Theater of Spies by S. M. Stirling

Theater of Spies

S. M. Stirling

In this second novel in an alternate history series, Luz and Ciara must go deep undercover and travel across a world at war, and live under false identities in Berlin itself to ferret out secrets.

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The second novel in an alternate history series where Teddy Roosevelt is president once more right before WWI breaks out, and on his side is the Black Chamber, a secret spy network watching America's back.

After foiling a German plot to devastate America's coastal cities from Boston to Galveston, crack Black Chamber agent Luz O'Malley and budding technical genius Ciara Whelan go to California to recuperate. But their well-deserved rest is cut short by the discovery of a diabolical new weapon that could give the German Imperial Navy command of the North Sea.

Luz and Ciara must go deep undercover and travel across a world at war, and live under false identities in Berlin itself to ferret out the project's secrets. Close on their trail is the dangerous German agent codenamed Imperial Sword, who is determined to get his revenge, and a band of assault-rifle equipped stormtroopers, led by the murderously efficient killer Ernst Röhm.  From knife-and-pistol duels on airships to the horrors of the poison-gas factories to harrowing marine battles in the North Sea, the fight continues--with a world as the prize.

Advance Galley Reviews

Had an issue with my copy so I unfortunately had to stop reading it. I did like what I read of it but download expired before I could see if it was just a download issue.

Unable to access full copy. Pages missing.

Long before spy satellites, video surveillance, nano technology and laser beams, spying took good old fashioned intestinal fortitude and cunning. Stirling creates a world where the protagonist exercises that and so much more. Travel to Germany once more with the Black Chamber and find out how true espionage can make or break the war for one side, all the while hanging on the edge of your seat. It’s a very enjoyable story that will leave you wanting for more.

I am a fan of historical fiction and the idea of an alternate history of WWI drew me to this book. I had mixed reactions while reading this. Stirling has two strong female characters as his leads. Luz O’Malley and Ciera Whelan are agent’s for an intelligence group that works for Teddy Roosevelt. The first third of this book sees them receive their assignment to travel to Berlin and discover Germany’s newest weapon project. Their journey by airship takes them through South America and on to Africa before they finally reach their final destination. The story moves slowly and I found myself putting this book aside but I persevered and the story did pick up with some excellent action scenes.

Luz and Ciara are the perfect partners in and out of the bedroom and well suited for dangerous work they do for the secret Black Chamber. President Teddy Roosevelt is well aware that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the German takeover has serious implications for the U.S. and his money is on two of his best spies, Luz and Ciara. As they travel all over the world engaged in some really violent encounters trying to be one step ahead of the Germans who will do anything to stop them from completing their mission. Fun but moves at a breakneck pace that involved keeping up with a torrent of different languages and alternative world history, this is one series that is perfect for readers looking for a lot of action, fun but tough women heroines and spies who seem to really enjoy the danger.

I enjoyed the first book of this series. Unfortunately, I had to give up on this one. I forced myself to keep going, but halfway through I had to bail. The entire first half of the book is spent in just setting up for the actual story. It drags on and on. Even worse was Stirling’s propensity to constantly switch from English, to Spanish and even German dialogue. Which he never did translate. And, like in the previous book, he again gets lost in minutiae, such as reciting recipes. All in all, what could have been a great story, with two very interesting main characters, was squandered away. How sad!

Alternate history and spies, I love this combination. Once I got past the back story, I really enjoyed the book. I found it hard to put down. I thought it was more driven by plot than by characters. Normally I prefer more character development but I didn't miss it in this book.

In this second book about an alternate history where Teddy Roosevelt is president, Ciarra Whelan and Luz O’Malley are back in the action trying to keep America safe. They belong to a spy network called the Black Chamber that goes deep undercover in the deadliest places. Once again, they are caught up in a scheme that could give the German Imperial Navy command of the North Sea. Deep undercover Ciarra and Whelan navigate treacherous terrain and furious enemies to uncover secrets, while being pursued by an old enemy who is desperate for revenge. Theatre of Spies looked like it could have been a great and intriguing read, but I just couldn’t get interested in it. The beginning went on and on with dialogue about what happened in the first book. The characters weren’t even interesting—no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t warm up to them. After a few chapters, I’m sorry to say, that I gave up on it. However, if you like Spy novels, this one might be perfect for you.


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  • Black Chamber
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  • Island in the Sea of Time
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