Book Review: Burdens of the Dead by Mercedes Lackey, David Freer and Eric Flint

BAEN
438 pp.

The Children of Alexandria series has the following premise: Due to the libarian/philosopher/teacher Hypatia mysteriously converting to Christianity after a debate with a mysterious figure, she is able to save the Library of Alexandria and avoid being torn apart by Christian monks. With this significant change in history, magic and magical creatures exist and continue to share a somewhat uneasy existence with the mortal world. (Magic users are accepted by the Hypatian Order, and this version of Christianity is slightly less horrible to non-Christians during this time period. Jews and other non-Christians are still confined in ghettoes but you get the feeling there are fewer pogroms.)

I have a like/dislike relationship with this series, mostly because I really do think The Life of Saint Hypatia would have been more interesting than the several centuries later result of that life. There are some interesting and fun moments in the series that I enjoy, but there are a lot of rough edges where the general writing and world building styles of the authors don’t really mesh. Also, given the long gap between books in the series, I’ve only read The Shadow of the Lion, This Rough Magic and A Mankind Witch, all several years apart.

In Burdens of the Dead we watch Benito Valadosta and others cope with matters political and supernatural. His significant other is in a relationship with the Lord of the Dead, a demon named Chernobog is making incursions and causing various kinds of turmoil and there is a very depressed goddess wandering about. Benito Valadosta’s half-brother Marco is having similar troubles, also ultimately caused by the demon Chernobog. When Benito’s baby daughter is kidnapped by the agents of the Count of Milan, he has some very harrowing adventures in rescuing her.

Burdens of the Dead, is well written and has some interesting character interactions. I ended up becoming very fond of several of the characters, particularly the authors’ take on the goddess Hekate. Watching her slowly overcoming centuries of depression due to the betrayal of another god and once more becoming interested in her duties was a very emotionally moving storyline. (Her developing relationship with a mercenary agent was also very fun, especially since it took the agent a while to realize the strange woman he kept encountering was a goddess.) I also liked the interactions between Benito and Maria, though I’m not sure I really liked some of Maria’s more draconian machinations later in the book. This is definitely not a good place to start the series, as this is very much a “middle of the series” book. (I recommend either starting off with the first book in the series The Shadow of the Lion or A Mindkind Witch, which is a side story.)


Burdens of the Dead (Heirs of Alexandria) on Amazon

Burdens of the Dead (Heirs of Alexandria) on Powell’s Books

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Filed under alternate history, David Freer, Eric Flint, fantasy, Mercedes Lackey

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