Review of “Through Darkest Europe”

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Book Reviews – “Through Darkest Europe” eBook was published in 2018 and was written by Harry Turtledove (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Turtledove). Mr. Turtledove has published in excess of 100 novels.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Situations. The story is set in Europe, but not the Europe that we know. In this alternate history, Europe has fallen into a very dark age.

In this world, Saint Thomas Aquinas back in the 13th century had written the Summa Theologica, a book which concluded that studying science corrupted religion because it reduced man’s faith in God’s omnipotence and omniscience. The intellectual pursuits of Christiandom have languished since that time. Nearly a century and a half earlier, the Muslim philosopher al-Ghazali had looked into the same issue but had come up with an entirely different opinion. To him, the more that man learned, the better he can glorify God. This resulted in the Muslim world advancing in science and technology, while Europe fell farther and farther behind.

Now investigators Khalid al-Zarzisi and Dawud ibn Musa have been sent from Tunisia to Rome. Their mission is to do what they can to protect the Pope and the Grand Duke of Italy. The Maghrib, from whence al-Zarzisi and Musa come, does not want the Roman Grand Dutchy destabilized. There is a powerful underground Christian movement in Europe, The Aquinists. The Aquinists have ‘seminaries’ all over Europe for ‘educating’ the young men to strike out against the local governments as well as Muslim interests. Their goal is to turn the world back. To make the world over in their view of how people should live.

As foreigners, al-Zarzisi and Musa have no authority, they can only advise. They work closely with Italian police and find themselves more than once in the way of the Christian terrorists. Al-Zarzisi unexpectedly finds himself attracted to a Christian woman, Annarita Pezzola. As they continue their work, it becomes obvious that there is someone close to them that is working with the Aquinists. Is it Pezzola or someone within the Italian Ministry of Information.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 9.5+ hours I spent reading this 320-page alternate history. The world this novel is set in is a complete reversal of what we see. The Muslim nations are democratic and lead the world in education and scientific discovery. Europe has changed little in decades. The Europeans suffer from much unrest and poverty among the common people. The Aquinists take advantage of this and recruit young men and women as soldiers who are willing to die for their cause and achieve heaven. The story starts a little abruptly and is a little slow. I like the characters of al-Zarzisi and Musa. The fact that al-Zarzisi is Muslim and Musa a Jew puts another spin on things. I also like the whole ‘world-flipped-upside-down’ premise for the novel. I think that the cover art is well chosen. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

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