When I read “Black Chamber” by S. M. Stirling I was thrilled by the story. It’s an alternate history, set in the midst of World War I, where the Germans have managed to develop a deadly gas that wiped out London and Paris, and the United States of America has a secret agency of operatives called Black Chamber. One of those Black Chamber agents is Luz O’Malley, a senior agent as such, that has Latin roots and has lived in Europe, in Bavaria specifically, fluent in a few languages and a master in martial arts and weapons. In that first book, Luz and her new friend Ciara Whelan, a woman with an extra ordinary mind and an amazing engineer, are successful in stooping that deadly gas of being transferred and sprayed in the United States. Now, Black Chamber needs them once more. They need to get back to Germany as word has reached the agency of a diabolic weapon that could give the German Imperial Navy command of the whole North Sea!
The two women must go deep undercover and travel across a world of war. Their travel means are no other that the Zappelins. Those big balloon airships were the fastest way to move around the world, other than the ships. Their adventures start early in their journey and they won’t stop until their mission is fulfilled! Their enemy is on the trail and he has sworn to take Luz down. He wants to get revenge for being played by Luz the last time they met, when he was more than certain she was on his side. He will move the whole country and more, in order to get to Luz.
The author is creating a whole world which is so similar to our world and so different. Because of all the atrocities that the Germans actually did on his world. The whole book is from Luz’s point of view, except from the small bits that we get her enemy’s point of view, just to get a glimpse of how far he is, looking for her. So we get to see a lot of her relationship with Ciara, her actions and trail of thinking, understanding that this spy novel is well researched and well played. I really liked the women representation on this book. Luz is a senior agent. She is a woman with a high rank on a men dominated sector and she is better that so many of her colleagues. This is all the more visible when Horst, her deadly enemy, describes her abilities to the team he organizes in Germany, aiming to attack and capture her. He describes scenes from the first book, making it clear that the German soldiers and police should not be underestimating her. The other female character in the story, Ciara, is also thriving on a men’s job. Engineering and mechanics were not a woman’s occupation or field of knowledge. Though her mind can absorb information and work in a practical way to outrun her male colleagues.
This is an action packed spy novel of alternate history that I expect to extend in a lengthy series! I definitely recommend it to all those who like alternate history and spy novels.