Conqueror by Stephen Baxter

Time’s Tapestry Book Two. Gollancz, 2007, 320p.

 Conqueror cover

This is the second in Baxter’s series featuring a Weaver of Time, the first of which I reviewed here. The prophecy which guides the characters’ lives this time – called the Menologium of Isolde and whose utterance came at the end of Book One of Time’s Tapestry – is linked to the appearances of Halley’s Comet.

Again the book is in four sections, here set respectively at the time of the expulsion from England of the remnants of the Romanised Britons by the Angles and Saxons, the Viking raid on Lindisfarne, Alfred the Great’s stemming of the Danish tide and the Norman Conquest. Unlike the earlier book there is also a prologue and epilogue. Had the book’s title and cover not already been a clue the prologue would in any case have detracted from the impact of the revelation of the date 1066 at the end of section three as the time of the last crucial happening.

An interesting inclusion in the Alfred section is the character of Ibn Zuhr, a Muslim from Al-Andalus, whose knowledge of medicine, other sciences and arithmetic far outstrips that of the locals – as it would have done.

The history of the “Dark Ages” is fascinating but once more too much has to be conveyed in expository lumps. Baxter’s evocation of these times is well done, though, and his battle scenes are viscerally rendered. There is still a hint of too much modern knowledge and attitudes on the part of some of the characters however.

Events remain the same as in our timeline but the monk Sihtric, both in the prologue and epilogue, states he believes he is living in the wrong history as his reading of the prophecy has been unfulfilled.

After Emperor, I swithered about whether to continue with Time’s Tapestry. Conqueror has persuaded me to persevere. The harping of various characters on the word Aryan and its appearnce in the Menologium of Isolde is a trifle ominous, though.

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