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Harry Turtledove's Darkness

The Darkness Series is a series of six fantasy novels by Harry Turtledove.

  • Into the Darkness (1999)
  • Darkness Descending (2000)
  • Through the Darkness (2001)
  • Rulers of the Darkness (2002)
  • Jaws of the Darkness (2003)
  • Out of the Darkness (2004)

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.

Monarchies and Aristocracies

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.)

Technology and Magic

In the world of Derlavai most (but in no way all) of the technology used by the various societies is powered by magic. On the civilian scene, magic is much less important, being limited to applications such as rest boxes (an analogue to the refrigerator which operates by slowing the effects of time on its contents), lighting (in places where such sorcerous power is available) and ley line ships, while in the military magic is involved in the production and use of almost all their weapons and supplies.

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:

  • By direct magic, using the law of similarity which can obviously be applied to mass production. This method is fast, but can produce inferior goods if not conducted with skill and effort.
  • By artisans, who work by hand and use a limited amount of magic. Each profession has some spells, and the knowledge and use of them is considered a normal part of that trade rather than a form of magecraft. The reader is mainly made familiar with tailors and their spells, but dentistry and jewellers' spells are also mentioned or seen.
  • Mass production by machines, as in our world. During Skarnu's wanderings in the service of the Valmieran Resistance, he visits a factory city which is devoted to the production of shoes, by hordes of highly-exploited workers similar to the early Industrial Revolution situation of our history. It is not mentioned how much magic is used in the production of the shoes, although it may be reasonable to assume the use of some tailoring magic for stitching.

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.

Magical Items in the Darkness series:

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.

  • Note: nowhere is it explained why is this artifact called "egg". When dragons are first described throwing eggs on troops, the reader gets the impression that it is their own eggs, but it soon becomes clear that it is a human-made artifact. Still, the characteristics of dragons as described in the series make it logical that natural dragon eggs are explosive to some degree, when dropped from a height, and that human mages took this as the starting point for developing far more powerful explosive devices.

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.

Nations

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).

Algarve

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).

Forthweg

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.

Gyongyos

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).

Jelgava

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.)

Kuusamo

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.

Lagoas

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.

Ortah

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.

Sibiu

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.

Unkerlant

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).

Valmiera

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.

Yanina

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.)

Zuwayza

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 Land of the Ice People

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.

The Duchy of Bari

The equivalent of the Rhineland (or less plausibly Austria or the Sudetenland). Once the southern part of Algarve, it was politically separated at the conclusion of the Six-Year war (the equivalent of World War I) and given independence under Duke Alardo. Its people are Algarvic and maintain strong loyalties to Algarve, fpr which they are expelled en masse at the end of the war (in this clearly standing for the Ethnic Germans of East Europe).

The Duchy of Grelz

Located in the southern part of Derlavai. Its people are Unkerlanter but speak with a strong accent, being the Ukraine/non-Russia analog to Unkerlant's USSR. While under Algarvian occupation, it is made into a puppet "Kingdom of Grelz" and is ruled by Mezentio's cousin Raniero. Support for the foreign king is very mixed.

The Marqisate of Rivaroli

Has some aspects of Alsace-Lorraine and others of Danzig. Like Alsace, it is an area long disputed between Algarve/Germany and Valmiera/France, which was incorporated in the latter at the end of the Six Years' War/First World War. However, unlike the Alsatians - many of whom had a fiercely French patriotic allegiance even when bearing German family names - the people of Rivaroli seem to have a clearly Algarvian/German allegiance, revolting upon the approach of the Algarvian army in the early part of the war - for which they pay dearly at the war's end, being expelled en masse by the Valmierans. That recalls more the fate of the Danzig Germans.

The History of Kuusamo and Lagoas

Clearly, Kuusamo and Lagoas play in the war the roles of The United States and Britain. But also clearly, they do not have the geography or the earlier history of these two countries.

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.

Also, it is Lagoas which attracts and absorbs immigrants in large numbers from other countries all over the world. Setubal, the Lagoan capital, seems to stand for New York as well as London.

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.

Harry Turtledove's Sorcery

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.

Religion and Sorcery

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.

Kaunians and the Kaunian Empire

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.

Implications of the Kaunian Holocaust

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 Historical War and the Fantasy War

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 Naantali Project and the Magical Arms Race

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.

Book by Book Summaries

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.

Viewpoint Characters

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.

Bembo

  • Bembo is an Algarvian constable from the town of Tricarico in eastern Algarve. He is chubby, lazy, and prone to taking bribes. When Algarve occupies Forthweg, he is sent to serve as a constable in the occupation force - and to take part in rounding up Kaunians and sending them to their deaths. Precisely due to his venality, he is not the worst - being on occasion willing to save some people's lives in return for monetary or sexual favors. Turtledove sets him off in contrast to his partner Oraste, a dour and brutal man who enjoys breaking heads. In the end, Bembo returns to Tricarico and continues working as a constable under Kuusaaman occupation, while Oraste ends up a slave-labourer in the Unkerlanter mines - and there becomes a gang leader among the rough prisoners.

Cornelu

  • Cornelu is a Sibian Leviathan rider - riding on a huge cetacean which can eat a human in two bites but which can become very attached to its rider (and vice versa) and doing the equivalent of a submarine's job - from sinking enemy ships to ferrying spies and saboteurs into enemy territory and taking out VIP refugees such as the exile King of Forthweg. While he is on a mission, the Algarvians invade and conquer his homeland. Bitter but undaunted, he sets his Leviathan to swim to Lagoas and offers his services to their navy. He risks his life again and again and survives. Even when his beloved Leviathan Eforiel is killed by an Algarvian dragon, he swims to the Sibian shore, hides out in a logging camp and eventually manges to steal an Algarvian leviathan and return to the war. Yet upon his triumphant return to liberated Sibiu, he is poisoned by his wife, whom he found pregnant by an Algarvian officer. His wife is beheaded for the murder, and the fate of her unborn bastard and her and Cornelu's daughter is unknown.

Ealstan

  • Ealstan is a young Forthwegian, who appears in the very first and the very last episode of the series. In the beginning, he is a schoolboy, with no greater concerns than boredom at school and an idle curiosity about girls. The series takes him through a growing-up process greatly accelerated through war and occupation. A boys' rivalry with his cousin Sidroc turns literally into a matter of life and death when Sidroc becomes a collaborator with the Algarvian occupiers. Similarly, his meeting Vanai and their falling in love with each other, which in other circumstances might have been no more than an innocent teen love affair, becomes a highly sensitive and dangerous issue since she is one of the persecuted Kaunians, liable to be murdered out of hand for no more reason than having eyes and hair of a certain colour. They become totally committed to each other and get married, despite the laws prohibiting it. Much of Ealstan's story, particularly in the later books, revolves around his involvement in the Forthwegian resistance. He works as a bookkeeper, first for a half-Kaunian musician named Ethelhelm, then after having a falling out with him, he worked for Pybba, who ran the largest pottery business in Eoforwic. Pybba is quite secretive, and after Ealstan showed too much curiosity on where unaccounted-for funds went, he sacked him, but rehired him after hearing about what happened to Leofsig, as Pybba had been funding subversive activities against the Algarvians and now felt he could trust Ealstan. After the uprising at Eoforwic (Warsaw) is crushed by Algarve he evades capture, only to be impressed into the conquering Unkerlanter army. There, he is wounded fighting to take his home town, Groemhort - which turns out to be good fortune as it enables him to reunite with his family.
  • In between all his dangerous adventures, Ealstan develops a skill as an accountant, a trade he learns from his father Hestan, together with also imbibing his father's deeply tolerant, humanitarian and broad-minded world-view. Turtledove seems to enjoy portraying the apparently paradoxical combination of an accountant as an action hero, having another such character in Heinrich Gimpel, one of the main protagonists of In the Presence of Mine Enemies. The conduct of both Gimpel and of Ealstan and Hestan, in their respective books, seems to show that the solid good sense needed for a good accountant can also be the key to survival in dangerous situations, especially under a military occupation and/or an oppressive regime.

Fernao

  • Fernao (Portuguese "Fernão", but Turtledove never bothers with diacritics) is a Lagoan mage of the first rank, one of the best mages in the kingdom. Starting out as a ship's mage, Fernao is later hired by a mysterious man whose identity is never fully revealed to travel to Yanina and rescue the fugitive King Penda of Forthweg, who fled after the fall of his own kingdom to Algarvian and Unkerlanter forces. Algarve and Unkerlant both demand that Penda be yielded to them, but Fernao, despite the untimely demise of his employer, is able to use his magic to get Penda to the land of the Ice People, and from there eventually makes his way to a Lagoan-held town from which the Sibian leviathan rider Cornelu is able to retrieve them just as Yaninan forces take the town. This experience leads to Fernao being assigned to the Lagoan expedition to take the austral continent from the Yaninans, who are supplying cinnabar (equivalent to oil) to their Algarvian allies from the mines there. Since Algarve has very little cinnabar in her own territory, the eventual Lagoan victory is a crippling blow to the Algarvian war effort. Before this occurs, however, Fernao is seriously injured by a bursting egg. Slowed down by magic, he is flown by dragon via several ships back to Setubal where he slowly starts to recover. He is then assigned to be the Lagoan representative on the Kuusaaman project to unify the laws of similarity and contagion, which ultimately leads to the development of spells equivalent to nuclear weapons. While working on the project, he falls in love with Pekka, a Kuusaaman theoretical sorcerer who developed the basis for their work, and they are married after Pekka's husband is killed during the liberation of Jelgava.

Garivald

  • Garivald, an Unkerlanter peasant, is perhaps analogous to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, though only in having literary talents and falling foul of the Soviet/Unkerlanter authorities, rather than in any specific biographical details. Garivald is an extremely capable and talented man, of which he himself is not fully aware, and would have gotten much further had he not been born an illiterate peasant under an oppressive regime which often rewards loyal service with severe punishment (especially when said service involved too much of an independent initiative). Specifically, he is from Unkerlant's Duchy of Grelz (analogue of the Ukraine), an area with some smouldering separatist tendencies, which makes the central government all the more suspicious of him. Shortly before the arrival of the invading Algarvian army, Garivald discovered that he has a talent for song and poetry, and once under occupation he applied this talent to composing patriotic songs, rousing the people to struggle, which soon became widely popular throughout the Algarvian-occupied part of Unkerlant. The Algarvians captured him, but on the way to execution he was liberated by a band of irregulars, soon became a renowned fighter as well as poet, and became the leader of the band when the previous leader was killed. Supported and complimented by the central government's emissaries as long as he was under occupation, once his band's area of operations was liberated he fell under suspicion - King Swemmel's "inspectors" (secret police) reasoning that a man who wrote subversive songs and headed insurgent guerrillas under one regime might continue to do so under another regime as well. Garivald slipped away in the night and returned to his original village - only to find it completely destroyed in the war, with his wife and children probably dead. Together with his lover Obilot, a former fellow-irregular who had also lost her entire family, he tried to hide out, the two of them cultivating a small forest clearing. Desperately needing to find the seed hidden by peasants in a ruined village, Garivald designs a magic spell which does the trick - but failed to draw from this any conclusion about his own innate power and ability. (Non-mages can perform some simple magic, but usually they use spells designed by professionals.) The couple's hide-out was discovered by the King's men - who didn't realize that "Fariulf", (as he now called himself) is the fugitive poet Garivald, but they did impress him into the army, then going into the offensive against the Algarvians and needing manpower to compensate for its enormous losses. Though a latecomer to the regular army, his evident ability soon earned him the rank of sergeant (had the war lasted a bit longer, he would have probably become an officer). He carefully refrained from composing any more songs, but the officer who taught him his letters soon noticed that his reports had a literary quality to them. Garivald took part in invading Algarve and cutting it in half, and was present when the Unkerlanters effected juncture with the Lagoan/Kuusaaman (Anglo-American) forces. Subsequently, the senior Kussaaman mage Ilmarinen, at the time a colonel, briefly met Garivald/Fariulf and detected in him "a blazing power, not magical though akin to magic power" whose like even Ilmarinen - one of the greatest mages of his generation - never encountered before. However, the Unkerlanters discovered Ilmarien's identity and, (correctly) suspecting him of espionage, barred him from their territory, so that he (and the reader, and for that matter Garivald himself) tantalisingly never found out more about the nature of Garivald's power. Meanwhile, after discharge from the army Garivald/Fariulf once again fell foul of the "inspectors" - for no more reason than that he had been in Algarve (Germany) long enough to notice how much richer and more highly developed than his own country it was - which could (and in fact, did) lead him to subversive thoughts. He was sent to twenty-five years in the cinnabar mines of the Mamming Hills, which amounted to a slow sentence of death. There he came in contact with Algarvian and Algarvian-allied captives, all feeling that on whatever side they had fought they had lost the war. He and Ceorl, who once fought each other, escaped together - Ceorl being killed by pursuing guards but Garivald managing to escape, helped on the way by sympathetic peasants, and rejoin Obilot - where the book finally leaves him. In the course of his escape, one further hint is given of Garivald's power: with a river too wide to swim in front of him and pursuit close behind, Garivald goes to sleep with the "irrational" belief that things will be okay in the morning - and wakes up to find the river full of logs which can be jumped across. It seems that Garivald is somehow able to manipulate events and even out a bit the enormous odds against him. That is all the reader can know, short of Turtledove writing a sequel.

Ilmarinen

  • Ilmarinen is a Kuusaman mage. He is analogous to Richard Feynman. He is brilliant, impulsive, and unpredictable, and his insight into the inverse relationship between the laws of similarity and contagion is crucial to the success of the Kuusaaman 'Manhattan Project'. He is convinced that the theory shows that similar magic would allow time travel, and although he was stopped from making an enormous mistake by attempting it with erroneous theory, he may do so again in the future.

Istvan

  • Istvan is a Gyongyosian soldier. At the beginning of the series, he was fighting the Unkerlanters in the mountain ranges between the two nations (an analogy to the Battle of Khalkhin Gol). He was sent to the Bothnian Ocean and fought Kuusaamans, then sent to participate in the Gyongyosian invasion of Unkerlant. There, inadvertently, he performed the most despicable act in Gyongyosian mores: he ate goats' flesh. He was very concerned that his secret would escape, but continued to soldier on until he was captured at Bechseley. The Kuusumans released him to be a witness of the test of their magic, which destroyed Bechsely; but the Ekrekek's Eyes and Ears, the secret police, arrested him and confined him in prison where he refused to recant his account of what he'd seen, which the Eyes and Ears did not want to believe. While still imprisoned, he watched the destruction of the capital, and later helped in part of the cleanup operation before eventually returning to his home village of Kunhegyes.

Leofsig

  • Leofsig is a Forthwegian soldier. He takes part in the ill-fated initial invasion of Algarve and is captured when it turns into rout. At the captives camp he stands up for the Kaunian captives, who suffer bullying and insults from both the Algarvian guards and racist fellow prisoners. He is sent to share with Kaunians the degrading work of digging latrines - which gets him also a share in the escape tunnel which the Kaunians secretly dig. On his return to his home in Gromheort, he continues to stand up for the Kaunians, and breaks up a promising relationship because his girlfriend - who could have become his wife - is an anti-Kaunian racist. Things eventually come to a head over the issue of his brother Ealstan living with Vanai, a Kaunian woman. The family living room becomes in effect a battlefield, and Leofsig is killed by his cousin Sidroc, an anti-Kaunian racist and collaborator with the Algarvians.

Leino

  • Leino, Pekka's husband, is a practical mage (essentially, an engineer) involved in military-related research. In the early books he is seen only through his wife's eyes, becoming a viewpoint character in his own right only after the demise of Cornelu had created a kind of "vacancy", and Leino's own circumstances took him away from events which the reader was already seeing through Pekka's eyes. As first seen, as still officially a civilian expert in his normal university job, he helps develop a better armour for behemoths (equivalent to tanks). Then he is drafted and participates in a secret project on the austral continent - to turn an iceberg into a ship (based on an actual, though uncompleted, project undertaken by the allies) called Habbakuk, specifically a dragon carrier which greatly increases the possibilities of bombing the Algravian-held territory and is instrumental in winning the war. Simultaneously with the beginning of Pekka's affair with Fernao, Leino also starts an affair with a Lagoan fellow-mage - Xavega, who at first treats him with haughty disdain, but they are brought together by having been both insulted by the odious King Donalitu of Jelgava, who they were supposed to restore to his throne. Unlike Pekka and Fernao, Leino and Xavega have no emotional hang-ups, never use the word "love" to each other, and do not plan on staying together after the war - but for the time being they enjoy the sex and act as a good magical team. They become, however, overconfident, trusting in superiority of "The New Magic" and fight the Algarvian mages in between bouts of love-making. Underestimating the enemy proves fatal: the Algarvians - with the more crude murder-magic - set a deadly trap, the earth opens under them and the two fall in and get crushed. Leino's death has indirect grave implications for the entire world, as grief and anger at his death - mixed with guilt feeling at having been unfaithful - help instill in the originally-gentle Pekka the ruthlessness needed to magically destroy the Gyongyosian capital and launch this world's equivalent of the nuclear age.

Leudast

  • Leudast is an Unkerlanter soldier. At the beginning of the series, like his counterpart Istvan, he is fighting the Gyongyosians in the mountain ranges between the nations. He is sent east to Forthweg to participate in the Unkerlanter occupation, and then to Zuwayza to take part in the "Summer War", where he encounters Marshal Rathar. Leudast makes sergeant and survives the initial Algarvian invasion of Unkerlant. In reoccupying the Duchy of Grelz, he captures the Algarvian set up as King of Grelz and is promoted to lieutenant. He takes part in the battles for western Algarve, including the occupation of Trapani, then is sent west to finish off Gyongyos. At the end of the series, he is one of the very few Unkerlanter soldiers to have lived through the entire war, fighting from its beginning to its end.

Hajjaj

  • Hajjaj is the Zuwayzan (Finnish) foreign minister. As a young man, he studied in Trapani (analogue of Berlin) and remains fond of Algarvian (i.e. German) culture in preference to that of his country's oppressive neighbor Unkerlant (Russia/Soviet Union). He takes a central role in using the civil war among Unkerlanters in order to regain Zuwayza's independence, and thereafter loyally serves the Kings of Zuwayza as a diplomat to preserve that independence. Faced with an Unkerlanter attack (analogue of the Winter War), in which the Zuwayzans initially do well but are eventually overwhelmed, Hajjaj travels to Cottbus (Moscow), stands up to King Swemmel as few people dare to do, and gets terms which, while tough (Zuwayza loses quite a bit of territory, the equivalent of Karelia) still preserve his country's independence. Thereafter, he builds up the secret alliance with Algarve, bolstered by his personal friendship with the Algarvian ambassador Count Balastro. In the attack on Unkerlant (the Continuation War), Zuwayza does well; with the Unkerlanter capital directly threatened, they can't stop the Zuwayzans from regaining the territory they lost and a bit beside. However, Hajjaj is increasingly disturbed by the Algarvian massacre of Kaunians (historically, Finland - while an ally of Nazi Germany - rejected the Nazi persecution of Jews), makes secret efforts to get his country out of the war and convinces King Shazli to offer asylum to Kaunian refugees. With the collapse of Algarve forcing Zuwayza to seek terms, Hajjaj repeats his earlier performance - going to Cottbus and getting terms in which his country loses territory and accepts some restrictions on its sovereignty, but still keeps an independence which it might have lost. His last period in office involves a complication in his personal life, when the wife of the Yaninan ambassador asked for his personal protection. He finally resigns when the King refuses to give asylum to the now-fugitive Balastro, and hands him over to the Unkerlanters who execute him. While rationally aware that Zuwayza can't afford to offend the victorious Unkerlant, Hajjaj makes a gesture of loyalty to a friend in trouble and goes into retirement (where his opinion and "unofficial" involvement in sensitive diplomatic issues are still highly regarded).

Krasta

  • Krasta is a Valmerian marchioness. She is Skarnu's extremely haughty, shrewish, and spoiled sister. When the Algarvians occupy Priekule, the Valmerian capital, she ends up having an affair with an Algarvian colonel, Lurcanio, and bears his child. At the same time, she is friends with Valnu, who gives a great appearance of being a foppish, dissolute bisexual nobleman. There are hints throughout the first four books that he is a secret member of the Valmieran resistance, such as when a bomb explodes at a palace party after Valnu takes Krasta out of the palace for a walk, or when a pro-Algarvian nobleman with important information was taken out by the resistance after Krasta told him and nobody else about his itinerary, but it is revealed more fully later on.

Pekka

  • Pekka is a Kuusaman mage. In her researches into magic, she discovers a principle analogous to the discovery of nuclear energy here-and-now. She becomes one of the leading researchers in the project to develop super-weapon based on this principle, to her surprise being accepted as an equal by Ilmarinen and Siuntio, the greatest theoretical mages of their age (possibly equivalent to Richard Feynman and Albert Einstein). She assumes direction of the "Naantali Distinct Project", (the Manhattan Project), having the combined roles of Leslie Groves and Robert Oppenheimer. A highly sympathetic character, warm-hearted, humorous, a devoted mother and a loyal wife, she agonises for over three volumes about having fallen in love with Fernao without falling out of love with her husband Leino - a dilemma solved tragically only when Algarvians kill Leino in a magical battle.
  • Yet at the same time, Pekka gives her all to developing the most fearsome weapon her world has ever seen - with the best of motives, the apprehension that Algarvians may find it first and the urgent need to find a "clean" counterbalance to the Algarvian murder-powered magic. Eventually she gets to use the weapon herself, together with her beloved Fernao and with Illmarinen releasing enormous sorcerous energy upon the Gyongyosian capital Gyovar, killing in a single instant all its inhabitants, including tens of thousands of other mothers and their children. In this she effectively assumes also the role of Colonel (later General) Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., commander of the plane Enola Gay which dropped the first atomic bomb and destroyed Hiroshima - though as a mage, she could actually feel the anguish and death of her victims, as a pilot could not. Immediately afterwards, she and Fernao have a rather bland wedding ceremony and settle down to domestic bliss in a nice provincial town, not too deeply haunted by what they had done - or so Turtledove would have his readers believe. (General Tibbets also has never expressed regret for using an ultimate weapon.)
  • Note: "Pekka", like other Kuusaman names, is taken from Finnish. To non-Finnish readers, it is a plausible woman's name, but actually it is a typical male name, the Finnish equivalent to "Peter" (see , , ); the female version should be "Pekki". In fact, some of Finland's neighbours use it as a derogatory nickname referring to a drunken/bad-mannered Finnish tourist (see Offensive terms per nationality). It is unclear whether Turtledove was aware of this when he gave the name to a female character. (However, in many ways the series deliberately turns things upside down, as for example having blond, blue eyes Kaunian "Jews" persecuted by circumcised Algarvian "Nazis").

Rathar

  • Rathar is the Marshal of Unkerlant. He is analogous to Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov. Originally a peasant conscripted during King Swemmel's civil war with his twin brother Kyot (equivalent to the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922), he rose to supreme command solely through his merits (which would not have been possible in other Derlavian countries, but Swemmel has weakened and decimated the Unkerlanter hereditary aristocracy). He is loyal to King Swemmel and has no designs on the throne (though he is not sure the King understands that) and is fiercely devoted to Unkerlant, constantly worried that if Swemmel has him replaced on a whim, the war will be handed over to less-competent leaders. His meetings with the King are always tense, with the possibility ever-present that they will end with his being killed or tortured by the paranoid monarch. Rathar much prefers being in the field - and not only because there he is superior to eveybody else. Highly courageous, he often puts himself in personal danger in the front lines and lives simply and frugally, which makes him popular among soldiers (and civilians). He must always, however, keep down manifestations of such popularity for fear of arousing the King's suspicions. Rathar himself can be ruthless on occasion, as when ordering the summary execution of deserters, but never gratuituously. Up to the end of the book he manages to keep the delicate balance of successfully winning the war while keeping Swemmel from turning on him. The dialogues between Rathar and Swemmel have some resemblance to those between Molotov and Stalin in Turtledove's worldwar series. There is also a momment when he joins the front lines in Zuwayza where he and the Unkerlanter soldier Leudast are taking cover behidn the same rock. This is very similar to a scene in the Movie Patton where a soldier unknowningly insults a general to his face because the general was on the frontline and missing his rank insignia.

Sabrino

  • Sabrino is an Algarvian dragon-flyer. He is analogous to Hans-Ulrich Rudel. Courageous and gallant, always at the forefront of the fighting and arousing the immense loyalty of the dragon-riders under his command, he firmly opposes the mass killing of Kaunians and dares to speak his mind to King Mezentio in person - for which he is denied the promotion he amply deserves. Shot down during the last desperate fighting in Algarve, he loses a leg. In the aftermath, he rejects out of hand the Unkerlanter victors' offer to become their puppet king. The character bears some resemblance to Colonel Heinrich Jaeger, a German tank commander in Turtledove's Worldwar & Colonization Series.

Sidroc

  • Sidroc is a Forthwegian anti-Kaunian racist (i.e. Antisemite), and collaborator with Algarve. At the beginning of the war, Sidroc's home was destroyed and his mother and sister killed in a bombing, forcing Sidroc and his father Hengist to live with the family of his cousins Leofsig and Ealstan (who is Sidroc's schoolmate). Sidroc's bitterness at being in effect dependent on charity and jealousy of the much better scholar Ealstan fester, gradually turning a schoolboys' quarrel into a deadly vendetta. Sidroc develops into an active collaborator with the Algarvians (even though it was an Algarvian bomb which killed his mother) and anti-Kaunian racist, in direct opposition to his cousins' being Forthwegian patriots and "Kaunian-lovers" (literally in the case of Ealstan, who falls in love with the Kaunian Vanai). The conflict tearing the family apart culminates with Ealstan beating Sidroc senseless and running away, and later with Sidroc picking a fight in which he kills Leofsig - a result which he did not intend but did not regret, either.
  • Sidroc avoids prosecution because of having enlisted in King Plegmund's Brigade, a Forthwegian-manned unit of the Algarvian army, analogous to the French Charlemagne Division of the Waffen SS. After intensive training he takes part in fighting guerrillas in the eastern Unkerlant, briefly facing Garivald (though they are not introduced to each other). He makes corporal during brutal fighting in which he takes part in such atrocities as raping peasant women and massacring Unkerlanter and Yaninan villagers. His (relatively) saving grace is his loyalty to his equally roguish comrades - especially Ceorl, a robber who joined the brigade since his other option was the gallows - and his sticking to the bitter end with the doomed Algarvian cause (even though he had originally joined up under the clear impression that the Algarvians were the winning side). Among the ruins of burning Trapani (analogue of Berlin), it falls to him to kill King Mezentio (Hitler) at the King's own request, depriving the Unkerlanter King Swemmel of the chance to kill Mezentio by slow torture. The shaken Sidroc is consolated in a highly uncharacteristic warm gesture by the rough Ceorl, and is soon afterwards killed in the Algarvian last stand against the Unkerlanter troops breaking into the royal palace.

Ceorl (continuing the Sidroc thread)

  • The Sidroc thread is continued by Ceorl as a brief point of view character, a brutally frank outlaw lacking in the slightest hint of hypocrisy or apology for his banditry and having no loyalty outside himself. Captured and sent to slave labour at the Unkerlanter Meming Hills (Siberia), Ceorl - with a considerable previous prison experience - makes himself a gang leader among the slave labourers, which ensures him such small vital privileges as a place near the stove in the bitterly cold Unkerlanter winter nights. Nevertheless, he realizes that even so, the mines are a slow but certain death sentence. Staking all on the slim chance of escape, he chooses Garivald - their former bitter fight in the guerilla wars forging a paradoxical link between them - as his mate in this desperate enterprise. Pursued by guards with dogs, the two of them separate. Having hoped that the guards would pursue Garivald, Ceorl finds himself trapped but manages to kill several of his pursuers before being blazed down, dying as he had lived.

Skarnu

  • Skarnu is a Valmerian soldier. He starts off as a young Valmieran Marquis who took up the call to arms. With no other qualification for being an officer than his aristocratic title, he is willing to listen to his experinced commoner sergeant and gradually becomes a fairy capable officer - unlike other aristcratic officers whose arrogance and incompetence lead to military disaster and the occupation of Valmiera. Determined to fight on, he and his sergeant hide with a peasant family, and start being involved in the emerging irregular underground movement. When his host is killed by the Alagarivian occupation he forms a strong laison with his host's widow - a fierce peasant woman full of hatred of the Alagarvians and their collabitationist Valmieran nobility. Together, they take part in daring raids, killing collaborators and rescuing Kaunian prisoners en route to being killed for the Alagarvian murder magic, as well as producing and distributing leaflets revaling the Alagarvian atrocities - she being slowed down only by the birth of their child. Skarnu, under his nom de guerre Pavilosta, becomes a leading member of the resistance - which earns him a high place on the Algarvian "most wanted" list. He furitively moves from one town to another and has several narrow escapes, with the hunt on him coordinated by the Alagarvian lover of his collaborationist sister Krasta. After the liberation of Valmiera, his by now official wife takes revenge on Krasta by cutting her hair (as was actually done in 1944 France to women who had laisons with Germans). Finally, he is rewarded with getting the estate of an oppressive collaborationist nobleman which he killed, and tries his best for the peasants. To some degree, he stands for the aristocrats who joined the French Resistance. But since the Valmieran society described is more like that of pre-1789 French society than of the 1940s, the character might also be inspired by aristocrats who sided with the French Revolution against other aristocrats.

Spinello

  • Spinello is an Algarvian major (later colonel), whose character expresses the complicated and contradictory Algarvian attitude to the Kaunians. Before the war he was a scholar specializing in ancient Kaunian culture and liked to spend quiet hours at the Kaunian Museum in Trapani, the Algarvian capital. With the outbreak of war he becomes the military governor of the Forthweg village where Vanai and her grandfather Brivibas live. Spinello first befriends Brivibas, a famous Kaunian scholar of whom he heard a lot, and treats him as a pupil to master. Then, however, Spinello begins to demand that he publish an endorsement of Algarvian rule, and upon Brivibas' complete refusal Spinello forces him into hard physical labour which would soon lead to his death. To save her grandfather, Vanai agrees to have sexual relations with Spinello, who is well-aware that she finds him hateful but envoys imposing his will on her - which clearly has as much to do with her being Kaunian as with her being an attractive young woman. As seen through Vanai's eyes, he is a hateful monster. In desperation, Vanai casts a spell to make him go away, and Spinello is sent to Unkerlant to command the unit in which Trasone serves; he and his fellow soldiers are surprised to see their theatrical new commander develop into a good combat officer, brave without being reckless and caring about his men's welfare - though they soon feel tired of his repeated boasts about his sexual exploits with Vanai. Spinello is wounded at Sulingen (Stalingrad) and is evacuated at the last moment to save his life from the tightening siege.
  • At his point, Spinello becomes a viewpoint character in his own right. Back in Trapani, he visits the museum and is severely reproved by his old teacher for the army's persecution of Kaunians. Back at the front, he forms a liaison with another Kaunian girl, Yadwigai, who has been adopted as a mascot by his new unit. This time, the relationship is entered into willingly by the girl and is based on as much mutual trust and affection as could be expected in the circumstances. Spinello and Yadwigai escape together through the marches, hunted by the advancing Unkerlanters, and reach Forthweg, where she departs though bearing no ill-will to Spinello. However, at the Forthwegian capital Spinello resumes his habit of boasting to everybody around of his relations with Vanai - with fatal consequences. Vanai, who still deeply hates Spinello, hears about it from her husband Ealstan, who happened to hear Spinello talk with his soldiers in the street. Furious and determined to get her revenge at last, Vanai disguises herself magically and feeds Spinello poison mushrooms which kill him three days later.

Talsu

  • Talsu is a Jelgavan tailor who fought in the Jelgavan army until its surrender. Returning home, he found himself as pawn between the resistance and the Algarvian occupiers, including being thrown into a dungeon. He assists the Kusaaman army in liberating his country, only to be thrown back into a dungeon again and interrogated by the same persons who worked for the Algarvians. His wife writes Pekka, the Kusaaman mage, and the Jelgavan government releases him from prison and expels him into Kussaman custody.

Tealdo

  • Tealdo is an Algarvian soldier, the friend of Trasone. The story follows him from being a raw recruit taking part in the bloodless occupation of Bari (analogous to the Austrian Anschluß ), through the relatively easy conquests of Sibiu, Valmiera and Jelgava, and through the first part of the war in Unkerlant. Trasone becomes a veteran, learns to kill and act ruthlessly, but also shows unexpected compassion and sensitivity in an encounter with a starving girl in occupied Jelgava. He is killed at the high-tide mark of the invasion when Algarvian soldiers get within sight of Cottbus (Moscow) but are thrown back.

Trasone

  • Trasone is an Algarvian soldier, Tealdo's friend and comrade in arms, who continues this thread after Tealdo's death. A member of an army which commits terrible atrocities, Trasone is not personally party to them. He is a seasoned combat veteran, daily fighting the Unkerlanters and developing a grudging respect for them. He takes part in the battle of Sulingen (Battle of Stalingrad) and is part of the Algarvian forces which are cut off and are in an increasingly desperate situation. In his final scene he and his superior and friend, Sergeant Panfilo, are shown facing bravely and stoically the certainty of their approaching doom, and recalling Tealdo who was killed a year before. Soon afterwards, the Unkerlanters launch their final assault and Trasone is killed by an exploding "egg". This final chapter has a considerable similarity with the brave last stand of the character Tom Colleton in Drive to the East, both consciously modeled on the fate of the German soldiers in Stalingrad.

Vanai

  • Vanai is a Forthwegian Kaunian girl, which would have made her lot in life difficult in any case. It is made more difficult by being orphaned at a young age and being raised by her grandfather Brivibas - a brilliant scholar, but authoritarian, egocentric and narrow-minded. She becomes increasingly alienated from her own people, especially after consenting to have sexual relations with Spinello in order to save her grandfather's life, which makes her a collaborator in the eyes of other Kaunians - and for his part Brivibas, rather than be grateful, treats her narrow-mindedly as a "whore". Ealstan offers her a way out with his warm love and empathy, and she elopes with him without looking back. But their new life in the Forthwegian capital Eoforic (analogue of Warsaw) is threatened by the escalating persecution of Kaunians. Vanai becomes a virtual prisoner in their apartment, any venturing putting her in life danger (one time when she had to, in order to get medicine for the seriously ill Ealstan, she was nearly caught by Algarvian constables but saved by the capital's more pro-Kanunian lower-class crowd).
  • Finally, she figures out the spell which allows herself (and afterwards, other Kaunians as well) to masquerade as Forthwegians - a great service to her people and a major blow against Algarve. However, the spell is ineffective for pregnant women, when it has to "cover" two persons, and Vanai is caught and sent to the Kaunian Quarter (Warsaw Ghetto) where she manages to survive several lethal Algarvian raids and finally succeeds in escaping during an Unkerlanter bombing, reuniting with Ealstan and safely giving birth to a baby daughter. She manages also to survive during the doomed, destructive Forthwegian uprising, and to get her revenge on Spinello whom she poisons with mushrooms. At the end of the series she finds a safe haven, warmly received by Ealstan's broad-minded family, starting a second pregnancy and in general having as happy a prospect as anyone can in the Unkerlanter-dominated post-war Forthweg - a situation which she, as a Kaunian who did not fare so well even in the pre-war independent Forthweg, minds less than her Forthwegian (Polish) patriotic husband.

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