Loren L. Coleman,
Blood of the Isle
(Roc, 2004)

I think many Battletech fans, even those less than enamored with the Mechwarrior: Dark Age series as a whole, will agree that Loren L. Coleman is the preeminent writer in the Battletech universe. Not only does he give fans what they want -- plenty of rip-roaring BattleMech action out on the killing fields -- he also ties the story he is telling into the big picture. The Republic is falling apart following the loss of interstellar communications, giving rise to increasingly deadly factional wars all across its 10 Prefectures. Blood of the Isle takes us to Skye, an Inner Sphere world trying to withstand the merciless onslaught of the mighty Clan Jade Falcon. As this book opens, Skye has already withstood one attack and now lies vulnerable to the inevitable return of Jade Falcon's superior forces. The Highlanders, led by Tara Campbell, are greatly weakened, the Steel Wolves of the singular Anastasia Kerensky have disappeared, the Republic has sent along little more than one elderly paladin for support, and Duke Gregory Kelswa-Steiner's conflicts with his wayward son Jasek stand in the way of possible salvation. The aid of Jasek's Stormhammers comes at a political price the Duke will not pay, for his son does not share his loyalty to the Republic but instead advocates a return to House Steiner.

The Jade Falcons are a deadly threat, as Chinggis Khan Malvina Hazen foregoes honor and clan tradition for total war and outright conquest. The previous invasion of Skye cost her an arm, leg and eye -- as well as her brother; the planet's conquest is something she now takes very personally, and her return is marked by unpredictable and very deadly vengeance on the people of Skye. Before the attack comes, however, Jasek Kelswa-Steiner makes his ignominious yet necessary return to the planet, bringing not only his Stormhammers but the Steel Wolves with him, along with plans for recruiting forces from the Lyran Commonwealth, a move that offers the enemies of his disapproving father a foothold in the Old Isle of Skye worlds. As you might expect, there is plenty of political intrigue buried at the core of this story, as the defense of Skye is a show marriage of convenience likely to enjoy a short and tumultuous honeymoon at best -- but the questionable future will have to wait as the battle for Skye quickly heats up in a very big way.

Battletech fans should be thrilled by all of the Mechwarrior action in these pages; the second half of the book features one fight after another, with BattleMechs going toe to toe as military tacticians try to outmaneuver each other's forces. Blood of the Isle goes a long way toward making up for a lack of battle action in some earlier Mechwarrior: Dark Age novels. At the same time, the political and military dealings going on among suspicious allies are brilliantly plotted, leaving room for questions that seemingly must be answered at some point down the line. It is hard to completely trust anyone in these trying times, as each faction inevitably has secret designs of its own vis-a-vis the Republic and its own local interests. It all makes for a wonderfully juicy tale of politics told against a backdrop of good, old-fashioned Mechwarrior action.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 16 April 2005

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