Review: Black Chamber (Tales from the Black Chamber #1) by S.M. Stirling

When this book came across my desk for review—I was stoked. I don’t read a ton of alternative history, but this one sounded so so so good that I was eager to read it without question.

I sounded like alternative history mixed with some espionage and sci-fi so how could I pass? I couldn’t!

In 1912, just months before the election, President Taft dies suddenly, and Teddy Roosevelt wastes no time in grabbing power as he wins another term as president. By force of will, he ushers the United States into a new, progressive era with the help of the Black Chamber the mysterious spy organization, watching his back.

Luz O’Malley–a brilliant, deadly, and young Cuban Irish American agent of the Black Chamber–heads to Germany. She’s on a luxury airship swarming with agents of every power on earth, as well as conspirators from the Mexican Revolutionary Party and the sinister underground of the reborn Ku Klux Klan, yet none know her true identity.

Her anonymity will be essential as she strives to gain the secrets of Project Loki, an alarming German plan that Roosevelt fears will drag the U.S. into a world war. To gather this intelligence, Luz will have to deceive the handsome yet ruthless Baron Horst von Duckler. She, along with naive Irish-American Ciara Whelan, has to get this vital information back to the U.S.–or thousands of lives might be lost (summary from Goodreads). 

OK so now I remember why I don’t read alternative history. Having a masters in history makes alternative history hard. Like really hard to read. I kept getting confused—-why was this happening? No that’s not what happened, I would scream in my head! I literally kept reminding myself that this was a fictionalized account of history—-essentially it was #fakehistory

Admittedly, it took me a long long long time to read this book mostly because I struggled with my own inner voice telling me that this wasn’t how things happened. I couldn’t just let my mind go and let the story happen.

How much of my own personal bias and struggles got factored into this review? Quite a bit if I am being honest. If I take out my own personal struggles with the historical piece, then I would say that this book was rather unique. I thought that Stirling did a great job writing a creative and memorable story for his readers. The premise of the story itself was really detailed and well thought out. Luz was my favorite character. She wasn’t your typical heroine and I really respected Stirling for creating this different and vibrant character.

This book is described by some readers as a James Bond-ish style novel and I would agree that this book had a lot of similarities with the infamous spy. Sophisticated, action packed and primarily driven by main characters rather than supporting characters. And I would completely agree with this! Stirling puts his energy into the main characters and I loved that.

So where does that leave me? If I was going on my own personal struggles I would say 2 stars but if I am looking at it from an objective perspective—I liked the writing and thought the story was full of creativity and strong characters so I would say based on writing—a 4 star rating. But I had to average them out and settled on 3 stars for this one.

This book is truly aimed at fans of alternative history, if you like that sort of thing then you will probably love this book. If you are me and like history to be more or less the same, then you might want to pass on this one. Though if you don’t have a huge understanding of WWI then you might not even care about alternative history!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Black Chamber (Tales from the Black Chamber #1) by S.M. Stirling

  • Kindle Edition, 400 pages
    Expected publication: July 3rd 2018 by Ace

    Review copy provided by: Publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 3 out of 5

Genre: Alternative history, WWI, spy novel

Memorable lines/quotes:


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