.
There are also some lesser land masses and island chains mentioned in the story and on the map included in the novels. It should be noted, however, that the map does not contain the entire northern hemisphere of the planet.
The continent of Siaulia is described as dark and largely unexplored, similar to the African continent. Unless there are some land masses in the northern hemisphere whose existence is never mentioned and which evidently have no bearing on political and economic life in Derlavai, the planet is far more watery than Earth. There is no equivalent of Asia, and no real America - the island containing Lagoas and Kuusamo being more on the order of an Australia, despite those two nations being the apparent surrogate for the major North American combatants. The Land of the Ice People is a marginally bigger and more habitable Antarctica, but that is far from completely compensating.
All nations in the Darkness series are monarchies with the exception of Kuusamo, in which seven princes have a sort of stable and hereditary power-sharing arrangement. While by no means all absolute monarchies, in all of them kings (or princes in Kuusamo) seem to have the executive power.
There are no constitutional monarchies (and no constitutions), nor any parliaments - not even ones with rudimentary powers elected by a limited part of the population, such as most European countries had hundreds of years ago. There are foreign ministers, but no prime ministers and no cabinets - a foreign minster evidently reporting directly to the King. None of the people have family names, even if they are members of the nobility.
To the extent that monarchs are limited in their power, the limitation comes mainly from hereditary aristocracies which still maintain many privileges of feudal times - especially in the Kaunian kingdoms Valmiera and Jelgava. In effect, in this history France goes through the Second World War and gets into the equivalent of the Atomic Age without having gone through the French Revolution, having the pre-1789 Ancien Régime with its corrupt and decadent nobility very much in place.
While this world had gone through a "Thaumaturgical Revolution" instead of an Industrial Revolution, using magic as the basis for much (by no means all) of its technology, Eastern Derlavai (corresponding to Western Europe), has manifestly long since developed the economic and social conditions from which representative government should develop. There is a strong and economically powerful middle class, there are industrial manufacturing towns with hosts of workers concentrated in one place, there are universities with multitudes of students. However, the systems of mass production do not appear to be as widespread as in this world. Because of magic, there appears to be less of a need for mass industry. There are plants producing pottery, for example, in large amounts, but behemoths and dragons are bred on farms and clothing appears to be made by tailors instead of in sweatshops.
Of course, in most fantasy milieus where magic works, society is ruled by kings and hereditary nobles - but most such books have semi-Medieval settings where this is natural. The smaller sub-genre in which magic works in a semi-modern society can be divided in two. Some - like Robert A. Heinlein's Magic, Inc., Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos and Turtledove's own The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump have a recognizable modern society with its political and social institutions, but with magic replacing technology. Others, which clearly include the Darkness Series as well the Randall Garrett's classic Lord Darcy stories - make the assumption that use of magic would have a greatly retarding effect on political institutions. (The magical society depicted in the Harry Potter books seems to steer a middle course - with a modern-seeming Ministry of Magic but considerable power still held by semi-feudal noble families.)
Magic in this world, unlike in many other invented worlds, is not created by mages but rather harnessed by them. The mages of Derlavai gather magical power from the various power points scattered around the planet and the ley lines which link them. Mages can also gather magic from human sacrifice. As such, the operation of magic is heavily reliant on location. Large, modern cities tend to be located on or near strong power points which provide the energy for the operation of the city's lighting, heating and other comforts. In addition, large power points tend to be linked to greater numbers of ley lines, which are utilised for transportation between cities and towns.
Most of the magical items in the world of Derlavai are analogues to everyday, or military, devices in our world.
While the series is more concerned with military affairs than with economic ones, it seems that there are three competing ways of producing things:
The three modes of production seem to co-exist and compete with each other under ordinary economic laws of supply and demand. In wartime, use of magic seems to increase as armies can commandeer the service of mages without paying the exhobriant fees which would be demanded of civilian clients.
There is a mention of the Kuusamians rapidly building a new port in a newly-conquered island by magic, which is evident from all buildings being the same (indicating that the spells made extensive use of the law of similarity). It is noted that only a country with many skilled mages could have spared the resources for such construction. In another place it is noted that printing is usually done by mechanical means, but the Valmieren resistance utilises magic for reproducing a propaganda sheet in order to avoid detection by the occupying authorities. The result of this magical duplication is readable, but the ink smudges easily as it was produced without the aid of a power point or an experienced mage.
Crystals: Described as smooth spheres of glass, crystals are imbued with spells which allow them to be used for communication, and thus take the place of radios in the world. If operated away from a power point or ley line, they require regular recharging by some other means, which in one instance in the series involves the sacrifice of captive humans for their life energy which is used to power the crystal. Crystals can operate as videophones, showing an image of the person at the other end, as well as in audio-only mode. The emenations by which speech and images are transmitted between them are subject to interception by other mages, something at the forefront of the minds of most military planners in the series. They are used the equivalent of Radio, Television and Telephone.
Eggs: The name given to the Derlavaian equivalent of bombs and shells, eggs are thin metal shells filled with magical energy which burst, or explode, when they impact a target or are triggered by an appropriate spell. A variety of uses for eggs are seen in the series. Armies launch them like shells from magically-powered 'egg-tossers', which may be standalone devices or mounted on ley-line ships or behemoths. Dragons can carry eggs beneath their bellies for their fliers to drop on enemy forces or cities. Eggs may also be buried in the ground and enchanted to explode like landmines if they sense pressure, or can be buried along ley lines and set to explode if a ley line caravan passes over them, which simultaneously destroys the caravan and overloads the ley line's controlling spells. Leviathan riders use eggs for mining enemy ships, as described in part IV. Later in the series, the Algarvian army develops a handheld egg which can be thrown like a hand grenade; these eggs are encased in small pottery sugar bowls rather than metal shells.
Sticks: Sticks are the analogue to guns in the world of Derlavai. Used by footsoldiers, dragonfliers and sailors on all sides, a stick emits a beam of energy which leaves behind a sharp scent like that of a nearby lightning strike, suggesting that the energy is electrical or ionising in nature. A footsoldier's stick is a large device which seems to be about the same size as a second-world-war era rifle, and is activated when bare flesh such as an uncovered finger is inserted into its 'blazing hole'. The beam from a footsoldier's stick can burn a hole through a person with little difficulty, although they are largely ineffective against dragons and behemoths, which are not only naturally tough but also armoured or painted silver to reflect beams. Smaller sticks are seen owned by civilians for blazing vermin or hunting game, or used by constables. Larger sticks, known as heavy sticks, are carried by behemoths on the battlefield, and can blaze through several men or another behemoth's armour. These sticks can also take down dragons. Even larger heavy sticks can be located as fixed installations on the ground, used for air and sea defence, and carried on ley-line warships for use against ships, dragons and leviathans. Armies thus have two equivalents of artillery - heavy sticks and egg-tossers - each of which has some tactical advantages and disadvantages. Portable sticks used away from a power point or ley line require periodic recharging, which can be achieved in some unspecified way through the delivery of what is only described as 'charges' in supply wagons, or by the interventions of a mage drawing energy from a power point or sacrifice. The occasional need for sacrifice has the effect of making warfare more barbarous and giving legitimacy to the killing of unarmed POWs.
Rest crates: in function, much like a refrigerator or freezer, only considerably more effective. Rest crates are often mentioned as an archetypal application of modern sorcery, based on a spell used by the ancient Kaunian Empire to paralyse enemy soldiers. After counterspells were developed, it fell into disuse until modern systematic sorcery discovered that it operates by dramatically slowing the rate at which time affects objects under its influence. The rest crate, therefore, operates by slowing down the passage of time within its volume while its lid is shut. Food placed within it does not decay at a noticeable rate, but also requires no defrosting or other preparation before being used. A variant on this technique is also used by medical mages, who can slow down people suffering from serious injury in order to give them time to perform remedial surgery, or to transport the victim to a place of treatment.
Unlike most invented worlds, the nations in the Darkness series do not have randomly-invented names for their people and locations. Rather, each nation has personal and geographical names taken from a real nation on Earth - but by no means the nation which plays the same role in the war (sometimes, in fact, the language of its arch-enemy).
For example, Unkerlant - which is clearly the Soviet Union - has Germanic (German, Low German, and Frankish) place- and personal names. (And Forthweg - which plays the role of another Slavic nation, Poland - also has a Germanic language, Old English in this case). Similarly, the Algarvic - i.e. Germanic - nations all speak Latin-derived languages: Algarve (Germany) speaks Italian, Lagoas (Britain) has Portuguese, and Sibiu (Holland) - Romanian. Kaunian languages are based on modern Baltic languages - Lithuanian (Classical Kaunian) and Latvian (Valmerian and Jelgavian). However, on the other hand, Turtledove often has his characters making jokes or puns that would only work if they were speaking English.
Further complicating the issue, some nations depicted with the language of one actual nation and the World War II role of another are also endowed with physical and/or cultural traits derived from still a third actual nation or ethnic group. Thus, the Algarvians play the role of Nazi Germany, speak Italian and are red-haired and green-eyed and wear kilts like the Irish and Scots. In addition, they are circumsised. Forthwegians play the role of Poland, speak Old English, and look like Ashkenazi Jews. On the other hand, the Kaunians are blond and blue eyed, but so are the Baltic peoples; Zuwayzans look like their linguistic cousins, the Arabs (or more precisely, Sudanese and Somalians); and the Finnish-speaking people of Kuusamo somewhat resemble East Asians, like the Finns hundreds of years ago and many Saami today (although here it could be argued they're meant to look Japanese... see below).
Other characteristics vary. For example, the music of a given country appears to resemble that of the Earth country whose language it shares -- Algarvian music is described in much the same terms as Italian music -- except for Kaunian music, which appears to resemble Celtic music. Cuisine, however, follows the country's historical Earth counterpart; Algarvian food resembles German (sausage being prominent), Unkerlanter food is like Russian (including what is basically vodka and borshch), and Jelgavan like Spanish (including wine and olives). One exception is with mushrooms, which Algarvians despise but Germans have nothing against. Algarvians are also notable for being circumcised, like the Jews. Turtledove is notably careful not to include New World crops in Derlavaian cuisine, for example substituting potatoes with turnips and parsnips (since there is no New World; Siaulia apparently substitutes for Africa, not the Americas). Other features are more random, such as Unkerlanters having saunas and the Yaninans having Russian-style onion domes. The flags of the various countries also appear to be random, although Algarve has the same colors as Italy.
The planet is either a lot smaller than Earth, or far more watery. There are only 11 independent countries (Algarve, Forthweg, Gyongyos, Jelgava, Kuusamo, Lagoas, Ortah, Unkerlant, Valmiera, Yanina, and Zuwayza) three more dependent territories (Bari, Grelz, and Rivaroli), two other continents (the Land of the Ice People and equatorial Siaulia) and scattered islands in the Bothnian Ocean and in the northern hemisphere, and the populations are apparently for the most part homogeneous enough that a difference in hair color is easily enough to make one stand out. Unlike Europeans, the vast majority of the members of a given Derlavaian ethnic group have the same hair and eye color combination, and combinations common among Europeans, such as dark hair and blue eyes, would be considered exotic by Derlavaians (as Ealstan pointed out once). Turtledove drops a few hints which suggest that the total populations of the various Derlavaian countries are similar to the European countries they emulate (i.e., Algarve has about 60 million people, Unkerlant well over 100 million).
The equivalent to Nazi Germany, ruled by King Mezentio (named after the Etruscan King Mezentius), who is analogous to Adolf Hitler. Algarve was defeated in the Six Years' War a generation ago, which was analogous to World War I, and forced to sign the humiliating Treaty of Tartus (Treaty of Versailles). Mezentio and his generals have spent much time and energy in preparing for a revenge on all their foes - especially the Kaunians (named for Kaunas, Lithuania). Located in the center of the continent, Algarve's people are characterized as red-headed and green-eyed, given to flamboyancy in word and gesture, and its males exhibit manifest macho behaviour. (Their red hair also recalls the superstition of red hair being associated with bad luck; and indeed, the Algarvians were bad luck to everybody involved.) Their typical dress includes kilts. To their enemies, Algarvians often seem arrogant and overbearing, and their conduct amply earns them the hatred of those who had the misfortune to live under their rule. While capable of great cruelty, Algarvians can also be quite generous on occasion; they doff their hats (sometimes literally) to an enemy whose conduct earned their grudging respect; and the same cultural traits which make them seem insufferably arrogant in victory also enable them to face adversity - even the certainty of imminent death - with admirable courage and fortitude. Although the Algarvian language is apparently close to Italian (with differences including a very irregular verb "to bear", like Latin ferre), Algarve itself is named for a Portuguese province (which name, however, is derived from Arab).
The equivalent to Poland. Its people are dark-haired, stocky, bearded, and prone to wearing long tunics. Part of the Kaunian Empire many centuries ago, about one-tenth of the prewar population were blond ethnic Kaunians, the only people in Derlavai to speak classical Kaunian as a birth language (those in Algarve speak Algarvian, while those in Valmiera and Jelgava speak modern Valmieran or Jelgavan). Previous to Six Years' War (World War I) Forthweg was partitioned between Algarve and Unkerlant (as Poland was partitioned between Germany and Russia). In the opening part of the series King Penda declared war on Algarve as part of the initial coalition against Algarve, but was attacked by both Algarve and Unkerlant and the country got re-partitioned; later, the whole is occupied by Algarve and in the final part occupied by Unkerlant, which decides not to annex it outright but make it a satellite. All this closely follows modern Polish history, except for a more bellicose stance in the beginning of the war than Poland was able to exhibit in our 1939. Forthweg's climate is far warmer than Poland's - being subtropical, with olive and citrus groves a prominent part of its agriculture. However, Forthwegians and Kaunians alike are portrayed as extremely fond of gathering mushrooms - which is in truth a prominent feature of Polish popular culture, fully shared by Polish Jews.
The equivalent to Imperial Japan. Located in far-western Derlavai, it is separated from Unkerlant by a vast mountain range. Its people are described as tall, broad, and muscular, with wirey blonde hair and beards, and are the only nation described as having varying eye colors -- the opposite of World War II, where Japan is the only major combatant without varying eye colors. (The blond hair caused a few Unkerlanter soldiers who invaded Forthweg to mistake the Kaunians they captured for Gyongyosians.) Their language is Hungarian. It is ruled by an ekrekek (emperor) instead of a king; he is seen as a direct descendant of the stars and is the person with whom the stars commune. Their religion is different from that of all other nations, distinguished by worship of the stars (those upon whom the stars shine are blessed, while those who are denied their light are cursed) and a very strong taboo against eating of the flesh of goats, evidently modeled both on the Jewish and Muslim prohibition of pigs and on a Christian association of goats with the devil and damned souls (Gyongyosians have, however, nothing against pork; on the other hand, Europeans don't actually consider goat meat unclean, but seldom eat it, possibly due to its cultural association with the devil).
Gyongyos and Kuusamo had been fighting a war over possession of islands in the Bothnian Ocean for when the Derlavian War broke out. In the second year of the war, Gyongyos attacked Unkerlant from the west, but never threatened the Unkerlant homeland in the same way Algarve did, partly because Unkerlant stretches a "fourth of the way around the world" and the valleys that Gyongyos seizes are very sparsely populated (also suggesting that Unkerlant is far larger than shown in the map that appears inside each book's front cover, and indeed like Russia in our world). For several years, the Kuusamans made slow headway against Gyongyos in the Bothenian theater, capturing several key islands. In the sixth year of the war, Kuusaman magic destroyed the island of Becheley; Gyongyosian prisoners of war watched the display, but could not convince the ekrekek's government to capitulate. Kuusamo responded with a magic attack on the capital, killing the ekrekek and forcing the horrified and demoralised Gyongyosians into surrender. Another contributing factor to their ultimate defeat was the simultaneous invasion of Gyongyos by Unkerlant, a move analogous to Operation August Storm.
The languages of Gyongyos and Kuusamo are based on, respectively, Hungarian and Finnish - which are both Finno-Ugric languages, though too distant to be mutually intelligible. Finns and Hungarians are too geographically distant to have much to do with each other, but always felt rather sympathetic to each other and inspired by each other's efforts to become independent in the 19th Century. Making them into neighbours and bitter enemies (the enmity likely to be even more bitter after the way the war ended) is clearly part of Turtledove's general tendency to take aspects from real history and turn them upside down (as is also depicting Hungarian, in reality the language of a completely land-locked country, spoken here by a major naval power involved in island-hopping warfare).
Identification of Jelgava is difficult. It is culturally close to Valmiera/France, their two Kaunian-descended languages being nearly two dialects of the same, and having the same style of dress. The two are depicted as roughly equal in size and power, which makes not quite appropriate an identification with the Low Countries or specifically with Belgium. A possible solution can be found considering the fact that both Kaunian kingdoms are depicted as dominated by reactionary, Eighteenth Century-style aristocracies, that of Jelgava even more oppressive and reactionary than of its southern neighbour. Taking this rather than role in World War II as the key, Jelgava might be Spain - not the Spain of 1939 which had just gone through a bloody civil war and remained neutral in the bigger war, but 18th Century Spain, with the odious King Donalitu standing for the decadent Spanish Bourbons of that time. (Napoleon made his brother King of Spain, as the Algarvian King Mezentio does for his own brother in Jelgava; Jelgava, like Spain, has a subtropical climate where olives and oranges grow, and is separated from the rest of the continent by a high mountain chain; Spain and France are two Latin countries of approximately the same size, as are Jelgava and Valmiera.)
The equivalent of the United States (it even has the letters "U S A" within the its name)], in terms of its role in the war - but not in connection with its past relations with Lagoas. It occupies most of the island it shares with Lagoas. Its people are East Asian in appearance and are deliberate and low-key in their work, and their language is derived from Finnish. Again, history is turned upside-down, with Kuusamo resembling Japan in this aspect, being the only major East Asian or non-white power in the war, but taking the role of Japan's most serious enemy. The Kuusamoans are proud of their heritage of having been in their land before the Kaunians and the Lagoans came; a chant to this effect is recited, much as the Pledge of Allegiance is recited, as a ceremony before classes and before spells.
Kuusamo was involved in a war with Gyongyos over the possession of islands in the Bothenian Ocean when the Derlavian War started; they stayed neutral until the second year of the war, when Kuusamo declared war against Algarve over the massacre of Kaunians for their life force. The Algarvians retaliated with a magic strike against the capital city, killing two of the Seven Princes and a master mage. Eventually, the Kuusamans invented a devastating form of magic and used it to destroy Gyongyos' capital. This is in line with Turtledove's turning the war "upside down" -- here rather than the mostly-white Americans beating and nuking the Japanese, the Asian Kuusamans beat and "nuke" the white Gyongyosans.
The equivalent of Great Britain, though its languague is based on Portugese. Its capital is Setubal and it is ruled by King Vitor - rather a cypher, who never appears onstage and of whom little is told except for the bare fact of his being king. It and Kuusamo share a large island off of the southeast coast of Derlavai, which is described as being considerably larger than Algarve. Its people are also Algarvic in blood and mannerisms - red-haired and wearing kilts like Algarvians - which is sometimes startling for other members of other peoples who had learned to hate Algarvians. Lagonas are, however, unique in the habit of tying their hair in ponytails - which Algarvians do not, and many of them have noticeable Kuusaman ancestry (over one-fifth of the people in the capital, including the main character Fernao, have noticeable epicanthic folds). Lagoas joined the war against Algarve when Sibiu was invaded and underwent several air attacks from Algarvian dragons based in Valmiera. Lagoan and Kuusaman forces invaded Derlavai from the east in the fifth year of the war under the command of Kuusaman Grand General Nortano.
The only country in Derlavai where no scene of the series is set. The equivalent of Switzerland - Isolationist, mountainous, and protected by swamps - its people are generally left alone on the political stage. It is, however, an unfortunate Switzerland - having neither the highly developed banking system nor the well-prepared army which averted an invasion of Switzerland in the Second World War. Moreover, Ortah is sandwiched between Algarve (Germany) and Unkerlant (Russia). As a result, Ortah is invaded near the end of the war, and is likely to end up an Unkerlanter satellite like Forthweg and Yanina. The people of Ortah are supposed to be related to the Ice People, and their language (Aramaic) is similar to theirs.
Equivalent to Denmark, Norway or The Netherlands - or possibly combines attributes of all three. It is an island chain nation off of the southern coast of Derlavai. Its people are Algarvic in blood, but it allies against Algarve. Sibiu, a member of the initial coalition, was overrun in a surprise attack by Algarve in the first year of the war, and freed in the third year of the war. It is mentioned that some 300 to 250 years in the past Sibiu fought a series of naval wars with Lagoas, over trade and control of the sea - which seems equivalent to Anglo-Dutch Wars of the Seventeenth Century. Also, the strong feeling of distrust and alienation, felt by Sibian sailors in Lagoas, is very similar to the experience of Dutch exiles in Britain during World War II, as reflected, for example, in the novels by Jan de Hartog. Sibiu is named after a town in Transylvania.
The equivalent to the Soviet Union. It occupies nearly all of the western part of Derlavai. Ethnic Unkerlanters are dark-haired and stocky, clean-shaven, and wear long tunics (the tendency to be clean-shaven being what distinguishes them from the Forthwegians), but Unkerlant is apparently home to ethnic minorities such as the people of the Mamming Hills in the south, who look "more like Kuusamans than anything else" (as do many Soviet minorities, including the Kazakhs, Buryats and Kalmyks). Its people are brutally treated by the paranoid and ruthless King Swemmel, analogous to Joseph Stalin; a hard, suspicious man who is fond of boiling his enemies alive. Swemmel defeated his brother Kyot in the Twin King's War (equivalent to the Russian Civil War) shortly after the Six Years' War. Major cities include Cottbus, named after a city in eastern Germany, (Moscow), Glogau (Leningrad/St. Petersburg), and Sulingen (Stalingrad/Volgograd).
The most likely equivalent to Vichy France. It is located on the southeastern section of Derlavai. Its people are descendants of the ancient Kaunian Empire and as such are slim, blonde and blue-eyed and their dress is typically trousers and tunics.
Valmiera was one of the states which declared war on Algarve in the first year of the war. The Algarvian offensive in the spring of the second year led to the defeat and occupation of the country. Activities of the Valmieran Resistance under the occupation, seen through the eyes of the character Skarnu, are closely equivalent to the French Resistance in World War II, while the collaboration of most nobles and the Vamieran police with the occupiers resembles the Vichy regime, and in the final part of the war the Kuusaian and Lagoan victors give the Valmierans a share in the spoils which they had not truly earned, as The US and Britain did for France in 1944-45. There is, however, no De Gaulle analogue.
The equivalent of Fascist Italy. Allied with Algarve in the beginning of the war, its people are most noted for being incompetent militarily, though individual soldiers and dragon flyers are brave - which fits with the reputation of Italian soldiers in World War II. Also, Yanina/Italy has a colonial possession in the strategic Land of the Ice People (which stands for North Africa), which it is unable to defend against Lagoas (Britain), and is being forced to pass effective conduct of the war there into the hands of the Algarvians/Germans. However, in the last phase of the war, when the Unkerlanter/Soviet army approaches its border and the Yaninan King quickly changes sides, Yanina seems to stand for Romania. The pom-poms which Yaninans wear on their shoes are the source of constant ridicule of Yaninans by members of other nations. Greek readers may feel slighted by the fact that Yaninans, whose language is obviously Greek, are among the very few nations which do not have a viewpoint character to represent them. (The country's name comes from Ioannina, Greece; but it also happens to resemble the Turkish word for "Greece", Yunanistan.) Also like stereotypical Greeks, they are described as being small, swarthy, dark-haired, and big-nosed, somewhat like Unkerlanters but shorter and less stocky. They share with the Algarvians a love for ostentatious mustaches and macho behavior; arguing is semi-humorously considered the national sport. (Ironically, the Greeks in World War II were ferocious, deadly fighters until faced with the competent Wehrmacht.)
Located on a peninsula on the far northern part of Derlavai. Because Derlavai is a southern continent, that puts it right on the hottest part of the planet. The people of Zuwayza typically go nude except for jewelry, sandals, and broad-brimmed hats. They are described as very dark-skinned, presumably what we would term "African" (although they seem to still actually be "Caucasian" like the rest of the Derlavaians), and speak Arabic. It has some similarities to Finland, but only in terms of the military situation and past history (the Winter War and Continuation War), rather than culturally. The Zuwayzan effective use of camels in fighting a desert war is the equivalent of Finns using ice sleds in fighting on their kind terrain. In many of its cultural features, except for dress, the Zuwayzi resemble Arabs, but apparently have the same "religion" and morality as the rest of Derlavai. Zuwayza was once ruled directly by Unkerlant but gained independence after the Six Years' War.
Unkerlant attacked Zuwayza in the first year of the war and gained territory. In retaliation, Zuwayza allied with Algarve against Unkerlant. When Algarve was driven back, Zuwayza was forced to sign a separate peace, allowing Unkerlant great advantages, but preserving its independence.
The setting of a campaign roughly equivalent to that in North Africa. Located at the South Pole, its people are mysterious, separated by distance and mountains from Derlavai. Both sexes have extensive body hair, on the order of primates. Their language is Biblical Hebrew. Turtledove (who is himself Jewish) pokes fun at the genealogies in the Bible by having the Ice People introduce themselves by describing their genealogy into the remote past ("I am A, son of B, son of C, son of D..."). Magic that works well in Derlavai will not work well in the Land of the Ice People; the Algarvians learned this to their disadvantage when they tried murdering Kaunians there. The Ice People are the only people known to worship gods, instead of spirits.
There is no ocean between them - they are neighbours who share a big (unnamed) island, or possibly it should be considered a small continent on the order of Australia. They don't speak the same languages - in fact, their two languages are as different and unrelated as can be (apart from the Kuusaman loan words in Lagoan - there seem to be much less of them in the opposite direction).
Unlike Americans, The Kuusamans are in no way descendants of Lagoan colonists who became independent. On the contrary, the Kuusamans essentially regard the Lagoans as invaders and interlopers on Kuusaman land and repeatedly reiterate the wish that they would "go away" one day - though it is centuries since the Kuusamans tried to do anything about it except wishing. The Kuusamans consider the entire island/continent to be "Kuusamo" but also use the name for their own kingdom -- much like "Ireland" can refer either to the island or to the independent country.
The key to understanding these two peoples' history seems to be in regarding the Kuusamans as historical analogues of the Welsh, or possibly of all the Celtic peoples rolled into one - Welsh, Scots and Irish - in a kind of Alternative History of the British Isles. The early parts seem a one-to-one repetition of Britain's history. The Kaunian/Roman Empire sends its soldiers across, conquers part of the island and makes this part into a province for some centuries; the empire collapses and the Kaunians/Romans withdraw, leaving no ethnic or linguistic trace on the island - unlike the situation in Valmiera/France across the water. Then an Algarvic/Germanic tribe - the Lagoans/Anglo-Saxons - invades and eventually creates a kingdom in more or less the part which had been the Kaunian/Roman province.
From here on, however, things diverge: the Kuusamans have enormously more territory and numbers than the Welsh - or even all the Celts together - and the Lagoans cannot subdue them. Also, the Lagoans do not undergo anything similar to the Norman Conquest. Eventually, the two of them find an acceptable modus vivendi, though there is not very much love lost between them (Fernao and Pekka being a very conspicuous exception which proves the rule). Even so, intermarriage is common enough that many Lagoans have slightly Kuusaman features (dark eyes, black hair, or flat noses) and some Kuusamans have Lagoan features (red hair, green eyes, less prominent epicanthic folds).
The identification of Kussamans with Welsh or Celts is supported by two additional factors. Historically, the Welsh had been always ruled by princes (though their geography never gave room for seven of them). Also, Skarnu visits south-east Valmiera, a region full of Megalithic stone circles where the people look Kuusaman rather than Kaunian - which obviously stands for Celtic Bretagne.
In other ways, the relationship between Lagoas and Kuusamo is similar to the U.S. and Canada, or alternatively between Mexico and the U.S.; the last war between the two nations was over 150 years before, and they share a long border peacefully. Which brings another possibility, in that the Kuusamans represent not only the Celts of the British Isles but also the Native Americans of North and South America. A different analogy may be drawn between the U.S. and Canada (and possibly Brazil and Argentina as well) as Lagoas and Mexico or Latin America in general as Kuusamo, as most Americans are descendants of Europeans/Derlavaians (and of mainly Germanic/Algarvic stock) and speak a Germanic/Algarvic tongue, and most Mexicans and Latin Americans are descended mainly from the indigenous Amerindian peoples, but with considerable mestizo admixture between the two.
In his various fantasy novels, Harry Turtledove has treated sorcery and magic differently from popular culture such as in J.R.R. Tolkien's creation, Middle-earth. The world of Darkness is no exception, and uses fundamental laws of magic that are similar to ones used in Turtledove's various Videssos-based novels.
Sorcerous study, application and education are treated like other, more standard fields of study such as geometry, engineering, architecture, chemistry, philosophy, and logic. Just as a person cannot simply pick up a dusty chemistry book and whip up some high-order explosives or study an engineering book and then build a suspension bridge, a person cannot simply pick up a book of magic spells and summon Lucifer or turn an enemy into a frog. Popular "how-to" books for the general public do exist, but the spells published in them are not always reliable, and can backfire in dangerous or embarrassing ways, much as a DIY book can see a person electrocuted, burned, cut, or worse.
Just as in our world there are many people who used advanced pieces of technology and engineering while having little understanding of the underlying principles, so do people in the magical worlds. Industrial magic is used to mass-produce mechanical and magical devices for use by the consumer in a variety of ways. Craftsmen have spells used in each profession, often transmitted as a craft secret from father to son or master to apprentice, such as a tailor's spell by which the thread could be made to make the stitches by itself.
Professional mages are divided into "theoretical" and "practical", analogues to practitioners of pure and applied science respectively. Theoretical mages are similar to physicists - or rather, they ARE physicists in terms of their universe: they research the relationships and underlying laws governing the behaviour of matter and energy, formulate hypotheses expressed in complicated mathematical formulas, and devise careful experiments in order to prove or disprove these hypotheses empirically. And, as happened to our physicists, this leads some of them to stumble on ways of constructing weapons of mass destruction.
In the specific case of the Darkness universe, Turtledove replaces many conventional items with sorcerous equivalents. For example, firearms have been replaced with 'sticks', which are described as being shaped roughly like a conventional rifle but instead of bullets discharge beams of sorcerous energy. Bombs are replaced with 'eggs', which are metal hulls filled with sorcerous energy. Upon impact, the stored energy is releases in a violent explosion. Like conventional explosives, eggs take different forms of employment. They can be dropped like bombs, buried like land mines, launched like artillery shells, or thrown like hand grenades. And the radio has been replaced by crystal balls, which can be sorcerously linked to a specific ball much like a radio can be tuned to a specific frequency. Crystal balls also serve the equivalent of TV and telephone.
On the planet that contains Derlavai there exists a grid of magical energy called 'ley lines' that converge at 'power points'. Along these narrow lines and at these points the sorcerous energy can be accessed by a mage to perform large feats of magic. (The power points were already known at the time of the Kaunian Empire, ley lines were discovered only about 200 years before the time of the Darkness books).
It is also along these ley lines that ships and caravans travel. By tapping into the energy grid, ships and ley-line caravans (the sorcerous equivalent of a train) can move around without requiring engines or sails. It is not explained why ley-line caravans cannot simply cruise over the water, but in other fantasy novels Turtledove makes use of the premise that magic is changed and weakened by use over water.
In wartime, retreating armies as well as guerrillas and commandos behind enemy lines regularly sabotage ley lines by planting eggs (bombs).
The poverty and backwardness of Unkerlant are partially explained by the fact it has fewer ley-lines than other countries (or that many ley lines there were not yet discovered).
Modern cities are located at the convergence of ley lines to take maximum advantage of the different routes available. At Setubal, the capital of Lagoas, more ley-lines converge than anywhere else, which makes it the biggest and most cosmopolitan city of the world (analogous to London, New York or both).
Turtledove's magical universe is different from others where spells must be in a specific tongue, typically ancient and not used in daily speech (such as the Earthsea books where magic is wholly based on the "Language of the Creation" and spells in any other tongue simply would not work, or the Harry Potter books where spells are always in Latin). In Derlavai and its surrounding islands, spells can be chanted in any language, and are, as a rule, more effective in the mage's own language, in which he or she is more skilled. Still, traces of the attitude prevalent in the books mentioned are evident in many mages preferring to use spells in Classical Kaunian (which corresponds to Latin) - even though modern magic is manifestly more powerful than that of the ancient Kaunians. This is primarily because classical Kaunian is the international language of scholarship, spoken by mages across the world, and as such is the language in which most magical research is published. In one grisly case, Algarvian mages use that language in the very spells which are powered by the mass murder of Kaunians.
In Derlavai, because science is not developed nearly as well as magic, some phenomena remain mysterious, such as magnetism and the spread of diseases.
A central feature of the societies described is the complete absence of any organised religion or priesthood. The series evidently shares with Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea books the implicit assumption that the presence of active mages, whose power is real and manifest for all to see, would leave no social space for a professional priesthood to arise. The mages do not, however, fulfill all the functions of a priesthood. For example, while in our history civil marriage is a relatively new institution whose introduction and practice were often hotly disputed (and still are, in countries such as Israel), in Derlavai this seems to be the only form of marriage. (It is specifically mentioned, for example, that marriage by municipal officials in Jelgava long antedated the creation of the kingdom itself.)
A partial exception to the above rule are the Gyongyosians, with their unique star-worship. The Ekrekek seems a kind of priest-emperor and his palace - destroyed in the final Kuusaman attack - a venerated place of pilgrimage, which adds to the terrible anguish felt by Gyongyosians in the wake of the attack. Even so, to the mountain villages where most Gyongyosians live, the Ekrekek is quite an abstract figure, and they have no lower priesthood to be concretely involved in their daily lives.
Another exception is the Ice People, who are the only people to believe in gods, a concept the Derlavians see as barbaric. The gods of the Ice People are described as 'men writ large on the face of the universe', which may indicate that they are more in the nature of ascended humans than purely divine entities.
All other Derlavaians, however different their cultures otherwise, believe in beneficial "powers above" and maleficent "powers below", whose nature is never explained precisely. Both sets of powers are supposed to be "abstract", and "civilised" people often jeer at the "primitive" Ice People for their belief in more concrete gods. Still, however abstract the two kinds of powers might be, Derlavaians in trouble habitually call upon the ones above for help and upon the ones below to "eat" their enemies - much as Europeans might call for God's help or consign their enemies to "Hell and Damnation". At least the satanic "powers below" seem, however, concretely accessible to mages, and their maleficent help can actually be mobilised against an enemy - as is tried during the last stand of the Algarvians. Such magic is, however, evidently considered the most dark and foul, more so even than the kind involving mass murder, and it is strongly suggested that mages using such magic put themselves and their souls in serious peril.
The Roman Empire did and still does form a strong historical link between many nations of Europe. Most of the languages of Europe use the Roman alphabet or a variation thereof. Latin for many centuries was the language of scholars across Europe in both religious and secular matters, and is the basis for languages such as Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Roman-style architecture is still the norm for many American and European government buildings.
Like the Roman Empire, the Kaunian Empire serves to create a common cultural history to much of the continent. School children, for example, learn the history and language of both their nation and the ancient Kaunian Empire. it is the language in which scholars, mages and diplomats frequently communicate with each other, and people wishing to show off their erudition quote proverbs in it (even while engaged in killing the actual Kaunians, Algarvians still do it!). The Kaunian Empire apparently included the territory of modern Jelgava, Valmiera, Forthweg, and Algarve (but not Bari, which being the source of the Algarvic invasions of the Empire, was apparently the original Algarvic homeland), as well as a part of the Lagoan-Kuusaman island.
Historically, Germans had a very ambivalent attitude to the Roman past. On the one hand, German nationalists before and during the Nazi period tended to glorify ancient Germanic tribesmen who fought the Romans, such as Arminius (Herman the German) who won the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. On the other hand, many distinguished German scholars spent their careers diligently researching Latin literature and Roman history, the Medieval German empire was "The Holy Roman Empire", and "kaiser" is a Germanization of "caesar".
The same ambiguity was evident in German attitudes to Latin-descended France. German nationalism had a strong anti-French focus, from the Napoleonic Wars until World War II, yet many Germans admired the French culture, and German diplomats routinely used French to communicate with colleagues in other countries.
All these ambiguities are reflected in Turtledove's Algarvians - mixed up with antisemitism, as Kaunians are both Romans/Latins and Jews.
When the Kaunian Empire fell thanks to the "Algarvian Irruption", corresponding of course to the invasion of the Roman Empire by German tribes, the Kaunians remained the dominant cultural and ethnic group in Eastern Derlavai, which corresponds to Western Europe - directions being reversed in this South Hemisphere location. First they lived in independent city states and small principalities which later coalesced into the successor-states Jelgava and Valmiera, similar to France and Spain. Jelgavan and Valmieran have developed to the point that the their speakers don't understand the classical language unless they study it especially. (It is mentioned specifically that the term "to marry" in Classical Kaunian came to mean "to have sex" in modern Jelgavan, which causes Kaunian-speaking Algarvian soldiers to misunderstand what the local prostitutes are offering.) In the parts of Lagoas and Kuusamo which were part of the empire, Kaunians disappeared completely - as Romans had disappeared from Britain.
In the more westward parts of the continent, in contrast, Kaunians became an ethnic minority in countries formed by the invading "barbarians": maintaining a distinct and largely separate minority culture, keeping the ancient language in more or less its original form as their daily speech, clinging to the short tunics and trousers common in the days of Empire, and frowning at the idea of mixed marriages.
Ancient Kaunian is a language of many tenses and verb forms, which makes for a language of precision. Kaunians bring this precision into play when they switch to a more modern language, generally to the disdain of others.
All this has no parallel in the Roman Empire's history. Clearly, in this context the Kaunians stand for Jews and their language represents not Latin (or even Romanian) but Yiddish. It is mentioned that Kaunian "pickpockets and thieves" in the Forthwegian capital Eoforwic (analogous to Warsaw, with the name deriving from the Old English for York) have their own dialect, barely comprehensible even to other Kaunians - which was indeed the case for Jewish criminals in Warsaw and other big Polish cities until the Holocaust.
Kaunians are characterised as on the slender and tall side, with fair skin and blonde hair. The wearing of trousers by the Kaunian women tends to be a distraction for other peoples, as the tight pants reveal more than the more modern knee-length tunics do. This often results in Kaunian women being regarded as sexually promiscuous - a widespread racial stereotype which is deliberately used by King Mezentio in fomenting hatred and delegitimation of Kaunians. (Nazi propaganda made much use of the theme of the alleged sexual appetites of Jewish males.)
In Algarve itself, Kaunians seem to have, already for several generations, to be deeply assimilated in the surrounding society. They speak Algarvian, wear kilts, call themselves by Algarvian names (or "Algarvianise" their names by adding the characteristic final "-o"), and their males have Algarvian-style moustaches and behave in the blatant macho way encouraged by Algarvian culture. Until their persecutions started, there were prominent Kaunian scholars (or rather, "Algarvians of Kaunian blood") at the University of Trapani (Berlin). All of which fits well with the assimilated German Jews of the late 19th and early 20th Century.
Whether highly assimilated in Algarve (Germany) or very distinct ethnically in Forthweg (Poland), Kaunians face suspicion and prejudice, a separate and vaguely detested minority in many nations. With the beginning of war, Kaunian armies from Jelgava and Valmiera invade Algarve, and local Kaunians - however Algarvian they are in culture - face popular hostility, with their blond hair marking them out. They resort to painting their hair - but exactly that draws to them the attention of the state authorities which start arresting them en masse.
In this way, Turtledove creates an equivalent to the Holocaust, where Kaunians under Algarvian control are systematically stripped of their rights, prejudice, discrimination, and violence against them is either ignored or actively encouraged, and eventually many of them are interred in special camps.
Eventually, Algarve, facing a desperate stalemate against Unkerlant, begines slaughtering Kaunians en masse to fuel vast quantities of death-energy-powered sorcery in an attempt to break the impasse.
As generally in his treatment of Second World War themes, and also with regard to the mass murder of Kaunians, Turtledove mixes reality and fantasy. In Algarve (at least, in King Mezentio's Algarve, which corresponds to Hitler's Germany) the characteristics marking the Kaunian "untermensch" are precisely those which for the Nazis marked the highest of "Aryan racial purity": blond hair and blue eyes. In contrast, the self-defined marks of the Algarvian "Master-race" are - red hair and green eyes.
A racial distinction on such a basis is bound to seem arbitrary and senseless to the reader (who might after a moment reflect that the distinctions of White Skin vs Black Skin or Hooked Nose vs Straight Nose could seem just as arbitrary and senseless to an impartial observer). However, even this does have parallels in history, such as the degradation of the Tutsi shortly before and during the Rwandan Genocide, who tend to be taller and often considered better-looking than their Hutu neighbors.
Apart from the difference about which physical characteristic are those which make one liable to be murdered with impunity, the Algarvians seem to proceed about the murder of Kaunians through much the same stages which the Nazis did towards Jews. First comes massive hate propaganda and discriminatory laws, designed to cut the targeted ethnic group off from the surrounding society; then the compulsory physical segregation in special quarters/ghettos; and finally rounding up the victims and sending them off to death camps, in horribly overcrowded railway wagons/ley line caravans.
There is, however, a crucial difference: the killing of the Kaunians is an integral part of conducting the war (unlike the killing of the Jews, which was a considerable drain on Germany's dwindling resources - though, to be sure, a justified and needed drain in the view of Hitler and his fanatical Nazis).
Mezentio with his generals and mages are able to build their monstrous edifice on a pre-existing foundation: soldiers of all armies have the long-established custom of occasionally killing prisoners of war and using their life energy to recharge the "sticks" which are their equivalent of guns. Evidently, this practice is tacitly tolerated (if not explicitly authorized) by the High Commands of all armies. In fact, the reader is first introduced to it when the Jelgavan soldier/tailor Talsu, an otherwise quite sympathetic character, initiates the slaughter of two Algarvian captives for their life energy. (This world does not seem to have any equivalent of the Geneva Convention, for example, the use of POW's as slave labour in mines is practised not only in oppressive Unkerlant but also in the relatively humane and civilised Zuwayza).
The above precedent would likely be brought up by counsel for the defence in any equivalent of the Nuremberg Trials - and would likely be rejected in that Mezentio had taken an existing unofficial even if tolerated barbaric practice and made it official, multiplied it a hundred- or a thousandfold over and over again, and added the severity of using civilians of a particular ethnic group. (In the "customary" killing of captives to recharge sticks, the victims seem always to be enemy soldiers, combat troops evidently taking this as one of the battlefield hazards)
Mezentio's official aim is not to exterminate Kaunians but to win the war (the original euphemism for the death camps is "Victory Camps"). To be sure, the targeting of Kaunians is no accident, and the rabid racist hatred is very evident. (Without it, the Algarvians might have simply started to kill Unkerlanter peasants and claim that they were emulating Unkerlant's own king). It is also ironic, as the Valmierans and Jelgavans for the most part, especially the soldiers, had a very low opinion of their nobility -- lower than their views of the Algarvians, in many or most cases -- and until the imprisonment and killings of Kaunians happened might actually be expected to settle down relatively peaceably under Algarvian rule.
Still, Kaunians in Algarvian hands seem to have a somewhat better chance of surviving than Jews in Nazi hands - if only for the pragmatic and cynical reason that their lives constitute "munitions of war" which should not be squandered. Thus, Kaunians imprisoned in their "ghettos" seem to get adequate food - as unlike the Nazis, the Algarvians have no interest in deliberately letting them starve. While the Warsaw Ghetto was being liquidated in early 1943, leading its remaining inhabitants to the well-known rebellion whose aim was mainly "to die with a gun in the hand", its analogue the Kaunian Quarter of Eoforwic remains in existence up to the outbreak of the Forthwegian uprising, (equivalent to mid-1944), which would presumably give surviving Kaunians a chance to escape and hide.
Altogether, while cruelly decimated, a greater proportion of Forthwegian Kaunians survive the war than of Polish Jews. Ironically, this may be due to the killing being spread out, as apparently Jelgavans and Valmierans were included among the Kaunians killed, if the "Night and Fog" disappearances (which were ostensibly as retaliation for the resistance against the Algarvians; see Nacht und Nebel) are any indication. Also, there is no equivalent of a Kaunian homeland set up after the war, like Israel was for the Jews - but Valmiera and Jelgava could both be considered Kaunian homelands already existing once relieved of Algarvian occupation.
Other differences might be more important for the post-war period. While the Nazis made considerable efforts to hide what they were doing at the extermination camps, the magical killing of Kaunians just cannot be hidden - at least, not from other mages. All mages, all over the world, sense it and feel it at the very moment of perpetration, every single time, and can keep a precise record of the dates, and at least an approximate report of the locations and the number of victims. The Kuusaman Princes would have probably set some mages to compile such a record, especially considering that the killing of Kaunians is Kuusamo's direct casus belli in declaring war on Algrave. (Which is, incidentally, very different from the United States Government's attitude to the Jewish Holocaust while that Holocaust was going on.)
Moreover, Algarvian military officers are clearly far more directly implicated in the mass murders than the equivalent Wehrmacht officers. By definition, generals involved in the planning of attacks and military operations would among other things be taking the cold-blooded decision to kill such-and-such a number of Kaunians on a particular date at a particular location; staff officers implementing the details of a military operation would be inevitably involved with the logistics of bringing Kaunian captives to the designated location and making arrangements for them to be killed on the designated date; and middle-level field officers commanding the attacks would be regularly giving the specific order for the killing of specific Kaunians, at the timing defined by the situation on the ground. (In one episode Colonel Spinello is shown giving such an order in the middle of battle, just as matter-of-factly as he orders the use of "other weapons" - which would have made him liable as a war criminal, except that one of his Kaunian victims already managed to settle accounts with him privately and permanently.)
This widespread complicity of Algarvian military officers might create a difficulty for the Kuusamans and Lagoans a few years ahead, when the issue of rearming their half of Algarve comes up in the context of Cold War with Unkerlant. On the other hand, King Swemmel would likely have few moral scruples in creating a pet Algarvian army in his half of the kingdom, as long as he was sure of keeping that army under his tight control - and the rival powers may see no choice but to emulate him.
On the other hand, late in the war, as they got desperate, and as it became obvious to the Algarvians that non-Kaunians (such as the Unkerlanters) were now far more of a worry than the thoroughly cowed blonds, the Algarvians began to display a somewhat more pragmatic, open attitude toward the Kaunians. They allowed Valmierans and Jelgavans to join their army, and they played an important role on the southern front against the Unkerlanters and in Jelgava. Their mages still defaulted toward wanting to kill Kaunians out of habit, including the soldiers fighting on their side, but Algarvian officers increasingly refused to allow this, leading the mages to turn to killing Yaninan deserters or turning to special magics from the powers below. This would seem to suggest that after the war, the Algarvians will have for the most part lost their anti-Kaunianism. Similarly, after World War II, Germany has been considered probably one of the least anti-Semitic countries in the world.
The course of the war in Unkerlant and its environs follows very closely the historical war in the Soviet Theatre, with Behemoths substituted for tanks and dragons for war planes. There is the initial Algarvian/German surprise attack and deep thrust, repulsed within sight of Cottbus/Moscow (analogue of 1941); the siege of Sulingen/Stalingrad (1942); the major battle at the Durrwangen/Kursk Salient (1943); the breaking into Forthweg/Poland with Unkerlanter/Soviet forces cynically halting to let the Algarvians/Germans put down the revolt in Eoforwic/Warsaw (1944); and the fall of Trapani/Berlin and suicide of Mezentio/Hitler (1945). One slight difference is the stubborn Algarvian defence of Gromheort, which is the hometown of important viewpoint characters in the story but otherwise would appear to correspond most closely to Poznan. Even though the Unkerlanters have disconcertingly German names, they are very recognizable Soviets and Russians, and Swemmel - though a hereditary absolute monarch - is an unmistakable Stalin.
However, the war in other theatres is much less of a one-to-one analogue of World War II. Indeed, some theatres are missing altogether. There is no Asia in this world, and perforce no analogue to the campaigns and battles in China, Singapore, Malaya, Burma etc. It seems that in order to compensate for this and have Gyongyos/Japan involved in a two-front war, Turtledove has them attack Unkerlant in conjunction with the Algarvian attack - which is in marked contrast to Japan's remaining neutral towards the Soviet Union until the very last days of the war.
Gyongyos' naval island-hopping war is also quite different from Japan's. It had been going on long before the outbreak of war in Derlavai/Europe, and there is no mention of a Pearl Harbor analogue having set it off. Rather, it seems like a straightforward colonial war, with the two rival expanding powers grabbing strategic islands and their resources and paying little attention to the wishes of "primitive" islanders in the matter.
The course of the war in Eastern Derlavai/Western Europe is also very significantly different. The Kaunian kingdoms are incomparably more bellicose than France in the equivalent period. They and their allies declare war on Algarve over its annexing the Duchy of Bari, the analogue of the 1938 Austrian Anschluss. There is no phase of appeasement, no Munich Agreement and no analogue of Neville Chamberlain.
The composition of the anti-Algarvian alliance is quite different, too: whoever Jelgava and Sibiu stand for, they don't stand for countries which declared war on Germany in 1939; and to the contrary Lagoas/Britain is initially neutral and joins the war much later. The Phony War is here less phony in the sense that a real attack and invasion of Algarve is launched - though the final result is the same, due especially to the utter incompetence of the Kaunian nobility which has a monopoly over the officer corps.
Indeed, in what seems a deliberate attempt at misdirection, to start with the Algarvians appear as the underdogs - four nations ganging up on them, only because of their taking back Bari with the very enthusiastic cooperation of its inhabitants. (It might have looked a bit different had Bari possessed Kaunian inhabitants - like Austria had a big Jewish community, whose persecution began immediately with the Nazi entry into Vienna; but in Turtledove's Bari there are positively no Kaunians).
The first of many women in the series to get raped by invading soldiers is an Algarvian raped by a Kaunian (Jelgavan) officer, and the reader's sympathy is wholly with her and the revenge she exacts. Even more significantly, the first captives in the series to be sacrificed in order to make magical use of their life force are Algarvians killed by Kaunians (Jelgavans again).
Adding to the misdirection is the blurb of the first book (which, of course, may not have been written by Turtledove himself) which includes: "As nation after nation declares war, a chain of treaties are invoked, ultimately bringing almost all the powers of Derlavai into a war of unprecedented destructiveness... The lights are going out all across Derlavai, and will not come back on in our lifetime". This, of course, leads a historically-minded reader to expect a magical analogue of the First World War rather than the Second.
By the middle of the first book, things become clear: the original allies are all occupied, Lagoas is now alone in the war, and it is obvious that this is mid-1940, that Algarve is Nazi Germany and that an attack on Unkerlant is next on the agenda. (And even before it began, the reader can already surmise that it will all end with Mezentio committing suicide in burning Trapani.) Still, there are many differences.
For one thing, things are incomparably easier for Lagoas, throughout the war, than they were for Britain. There is no difficulty in extricating Lagoan troops from falling Valmiera, and hence no Dunkirk. Algarvian bombing of Lagoas is intermittent, and the possibility of an invasion is not on the agenda - so, there is no Battle of Britain, nothing like the destruction of Coventry, and Lagoas has no Churchill analogue and does not really need one. Kuusamo's capital Yliharma, however, is attacked instead once, but like the bombing of London or Coventry, it had little overall effect other than angering the Kuusamans.
Moreover, the big island (or small continent) housing Lagoas and Kuusamo seems largely self-sufficient. Lagoas, unlike Britain, is not dependent on the oversea imports of vital supplies. Thus, there is no Battle of the Atlantic (anyway, while Leviathans can sink ships, there does not seem to be a real analogue of U-boat "wolfpacks" which took a heavy toll of British shipping). Consequently, Lagoas does not undergo any serious shortages and rationing. In all this, in fact, not only Kuusamo but also Lagoas seems more an analogue of the United States than of Britain.
To some degree, this is counterbalanced by the devastation of the Kuusaman capital Yliharma which has no exact parallel in the annals of World War II, except possibly for the London Blitz. To be sure, it is a far less destructive blow than what the Kuusamans would eventually unleash on the Gyongyosian capital. (Even the luxury hotel where Pekka stays on her visits to the capital is back in operation within a year of the Algarvian attack).
The campaign in the Land of the Ice People fills the general place - but does not follow the specific events - of the North African campaign. Specifically, little use is made of Behemoths/tanks by either side, and there are no analogues of Rommel and Montgomery. Moreover, the whole campaign is far more marginal strategically than its equivalent in World War II, since cinnabar is far less important than the oil of the Middle East. Unlike oil, cinnabar (the major mineral product of the Land of the Ice People) is needed solely for dragons, who need the quicksilver and brimstone - not for any other kind of weapons/beasts, nor for powering civilian vehicles or industry; and even the dragons can fly and drop explosive "eggs" without having cinnabar.
Later on, the liberation of Sibiu - achieved quickly and easily - takes roughly the chronological place of the Italian campaign, but is in every way a far cry from that years-long gruelling affair with its major bloody battles. And finally, D-day in Jelgava, unlike its analogue in Normandy, is achieved without strong Algarvian resistance and without high casualties to the invading forces (though the Battle of the Bulge does get its devastating analogue, later on.)
The wartime alliance between Unkerlant on the one side and Lagoas and Kuusamo on the other seems more shallow than the equivalent between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers. Unlike his analogue Stalin, King Swemmel never meets personally with King Vitor of Lagoas or with any of the Kuusamian Princes, his contact with his allies seemingly conducted through the narrow channel of their ambassadors in Cottbus - and at that, Swemmel meets the ambassadors in front of his full court, where exchange of meaningful information is necessarily limited, and does not seek any confidential briefings.
There are no equivalents to the Tehran Conference, Yalta Conference and Potsdam Conference and no agreements on divisions of "spheres of influence" - and consequently, the mutual distrust and suspicion leading to a Cold War seem to begin rather earlier than in the wake of World War II. The partition of Algarve happens directly upon conquest, rather than three to four years later as with the partition of Germany, with the Kuusamians/Lagoans on the one hand and the Unkerlanters on the other proceeding immediately with the picking of competing puppet kings, making no effort to set up a new government of a United Algarve. (It was this attempt which led to the partition of Berlin, originally with the intention of letting the Western powers keep an eye on the new all-German government which never actually came into being; with no comparable attempt in the Turtledove universe, Trapani would presumably remain wholly in the Unkerlanter sphere, and the coming decades would be spared the complications of a Trapani Blockade or a Trapani Wall.
A further significant difference is the fact of eastern Algarve (analogue of West Germany, with directions here reversed, although the term "East Algarve" is never actually used in the books) being headed by King Mainardo, Mezentio's bother and designated heir. This makes for very much more of a continuity between Mezentio's Algarve and Mainardo's than there was between Hitler's Germany and Adenauer's - the rough equivalent of the Western Allies appointing Admiral Doenitz, Hitler's designated heir, to permanently head their part of Germany. Moreover, the choice of Mainardo, who was the imposed King of occupied Jelgava and thus directly implicated in all that the Algarvians did during their occupation there, is bound to create far more strained relations between Jelgava and East Algarve then there were between post-war France and West Germany, and thus make more difficult the creation of analogues to NATO and the European Common Market.
Swemmel meanwhile installed his own puppet king in West Algarve at Trapani, who was never named in the books. But, unlike what happened to Germany in World War II, Algarve does not appear to have large chunks of its territory placed under Forthwegian administration, with millions of Algarvians being forced to move eastward and replaced with Forthwegians, or at least no mention either way is made of it in the last book. There is no mention of Bari or its being reconstituted in the last book, and its fate remains unknown. The only instance of ethnic cleansing of Algarvians that is in fact mentioned is that in the Marquisate of Rivaroli (Alsace-Lorraine), which in our history took the form of francization instead.
Finally, the situation of Gyongyos at the conclusion of the series is significantly different than of its analogue Japan. To begin with, the Gyongyosians are far less culpable than the Imperial Japanese. While their soldiers are not entirely blameless, they do not have on their record anything remotely like the Rape of Nanking and other large-scale atrocities attributed to the World War II Japanese. Indeed, they had no opportunity for such, their war in Unkerlant being conducted in very thinly populated mountain and forest regions, and in the islands they were not the worst of colonial overlords. The war for Gyongyos was indeed more like how it would be for Japan if World War II happened but China and Korea did not exist and Japan made a half-hearted attempt to occupy the Soviet Far East instead. And unlike the Japanese, with their famous contempt for enemy soldiers who surrendered and their brutality, there is little to distinguish Gyongyos' conduct from that of the Kuusamans.
But while being less culpable, the Gyongyosians get a considerably harsher treatment than the Japanese. While it is partly the fault of their arrogant government, which ignored and actively suppressed a clear warning which the World War II Japanese were not given at all, still the end result is the nuclear-analogue magic targeting not just a city of theirs but their capital with the Ekrekek in it - the equivalent of the atom bomb being dropped on Tokyo instead of Hiroshima and killing the Japanese Emperor and the entire Imperial Family, a far-reaching measure which the Harry S. Truman Administration never contemplated and which would have certainly made the post-war American-Japanese rapprochement and alliance far more difficult. There seems to be no occupation of Gyongyos and no Douglas MacArthur analogue, but rather a Gyongyosian general making himself the new Ekrekek and Gyongyosians (at least the elite and the mages) vowing dire revenge upon the destroyers. In short, an ominous set-up more reminiscent of Germany after the FIRST World War than of Japan after the Second.
The historical Manhattan Project employed at its peak some 170,000. There were needed both a scientific director (Oppenheimer) and one for logistics and engineering (Groves). Both had a full-time job and more, and needed numerous assistants and aides. In the Naantali Project, Pekka manages both roles quite well, and the entire project is minuscule in comparison - the whole staff, mages and servants both, being housed in a single three-storey building. Altogether, there could hardly be more than a few hundred of them.
The main difference seems to be that the basic ingredients needed for the "nuclear" magic are far more simple and easily obtainable. No analogue of the ores of Uranium or Plutonium which need to be mined and refined in a complicated and dangerous process. Also, no need of precisely engineered bombs to create the critical mass at exactly the right time and place. And finally, no need of airplane- or missile-equivalents to deliver the weapon to its target. All that is needed are rats, rabbits or any other living creatures (including, presumably, human beings) of which some are known to be the grandparents of the others. Judging from Pekka's initial findings, it appears to have been influenced by the real phenomenon of wave interference.
This is enough - given knowledge of the appropriate spells and mages able to perform them - for the time-magic to work, pushing the grandparent forward in time and the grandchild backward, killing them in the process and deriving enormous magical energy. Moreover, the mages themselves can deliver the energy to any target, by simply pointing out the spot on the globe - in effect, having the equivalent of the Intercontinental ballistic missile right at the new weapon's very inception, rather than a decade and more later. (In fact, the magic's "launch system" is far more powerful and deadly than ICBMs, since the magical energy travels instantaneously, with no time elapsed between "launch" and hitting the target.)
As against that, it seems that creating a protective spell to defend a city and deflect the magical energy hurled against it is far more feasible than having an effective defence against nuclear weapons. Still, what one mage can do another can undo, and the future arms race would presumably include the development of a whole slough of counterspells upon counterspells.
Evidently, the more simple basic ingredients would make non-proliferation of the "nuclear magic" far more difficult than of its analogue. To some degree this is counter-balanced by the fact that this magic is also more difficult to conceal. Whereas the existence of the Manhattan Project and even the early test explosions of nuclear arms were completely unknown to the Germans and Japanese until the actual weapon was used on Hiroshima, the experimenting at the Naantali Project exposed the project already at an early stage to the Algarvian mages' knowledge and their violent attempts to disrupt it. Presumably, others seeking to gain the same weapon, such as the Unkerlanters, would need to devise some masking magic to hide what they were doing (or at least the location where they were doing it) from the existing possessors of the same magic - which would tend to hamper and slow them down.
Once in possession of the secret, the Unkerlanters would presumably have no compunction about trying what Illmarinen already speculated about, but which the Kuusamians were morally precluded from trying - namely, performing the magic with human grandparents and grandchildren, and finding if the resulting explosion would be proportionally greater. If it is, the Kuusamians/Lagoans would find themselves right back where they started with the Algarvians - facing a powerful magic powered by the murder of humans. They would have the choice of taking a page from the defeated Gyongyosians' book and asking for grandparents and grandchildren willing to sacrifice themselves, or looking for a more powerful time-related magic which is "clean" (for anybody except Animal Rights activists, if any exist in this world). Illmarinen's desire to look for means of actual time-travel - which was foiled when he tried to do it in an irresponsible way, but which he evidently far from gave up - might be eventually followed through, with time travel as a weapon possibly turning into this world's equivalent of Thermonuclear bombs.
A further complication arises from the fact that so little of such an easily available resource - no more than "grandparent and grandchild rats" - is needed. No nuclear physicist, however brilliant, can construct and launch nuclear weapons by his or her own self; the scientist can provide vital information, but the resources of a big government are needed to actually build and launch the weapon. It is not so with the analogue magic, however. As seen in the book, a few skillful mages - even a single one willing to take a greater margin of risk - can by their own selves launch destruction at any spot on the globe. Which means that nothing but the mages' innate decency and loyalty would prevent them from using, or threatening to use, the power against their own government and their own country.
This does not yet seem to be grasped by the Kuusamians and Lagoans in the course of the series, but would certainly occur to the perennially paranoid King Swemmel of Unkerlant as soon as the ways of the new power were explained to him - which might lead to Unkerlanter mages being closely watched at all times, by guards ordered to kill them at once should they be seen dealing with rats or rabbits without a specific order and authorization. And also King Vitor and the Seven Princes, while hardly going that far, would presumably become more and more concerned with the danger of a renegade mage or mages.
The Kaunian kingdoms of Valmiera and Jelgava might be a further focus of danger. Presumably they would seek to have the new magic, like 1950s France gaining nuclear arms as a prestige project to mask the humiliation of having been defeated and occupied. This could become a highly dangerous factor should the long overdue anti-feudal revolution at last hit these countries - especially the Jelgava of the odious King Donalitu who seems, from the way the series ends, to be setting himself up for a painful sharp fall (while his Valmieran colleague Gainabu seems more ready to compromise with inevitable changes). Thus, Jelgava might face the unpleasant prospect of what amounts to a nuclear civil war.
And unlike the Japan of the 1950s, going into economic prosperity and decisively abandoning military schemes, embittered Gyongyos might be launched on the route of seeking the new magic as a means of revenge for the destruction of its capital. The words of the Gyongyosian mage Vorosmarty, near the end of the last book, certainly hint in that direction.
All of which seems to indicate that, were Turtledove to write a sequel, it might not be a replay of the 1950s and 1960s with magic added, but take off in completely unpredictable directions. Especially given the additional application of the new magic, which would enable old persons to renew their youth at the expense of their grandchildren (and possibly, with refinement of the magic, at the expense of any young person). This does not seem to have obvious military applications, but would certainly have quite explosive social consequences.
The first book, Into the Darkness, covers the war from the equivalent of 1939 to mid-1941; the Algarvians split Forthweg with Unkerlant, and then overrun Valmiera, Jelgava, and Sibiu (as Germany did to Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France in 1940), while Unkerlant wrests away part of Zuwayza. Lagoas joins the war when Sibiu is taken. The book ends when the Algarvians "get the drop on" the Unkerlanters in Forthweg (who were plotting to attack them first), equivalent to the start of Operation Barbarossa in July 1941. Kuusamo, meanwhile, is trying to seize Obuda from Gyongyos but fails, but Yanina succeeds in gaining control of the Land of the Ice People.
The second book, Darkness Descending, continues to the equivalent of mid-1942. Algarve starts killing Kaunians as their advance toward Cottbus starts to stall, which both causes Kuusamo to enter the war and Unkerlant to start killing its own peasants for magical power, and the redheads are halted by mud, winter, Unkerlanter behemoths with snowshoes, and logistics. Tealdo is killed in Thalfang, just outside of Cottbus (the first viewpoint character to be killed off), and Unkerlant pushes back into the northwest corner of Grelz. Kaunians are herded into ghettos in Forthweg's cities and larger towns. Pekka's first "divergent" series is interrupted by the Algarvian magical blitz on Yliharma. Gyongyos attacks Unkerlant in the west and pushes through the mountains through which the border passes. Lagoas invades the Land of the Ice People.
The third book, Through the Darkness, continues to the equivalent of early 1943. Algarve renews an assault in the south of Unkerlant toward the Mamming Hills, which is Unkerlant's source of cinnabar, leading to the mammoth Battle of Sulingen. Kaunian refugees begin showing up in Zuwayza, which takes them in; other Kaunians get away from a caravan in Valmiera and come to the attention of Skarnu and his friends (who had blown up the caravan to disrupt the Algarvians) or are set loose in a Lagoan raid on a camp in Valmiera. Leofsig killed accidentally-on-purpose by Sidroc, who becomes a new viewpoint character in Plegmund's Brigade. Istvan and his squad accidentally eat goat stew in a raid on a camp in Unkerlant's western forest and are purified by their captain. The Algarvians kill Kaunians in the Land of the Ice People in an attempt to use magic against the Lagoans, but the magic from the killed Kaunians slaughters the Algarvian army instead, and Algarve is forced to withdraw from the continent completely, leaving it to the Lagoans. The wear on the Algarvians is showing as they start to rely more on Sibians, Forthwegians, and the unreliable Yaninans to keep up the fight against Unkerlant. The Battle of Sulingen is won by the Unkerlanters that winter, with Trasone dying in the very last scene in the book. Algarve is on the way to losing the war. The Naantali Project starts, and the Kuusamans take Obuda (off-scene).
The fourth book, Rulers of the Darkness, continues to the equivalent to the winter of 1943-1944. Spinello picks up a new thread following the death of Trasone. Talsu spends a few months in a Jelgavan jail, and coupled with Skarnu's adventures, makes it clear that many Valmierans and Jelgavans support Algarve. (Algarve could theoretically have pro-Algarve Valmierans and Jelgavans fight in its Unkerlant campaign as it did Forthwegians, Sibians, and Yaninans -- much like the German use of Slovaks, Bulgarians, Croats, Dutch, Norwegians, Italians, Hungarians, and Romanians -- but their being Kaunian would pose a problem considering Algarve's use of Kaunians as mage fuel, and so they didn't allow this until Unkerlant started advancing and Algarve became desperate.) Algarvians strike at Naantali Project, killing Siuntio. Gyongyos loses more islands to Kuusamo and Istvan's unit moved from Unkerlant to the island of Becsehely. Algarvians try to pinch off Unkerlanters in Durrwangen using everything they have, leading to the major Battle of Durrwangen. Most surviving Kaunians in Forthweg now use Vanai's Forthwegian disguise, and Algarvians are unable to catch nearly as many as before. Algarvian progress in the summer against Durrwangen very slow, and Unkerlanters battle them to a standstill, then force them back into Grelz, ultimately overrunning the capital Herborn. Raniero boiled by Swemmel. Sibiu liberated by Lagoas and Kuusamo, and Cornelu poisoned by his wife, who is sentenced to beheading. Garivald finds his village and family annihilated by the fighting. Vanai caught by the Algarvians in the very last scene.
The fifth book, Jaws of Darkness, continues to the equivalent of fall 1944. Habakkuk, a dragon carrier carved out of an iceberg (based on a real project by the eccentric British inventor Geoffrey Pyke), is introduced, with Leino (Pekka's husband) as a new viewpoint character replacing Cornelu. Vanai has been thrown into Eoforwic's Kaunian Quarter, and later escapes during an Unkerlanter bombing raid, and found by Ealstan who had disguised himself as an Algarvian. Krasta has sex with Valnu and Lurcanio in the same day and gets pregnant from it. Algarve invents guided eggs (Vergeltungswaffe). Istvan and his friends captured on Becsehely by Kuusamans and taken to Obuda. Valmierans finally allowed to fight in Algarvian axis as invasion looms and troop shortages worsen. But the Kuusamans and Lagoans fool the Algarvians by massing ships and troops on the strait across from Valmiera, and pretending to send a fleet eastward toward Gyongyos, but instead using the latter fleet to invade Jelgava, which serves as the series' analog of the Normandy invasion. At this time, Unkerlant launches a massive offensive which sweeps the Algarvians out of northern Unkerlant and back into Forthweg to the Twegen River, while consolidating their hold on Grelz. The Eoforwic Uprising starts when Unkerlanter armies are well into Forthweg. Unkerlant launches major offensive against Zuwayza, forcing it to surrender with severe conditions, although it keeps its independence. Yanina switches over to Unkerlant's side as soon as the fighting crosses its borders. Sidroc's mixed regiment has to do a fighting retreat through Yanina. The Algarvians abandon and withdraw from Valmiera, enabling Skarnu to return home. Algarvians pushed out of most of Jelgava. Istvan's regiment sacrifices itself to vainly attack the Kuusaman occupation on Obuda, although Istvan and Kun escape by inducing diarrhea. Eoforwic Uprising suppressed by Algarvians, although Unkerlanters have not made more than a halfhearted attempt to cross the Twegen.
The last book, Out of the Darkness, covers the war to ?. Spinello is poisoned by Vanai; his thread continued by Lurcanio. The southern front is in Yanina, which is in a bad position. The Unkerlanters use Yaninan forces as if they were penal battalions, while Algarvians start killing Yaninans for sorcerous energy in retaliation for Yanina's switch to Swemmel, which coupled with their use for some time of Valmieran troops shows pragmatic cracks in Algarve's anti-Kaunianism. In Jelgava, close to the Bratanu Mountains on the border with Algarve, Leino (and Xavega) killed by an Algarvian magical trap; Leino's thread continued by Ilmarinen. Puppet King Beornwulf installed in Forthweg, and Ealstan drafted. Kuusamans and Lagoans occupy Valmiera. Lurcanio covers the Battle of the Bulge analog, which takes place in western Valmiera (Adutiskis is Bastogne, "Nuts" replaced with Powers below eat you). Unkerlanters push into Algarve, first on the southern front then the northern. Algarvians develop superstick, first using on Unkerlanters on southern front. Ealstan in Unkerlanter army having to reduce his own hometown, Gromheort, in which Algarvians were holed up. Algarvians come out with other desperate magics, some demonic, others new and unreliable, but appear to have given up killing Kaunians for the most part. Pekka "nukes" Becsehely in first test of divergent blast. Krasta has a baby boy, which she at first names Valnu (later Gainibu), but which turns out to be Lurcanio's; Merkela cuts all her hair off in punishment. Unkerlanters and Kuusamans meet at Torgavi (Torgau) on the Albi (Elbe) in the north of Algarve. Skarnu becomes marquis of Pavilosta. Lurcanio's army surrenders, followed by Gromheort. Ealstan wounded, discharged from army, and stays in Gromheort with his family. Mezentio's palace falls, along with Sidroc and Mezentio. Kuusamans test supermagic on Becsehely with a ship full of Gyongyosian prisoners nearby (including Istvan and Kun) watching. Algarve surrenders. Talsu released from prison (again) and expelled with his wife to Kuusamo. Lurcanio, who had been turned over to the Valmierans, is executed by firing squad. Ceorl continues Sidroc's thread. Killed when he and Garivald escape from a mining camp, while Garivald makes his way back to Obilot.
Turtledove's Darkness is written in the third-person omniscient format from an unusually large number of viewpoint characters. The first book, Into the Darkness, lists 17 viewpoint characters from 10 nations. Furthermore, Turtledove is not shy about killing off a few viewpoint characters at any time during the course of the story and replacing them with new ones. The viewpoint characters rarely meet, so while the viewpoint may jump several times among a like number of characters in a chapter there is generally a substantial amount of writing done between jumps.