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The Grand Alliance trilogy continues in Hammer Of God, as the circle of senior officers who have learned the truth about the Russian battlecruiser Kirov widens now to include Churchill himself. The Prime Minister flies to a secret conference at the desert oasis of Siwa, where Anton Fedorov is awed to meet with him, and discuss strategy for the coming crucial months in the Middle East
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For the moment, Rommel remains in a defensive position at Mersa Brega, but both Wavell and O’Connor must now decide how to divide their forces between that front in Libya and the demands imposed by a new campaign in Syria and Iraq that Churchill renames “Operation Scimitar.” Fedorov offers more than a look around the corner of the history, and ends up leading the Marine detachment into several battle scenarios in the ensuing campaign.

While Grand Alliance presented the land engagement with Rommel, and the massive naval duels with the Italian and Franco-German fleets, the action here is principally focused on the little known campaigns to secure Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and defeat the Vichy French. Even as they plan these operations, the British must also consider what their enemy may do. Fedorov had already warned Wavell of the folly in trying to send strong reinforcements to Crete, but the German hammer in Student’s 7th Flieger Division falls on a most unexpected place, opening a new axis of attack that will gravely complicate the British plans.

There are a lot of detailed land operations covered in this volume, beginning in Part III “Forgotten Few,” which depicts the British effort to relieve the besieged British airfield at Habbaniyah in Iraq. In addition to the first real appearance of Churchill in the long saga, we meet a few more colorful historical figures that include Brigadier Joe Kingstone, the fiery commander of Kincol, (short for King Column), a flying column that was part of “Habforce” sent to relieve the airfield. Another desert scout, the legendary Glubb Pasha with his Arab Legion is also introduced when Habforce is eventually reassigned to take Palmyra in central Syria. Fedorov and the Russian Marines are in on all this action, using the mobility provided by the KA-40, and teaming up with the Argonauts and their three deadly X-3 helos.

Part IV, “Scimitar,” presents the major ground operation against the Vichy French in the Levant, with columns attacking toward Beirut on the left, against the major French aerodrome at Rayak in the center, and against Damascus on the right. Warned of the difficulty of this campaign, which extended over five long hard weeks of fighting in “Operation Exporter,” the British ask for some help from Kinlan, and the newly renamed “Operation Scmitar” gets its name from the light scout tanks committed to the center column. It soon becomes evident that the Germans have decided to strongly reinforce the French, and the campaign begins to grow into a major confrontation with an increasing German presence in Syria as the British claw their way forward
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By Part VI, “Catch 22,” Fedorov meets one of the reinforcing German regiments when the 22nd Luftland Air Landing Division leads the German effort to reinforce central and northern Syria. A full 9 chapters deal with these engagements, while Wavell and O’Connor soon realize they are going to need more help from Kinlan’s forces to redress the influx of German reinforcements. They work out a plan that will again see Kinlan’s modern troops of the Highland and Mercian Mechanized Battalions enter the fighting, each reinforced by detachments of Challenger IIs from the Scots Dragoons. This development was one of the great rabbits the author pulled out of his Ushanka in the bridge novel Three Kings. The addition of Brigadier Kinlan’s force to the story was a brilliant and exciting way to get us into all the action on land, with a twist that fits in very well with the overall theme of the books, pitting modern adversaries from the future against the forces of WWII.

Meanwhile, the unexpected journey taken by Vladimir Karpov to 1909 is finally revisited near the  end of this novel, and Karpov returns to Russia with an agenda that first involves a little gardening on his own family tree! He conspires with his intelligence Chief Tyrenkov to begin a reconnaissance up the back stairway at Ilanskiy to see where it might lead them from 1909, and what they discover now gives Karpov an opportunity to seize the history, and fate of the world, by the throat, while also settling some long simmering grievances.

We also get a look at what is going on in the mind of Ivan Volkov, the man who has been secretly advising Hitler throughout the war. Thus far, his advice on Gibraltar, Malta and other campaigns has been well taken, and the Axis position is now very strong. When Volkov learns of Karpov’s disappearance in the storm over the English Channel, he now sees an opportunity to launch another daring plan of his own, and I am told that it is going to lead to another titanic battle in the next book, Crescendo of Doom.

Hammer of God
is a great tour de force through history that has almost been largely forgotten in these vital campaigns in Iraq and Syria. While most of us know all about the big operations like the Torch landings, the battles against Rommel, and the action after the D-Day landings, few might know about “Operation Exporter,” and here it gets a detailed and exciting retelling in this ongoing alternate history of the war. And you will not get this level of loving detail in any other alternate history to date. By the end of this book, the author has given us six great novels from Altered States to Hammer of God, and all this just to cover the events from June of 1940 to March of 1941 where this novel ends. That, my friends, is truly a labor of love, and no one has done it better. If you are one of the longstanding crew members of the Kirov Saga, you will not be disappointed as the story continues.

Quite frankly, it is our support of this story as readers that saw all these great novels come flowing into our kindles. I talked with the author, who told me he was fully prepared to end the saga in book 8, Armageddon, but it was only the hue and cry from readers demanding, and voting, for more, that convinced him to continue. The next book scheduled for release in the holiday season of 2014 will be entitled Crescendo of Doom, and that rising sound is the thunder of war as it finally comes to the eastern front with the onslaught of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa. Sign me up!

That said, the series is soon about to come to another critical moment in time, because the fateful hour of Kirov’s first arrival in the past on July 28, 1941 draws nigh. Crescendo of Doom takes us closer to that grave hour, and the story then moves to its 16th volume in a novel to be entitled Paradox Hour. Whether that becomes the final resting place of the long Kirov Series will most likely be up to us again, so reader support here really matters. Let’s make sure that Paradox Hour becomes another “bridge novel,” and force the author to take us into the great WWII fighting that transpires in 1942! We asked for more after Armageddon, and brother, he delivered.

There’s so much more out there. Rommel isn’t done in the deserts of North Africa, and the issue of naval supremacy in the Med is still not decided. Will there be another operation like the Torch landings against the French Colonies? How will the action play out in the drive for the Crimea to link up with Volkov’s Grey Legions? How and when will the US get into the war? What about the Japanese? The war is now about to explode in Operation Barbarossa. Can Sergei Kirov survive the onslaught that is about to be unleashed in Russia? Don’t let that terrible Paradox in July, 1941 become a stopping point for the series! Let the author know, as I did, what you most want to see covered in future volumes.

Meanwhile, you can get your hands on the Hammer of God HERE. (eBook Version) Enjoy!
 

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MAPS OF ACTION IN HAMMER OF GOD

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

GALLERY

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“14 books and still tightly written and un-putdown-able. Amazing story  line that is tight on story and doesn't meander around (like John  Birmingham). I usually skip a few pages in Turtledove or other stories,  and still find on track. But with this book, I can't afford to miss a  single page. The research into Russian history is meticulous and fact-based.”
- Reader Review

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