Burning Tower Book Review

by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
$7.99; 655 pages

I reviewed Burning Tower along with Burning City a year ago. I recently re-read them both, so this seemed like a good time to expand upon my rather cursory review of Burning Tower.

Burning Tower picks up a year after Burning City concludes, Yangin-Atep is myth, the Greenroad is open, and no one knows how Tep's Town will survive exposure to the outside world. The focus of the book is on the budding romance between Sandry, the finest young Lord of his generation, and Burning Tower, the youngest of Whandall Feathersnake's children. Whereas in Whandall's story, we saw an entire lifetime in one book, Burning Tower slows down time so that we can see Sandry and Tower begin to love one another, and overcome the obstacles that could keep them apart.

Sandry and Tower come from different worlds. Sandry is Lord Sandry, representative of the legalistic and militaristic Lords of Lordshills. We get to see much more of the Lords' society in Burning Tower, see what they do and why they do it. Tower's mother and father represent the other two factions of Tep's Town, the kinless and the Lordkin, but Tower is more a child of the Hemp Road.

Dynastic politics is both bane and boon to Sandry and Tower. Normally, Lords marry within their own kind, but Whandall's escape from Tep's Town and subsequent success as a merchant prince has both elevated his status and set in motion a chain of events that threaten to undermine the power of the Lords, and the stability of Tep's Town. The possibility of marrying into a trading empire allows Sandry the opportunity to follow his heart, and it leads him from Tep's Town, across the Mohave, up the Mogollon Rim, and past Meteor Crater to Aztlan.

As a secret history, Niven and Pournelle based this book upon existing art, legend, and archeology, with their own special twists. I greatly enjoyed their version of the foundation myth of the Aztecs. There is a little bit of fun metahistory, some unusual tidbits thrown in for color, and perhaps just a bit of snark towards bureaucracy. A really, really, fun book. Anyone who likes Niven and Pournelle will like this one, and fans of secret histories should as well.

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