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Fictional Saga / Military / Aviation
This is the fourth book in an epic series covering the lives of two German pilots through each of the war years. What I have in niggles are negligible, but let me get that out of the way first. None of the books are stand alone and as each one starts where the previous one left off, the character development can only be seen by a chronological read, for there is no recap to help us. Therefore, in this review, there may be a couple of spoilers.
Our narrator throughout is Franz Becker who, like his friend and university colleague, Karl von Leussow, was caught up in the euphoria of enlisting when the war broke out in 1914. Having both served in the trenches, they are now members of a crack fighter squadron; Karl has achieved the Blue Max and Franz is not far behind.
At the end of Book Three, the author had begun to develop the very special relationship that is growing between the the two protagonists and this he continues as the main thrust of this volume. But meanwhile there is the action, the dogfights, the nightmares, the lost comrades and their replacements, the visits to the local whorehouse and the banter that exists between them all.
That part of things has been the main theme throughout the series and yet it never becomes boring or tedious. Here lies the skill of the author; apart from the hair raising battle scenes and the increasing sense of doom that each character suffers.
Let me also say that sex and violence are present in abundance, yet never are either at all graphic. I am glad because I feel that to go down that road would have spoiled the impact. Swearing is, of course, prolific throughout. Yet all of these aspects add to the power of the book and the atmosphere of 'Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die'.
Not a book for the easily offended. Logic dictates that the next book will see the end of the war. If that is the case, I look forward to it very much, but also with some trepidation as it might mean goodbye to a lot of characters who have almost become friends and whose fears and failures, triumphs and successes I feel privileged to have shared.
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Richard Tearle