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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
The Confusion, the shelf-bending sequel to Neal Stephenson's equally meaty Quicksilver, continues his epic Baroque Cycle by following a remarkable cast of late-17th-century characters that includes spies, vagabonds, and historical figures like Sir Isaac Newton and German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.
The two primary story lines revolve around Jack Shaftoe, the infamous King of the Vagabonds, and Eliza, a seductive spy who is both puppet-master and pawn to powerful alchemists, cryptographers, and kings. The novel begins with Jack a half-insane, pox-infected galley slave aboard a pirate ship. He and a cabal of ten ingenious slaves engineer a wild plot to win their freedom -- and untold fortunes. The complicated scheme -- which involves stealing an enormous cache of silver bound for Spain -- succeeds beyond their wildest dreams; but instead of thieving a hoard of silver, the cabal now possesses gold: "not just any gold, but gold imbued with miraculous -- even divine -- qualities."
Meanwhile, Eliza -- a former slave -- finds herself penniless once again in France and must use intellect and cunning to save herself and her children from certain death. Her primary objective is to seek vengeance on the man who forced her into slavery, but fate intervenes at the most inopportune moment…
With the swashbuckling action and the quixotic ambiance of Alexandre Dumas classics such as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, the page-turning intrigue of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, and a cast of characters to rival any Harry Turtledove epic, Stephenson's Baroque Cycle is destined to rank among the most ambitious historical sagas ever written. Wildly engaging, richly described and delectably complex, The Confusion is a storytelling masterwork. Paul Goat Allen