8.16.2013

The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi, by Mark Hodder

I don't know how to express my deep love and admiration of Mark Hodder's Burton and Swinburne series adequately. Unlike most series, where the most you can hope for is that that they won't get worse, this series gets better. I am astounded and floored by this series and I heartily enjoyed this fourth entry. People, I really, really loved this book.

The Secret of
Abdu El Yezdi
The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi is not a book you can just dive into. You need to read the first three books in order to hit the ground running. (You should read them anyway, because they are amazing.) Abdu El Yezdi opens late in the summer of 1859, as Richard Francis Burton is returning from Africa after discovering the source of the Nile. This isn't what happened in our history, however. The history in Hodder's series is deeply fubared due to the meddling, in the previous entries, of Rasputin, sentient lizards, and an insane time travelling genius. By my count, we're in a third timeline. All that history, all those paradoxes, set the stage for this book.

As soon as Burton arrives in England, he is drafted by King George V (in this version of reality, Queen Victoria was assassinated in 1840 again) to investigate the disappearance of the leading minds of England: Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Florence Nightingale, Charles Darwin, and others. More importantly, the king wants Burton to find out what happened to England's guiding spirit, Abdu El Yezdi. El Yezdi has been giving advice since 1840 and is the architect of an Anglo-German alliance that will avert (fingers crossed) the bloodshed of World War I. But since the strange disturbance of the Carrington Event, El Yezdi has gone silent and England is flying blind for the first time in two decades.

After defeating Rasputin and the sentient lizards in the last couple of books, Burton has to face down a new enemy. This enemy (who gives himself away to savvy readers at one point by quoting himself) is present in this timeline as a nosferatu, but a very powerful one. Hodder takes things right down to the wire as Burton and his allies attempt to stop their nemesis' plan to disrupt the alliance with Germany. Along the way, Hodder makes highly entertaining references to Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, and Frankenstein. There were so many literary allusions in this book I felt the urge to reread the first books in the series to hunt for more literature jokes that I missed the first time through.

Reading The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi is a challenge. It's brilliantly written, of course, but the plot will do your head in--in the best way, of course. There are multiple versions of history. There are multiple versions of the same characters. I recognized names from the previous books, but many of them wore different guises in this leg of what Terry Pratchett would call the Trousers of Time (which would only fit an octopus in Hodder's worlds). But that's what I enjoyed most about this book. I adore books that play around with time this way. Not only did I get to ponder "What if?" but I got to ponder "What if?" with the added bonus of spirits, nosferatu, steampunk anachronisms, and Richard Francis Burton.

1 comment:

  1. This might be my favorite of the series (so far..). Hodder shows signs of a well developed writer in this book particularly and does some really fun things with history in all of them. I'm actually listening with the Audible app and must applaud Gerard Doyle for his talent with accents. The American accent after all of the British ones really killed me.

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