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The Apple-Tree Throne
by Premee Mohamed

Reviewed by Galen Strickland

Cotidie damnatur qui semper timet - The man who is constantly in fear is every day condemned.

The story begins in the autumn, as ghost stories should. Benjamin Braddock is a wounded soldier newly returned to Britannia. He is not only haunted by the ghost of his commanding officer, Major-General Theodore Wickersley, but also by his shame for having accepted honours and medals for simply surviving the recent war. The Wickersley's of Lindow House are haunted too, by the death of their youngest son, by the ignominy of his final actions, by the shame of his body laid to rest in a public graveyard rather than that of Mossley Military Cemetery. Perhaps the entire country is still haunted by its past. Even though Great Britain is no more, the monarchy abolished, it seems the Greater Republic of Britannia is still haunted by its arrogant faults.

The Apple-Tree Throne is a novella by Premee Mohamed, self-published, and at this time only available for Kindle and Kobo e-readers. It's an alternate world tale of indeterminate date. Some descriptions indicate it's probably at the end of the 19th Century, with similar technologies as our own world of that time, but there are also anachronisms. Ornithopters for one, and the radio-viz, which seems to be a primitive type of television. GRoB is not the only different country either; there's Neo-Gall, España rather than Spain, Prushya rather than Prussia or Russia. The war was fought in the Disputed Territory, somewhere in southern Europe, maybe the Balkans or Greece. Otherwise, British military tactics and social customs are similar to that historical period, particulary the class system. It is written in a style one would expect from that period as well; calm and contemplative, with most characters reticent of revealing emotion. Infrequent exceptions are the bawdy stories told in flashback by soldiers attempting to deny their fear.

It's about the futility of war, the lies people tell about bravery, honour, patriotism. Theo Wickersley was blinded by his privilege, the military history of his family, the need to prove he was as worthy as any of his ancestors, his feeling of destiny. The military's fault was in advancing him in rank too rapidly, and holding to outmoded tactics when their opponent was utilizing guerrilla actions. Everything is on the cusp of change, but almost everyone is resisting it. But not Braddock. He didn't come from privilege, was drafted into the service, would much rather wipe that experience from his memory. The Wickersley's seem to want him to replace their son, as does Theo's ex-fiancé, but he'll have none of that. Perhaps he can be satisfied with just Theo's ghost for company.

I wish I was a better reviewer. I wish I was able to articulate my feelings about a story as well as the author has presented it. The best I can manage is that, in spite of the conventionally conservative prose, this is a very emotional story. It's about love and loyalty, pride and self-esteem, how our actions will haunt us, for good or ill. It's short, but the ideas will stay with you. If memory serves, this is only the second of Premee's stories I've read, but I'm now on the lookout for others. This one is highly recommended.

 

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Author
Premee Mohamed

Published
2018

Available from amazon.com
(Kindle only)