"Now that the man was closer, Hal could see the irregular stitching that had fashioned his garments. “I never thought I’d see anybody like you around here.”
“And where might ‘around here’ be, do you think?” The man’s tone sounded pleasant now.
“Where? New Jersey, Pennsylvania, maybe,” Hal said. “I’m lost.”
“Never heard of either. Maybe you’re more lost than you think.”
A college party lands freshman Hal Christianson in an America that could have been: no smartphones, no cars, no flush toilets. What he finds is a squabbling bunch of states, the consequence of the colonies having grown up on their own after European civilization collapsed from plague in the 1670s, and they are poised on the brink of war. There is no obvious way home and even asking is fraught with danger. People who appear like he did - as if from nowhere - are called Magicals, agents of Satan, to be killed out of hand. For a socially awkward young man, who takes refuge in online games, this is a bad situation. Swords and sorcery, though, had led Hal to study fencing, the one skill he has that may be useful in a world where the rifle is a new invention. Hal needs to grow up fast, just to survive. His path takes him from being a tavern boy to a mercenary for a merchant to the colonel of a vastly outnumbered regiment about to be attacked. Along the way, he discovers that love has less to do with beauty and more to do with who will save your life, even at the risk of her own. This is a coming of age in a different America. .
""A rousing what-if look at a decidedly different America persuasively stuck in a historical past." - Kirkus Reviews