30 Sept 2022

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays: HELL'S MARCH by Taylor Anderson

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays introduces readers who are unfamiliar with the Adult SF/F genre to books, authors, and discussions all about the vast expanse of the world of Adult SF/F!


Author: Taylor Anderson
Series: Artillerymen #2
Publisher: Ace Books
Publication Date: September 27, 2022

Major Lewis Cayce will need to use every weapon in his arsenal to keep his stranded men alive on a deadly alternate Earth in this gripping new adventure set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Destroyermen series.

It is 1847, and almost a full year after being shipwrecked on another, far stranger and more dangerous Earth on their way to fight Santa Anna in the Mexican-American War, Lewis Cayce and his small group of artillerymen, infantrymen, and dragoons have made friends in the Yucat'n, helped build an army, and repulsed the first efforts of the blood-drenched Holy Dominion to wipe their new friends out.

As an even more radical cult of Blood Priests arises and begins to pursue its own path to power, the Dominion can't let its defeat stand. It must crush the heretics and expel them from the land it has claimed.

Fortunately, Lewis Cayce is a professional. He understands defense can only result in a stalemate at best, and a stalemate with the more populous Dominion will only lead to defeat in the end. The lucky few will be enslaved. The rest will be sacrificed in the most horrific way imaginable. The only hope his new allies have is to win--and to do that, his little army must attack the most powerful and diabolical enemy on the planet in its own territory. Achieving victory will take all Lewis's imagination, the courage and trust of his soldiers--and all the round shot and canister his tiny band of artillerymen can slam out.

Sira Periz was dwarfed by most around her, standing near one of the new embrasures for cannon captured at the Washboard like a bronze-skinned pixie in a dark green dress covered by gold scale armor. As was customary for widows still in mourning, her long, jet-black hair hung loose around her shoulders. Uxmalo women accepting suitors gathered their hair behind their heads (to best display their pretty faces, believed most of the young American soldiers). Sira looked particularly small beside the tall, broad-shouldered Lewis Cayce. Instead of his usual dark blue shell jacket that all mounted forces now wore (distinguished only by red artillery trim in his case), he'd donned his fine, single-breasted frock coat and crimson sash under a white saber belt for the alcaldesa's visit. Otherwise, he still wore the standard wheel hat and sky-blue trousers used by all the branches, but his trousers were tucked into knee-high boots, carefully blacked and polished by his scrawny, villainous-looking orderly, Corporal Willis, of the 1st Artillery. Lewis had apparently even allowed the man to closely trim his hair and thick brown beard. He was adamant that all the people in "his" army, Americans or not, maintain the highest degree of uniformity and hygiene-particularly under their strange circumstances-and demanded all the Allied cities provide proper uniforms for their people. Not only did he believe that men who looked like soldiers tended to act like them, he wanted all his troops, no matter where they were from or which regimental flags they flew (locals who hadn't joined "American" units fought under their city-state flags), to look and feel like one combined army, united by a common cause.
"I believe what the alcaldesa means," rumbled Reverend Harkin in his deep pulpit voice, "is that she hoped you might be able to do more than just come down and retake Nautla-and stop."
Lewis smiled. "I know. But that's already more than the enemy would've expected. Even their General Agon, a cut above the rest, I believe, probably thought we'd lick our wounds at Uxmal and wait for them to come at us again. He can't have any idea that King Har-Kaaska and Second Division have already driven down to relieve Itzincab in the east, and are pushing his Holcano allies back toward Puebla Arboras." Puebla Arboras had been the southernmost "Allied" city, but its alcalde, Don Discipo, had given it over to the enemy. "Agon will see this as an aggressive step," Lewis continued, "but still essentially defensive. More than he expected, like I said, and therefore as much as he'll think we're capable of. It'll focus his attention."
Another tall man, Major Giles Anson, formerly of the Texas Mounted Rifles (or Rangers), chuckled lightly. He was lankier than Lewis, with a graying beard, and wore the plain blue jacket of a Ranger. Instead of a saber belt, he was burdened by a pair of huge Walker Colts in holsters on a waistbelt, suspended by braces, and a pair of smaller Paterson Colts in holsters attached to them high on his chest, almost under his arms. "You know how our Lewis is," he reminded with a combination of irony and fondness. The two men had known each other but hadn't been friends before they wound up here. Now they were. "Always focusin' the enemy on one thing . . ."
"While he does another!" burst out Varaa-Choon, clapping her hands. Varaa was a Mi-Anakka, one of only six known on this continent and the first the Americans ever met. Wearing silver scale armor over a reddish leather tunic covering dark tan fur-and with a long, fluffy tail that often seemed to have a mind of its own-she was also most emphatically not human. She claimed to be forty, but there was no white fur around her nose and mouth, only lighter and darker highlights around impossibly large blue eyes the color of the afternoon sky. She and her then more numerous companions were shipwrecked here twenty years before and taken for minions of a feline deity the Ocelomeh worshipped in their distant past. (This was particularly strange since, though Mi-Anakka did bear a certain resemblance to cats, as far as anyone knew, there were no Jaguars on this world.)
Their leader, now King Har-Kaaska, gradually corrected his follower's beliefs, but Mi-Anakka remained in positions of leadership among the Jaguar Warriors, more effectively guiding them in their apparently self-appointed, mutually beneficial role as protectors to the more peaceful and civilized peoples of the Yucatán. Varaa Choon was Har-Kaaska's female "Warmaster" and liaison to the Allied Army in the west. Devoted to her king and his interests, not to mention the Ocelomeh in the army, she'd also become a close friend to the Americans and was a trusted advisor and battlefield commander in her own right. Friend or not, there was only one subject she would never speak on, out of concern the Doms might eventually learn; where her people came from.
"Like last time," agreed Lieutenant Leonor Anson in a husky voice. The Ranger's daughter was almost as tall as him, having effectively passed as a young man in her father's Ranger company. Everyone knew she was a woman now, considered very pretty when she rarely smiled instead of just boyishly handsome, and she no longer stuffed the shoulder-length black hair of her Mexican mother up in her hat. Nor did she tie it in back in the local style for a variety of reasons. She'd been . . . abused by straggling Mexican soldiers during the war for Texas's independence a decade before, and the "girl" she'd been was virtually extinguished, her mother and brothers killed. Her father had been with Houston's army, and she was all he had left. He couldn't leave her behind again, so she grew up fighting Comanches and Mexican border incursions like a wildcat at his side. All that resulted in a somewhat . . . limited social development and an implacable hatred of Mexicans only now beginning to fade as she slowly befriended the young (newly promoted) Capitan Ramon Lara, also standing by. Lara was an agreeable young man, brave, resourceful, and funny, all of which earned Leonor's respect. He'd been in charge of a scouting force of Mexican soldiers onshore that was also . . . brought . . . wherever they were, by the same freak occurrence that dumped the Americans here. He now led the 1st Yucatán Lancers under Major Anson's overall command, as were all the Rangers and dragoons.
Leonor still dressed and acted like a man in the field, even though she'd been taken under the wing of Samantha Wilde and her French friend Angelique Mercure. Both ladies were abandoned by Isidra on the beach with Commissary's survivors. Fortunate for them, as it turned out. But under their influence, Leonor had taken a few tentative steps toward becoming a "lady," when she deemed it appropriate. Still a fighter, however, she'd earned the men's respect as such with her own pair of Paterson Colts, often leading scouts. Otherwise, she stayed busy at her self-appointed task as aide and protector for her father-and now Lewis Cayce, whom she had secret, complicated feelings for.
Lewis smiled and nodded at her. "Like last time," he agreed. "The smaller force, and I expect we'll almost always be, must do the unexpected."

Are you going to pick this book up?

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