Half a Crown

With HALF A CROWN, author Jo Walton brings her stunning and disturbing alternate-reality series — starting so brilliantly with FARTHING and continuing with HA’PENNY — to a close. Frankly, I had hoped we would run through all the British monetary terms, but it was a good decision to stop the series here, creating a coherent whole and closure for characters we’ve come to care about.

If you’re new to the series, it’s an alternative historical trilogy, a “what if” scenario in which Germany does not go to war with the rest of the world in the 1940s. Instead, Britain follows the notorious appeasement route. Winston Churchill is discredited, and the UK turns into a fascist government under the hand of Prime Minister Mark Normanby.

The United States stays in isolationist mode, Russia is neutralized with a nuclear attack, and Jews are threatened everywhere. It’s a grim, horrific world, where everyone spies on their neighbor, where the government is all-powerful, where justice is a boot stamping on the face.

Walton is extremely good at depicting this kind of casual oppression and the blithe acceptance of it by members of society. The erosion of common humanity and the easy disparagement of an entire race of people naturally stems from a totalitarian mindset, and reading about it can be unsettling. The author counterpoints this by having a naïve young woman begin to learn about the brutalities, to discover that the commonly accepted wisdom she’s heard since birth are nothing but lies, and to realize that she too can be ground up in the cogs of the machine.

As a series, these books have a lot to tell us about moral truths, political rigidity and human nature. It is worth your time and money to get them all and to read them in order. This is the highest quality of mystery and adventure writing with meaning applicable across all societies and political beliefs. —Mark Rose

Buy it at Amazon.

FARTHING by Jo Walton
HA’PENNY by Jo Walton

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