This one came to me unsolicited from Mr. Fleming who thought I might be interested given that I’ve reviewed other alternate histories.
I agreed to review it given its original premise and, frankly, I was rather hoping the fanatical Baron Ungern-Sternberg would show up. (He doesn’t)
Review: Maid of Baikal, Preston Fleming, 2017.
That original subtitle in my review copy, “A Speculative Historical Novel of the Russian Civil War”, hints that alternate history fans should not expect any distinct Jonbars, turning points, or “sharp agate points” (to borrow Winston Churchill’s phrase when he dabbled in alternate history) where our history diverges from Fleming’s story.
Instead, Fleming has done something else that may or may not be too much for an alternate history buff to swallow. He has given us a sincere tale of miracles and prophecies and clairvoyance. He’s given us a Russian Joan of Arc.
I’m not spoiling anything by saying that. Fleming is open about it in the description of his book, and he is true to his conceit by presenting a close analogy to the Maid of Orleans in his story. The visions of Zhanna Stepanovich Dorokhina are real, and she achieves real victories that match her prophecies.
This spiritual element didn’t bother me nor the absence of a traditional alternate history turning point. There is, of course, no known example of any such figure in the Russian Civil War. Continue reading