Turtledove wraps up his ambitious alternate history series, but new readers need not fear; there's enough backstory to grab and hold onto. The tale isn't pretty -- and the raw language may offend some -- but the storytelling is masterful, and the worldbuilding top notch. While set in the 1940s, the action calls to mind battles and events both past and present.

The Confederate States of America, led by zealot Jake Featherston, is still at war with the United States. CSA factories produce better arms than their counterparts, but U.S. production is faster. Both sides, as well as their European allies, are working on atomic bombs, and the arms race is on.

Germany, a U.S. ally, is the first to finish, detonating a bomb on Russia. Retaliation begins as the CSA detonates a superbomb just across the river from the U.S. capital. The U.S. counters by dropping bombs on the Confederacy. Then Texas pulls out of the CSA, President Featherston is shot and the CSA begins to fall even further apart. How this will end is anyone's guess. (Del Rey, Aug., 624 pp., $26.95)
Reviewed by: 
Karen Sweeny-Justice