How do you follow a book like Winter Storm, where readers were treated to that great account of the German Operation Typhoon,
following Guderian and Model as they struggled to take Tula and drive north to Serpukhov, and that nice little tank duel between Kurt Knispel and Dmitri Lavrinenko? If that wasn’t
enough, we also got Operation Crusader in North Africa and then the setup and onset of the fateful Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. After the thorny, yet intriguing volumes from Paradox Hour thru Nemesis,
the author promised us the war would soon be heating up, and the Big Cats, Germany’s new tank designs, would be taking the field. He delivered on that wonderfully in Winter Storm, Book 3 in the lineup for the third season of this amazing series. So how do you follow a great number three hitter in any good lineup? With a great cleanup hitter, that’s how.
Just as the great Lou Gehrig followed Ruth on the “Murder’s Row” in 1927, and just as Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio followed King Kong Keller in 1939, or Maris was followed by Mantle in 1961, Tide
of Fortune now follows Winter Storm with a book loaded with even more action and battle.
The spires of the Kremlin on the cover of Winter Storm are replaced by the embattled mainmasts of US battleships under attack at Pearl Harbor. Where the Big Cats once growled at the bottom of the cover, a Japanese carrier and swooping Zero hold sway, and planes from either side face off beneath the new title where the tanks once confronted one another. Behind it all, the swirling winds of WWII whirl about a shattered hourglass as the damage to Fedorov’s cherished history continues to accelerate. Every cover in the series has clues that speak to what will be covered in the story, and this book is no exception.
This latest volume in the series, Tide of Fortune, opens by taking us back to Moscow, where another dramatic and unexpected event was laid out in the previous book when the assassination plot against Sergei Kirov is launched by Lavrentiy Beria. Moscow was burning, the Germans pushing into the city behind the flames, and we were left in the hallway outside the Red Archives like those two guards standing by the high wooden door, hearing those gunshots that could mean the death of Sergei Kirov was at hand. Now we learn his fate, and the fate of Moscow itself in the three chapter opening entitled “Moscow is Burning.”
Then the author takes us right back to Pearl Harbor for more unfinished business there, but this battle turns out to be quite different. Halsey is still at sea, much closer to Pearl than he was historically, and now Enterprise and Lexington launch their desperate counterattack against the Kido Butai. But be careful what you wish for. It’s all here, but things will happen that may surprise you.
The action then moves to Karpov aboard our favorite ship, making his ultimatum to the Japanese and then stalking the Kido Butai to make it stick. Fedorov had decided that he can make more of a difference as Karpov’s Starpom than he might by trying to gather allies and stage his own mutiny on the ship. Somehow the prospect of bloodshed aboard Kirov that was inherent in the great scene where Troyak and Grilikov were nose to nose, does not seem like the best way to proceed in Fedorov’s mind. So if he cannot easily slay this dragon, then he must learn how to ride its back, and I think that was the wisest choice he could make.
Now we get those two together again on the bridge, Karpov and Fedorov, each the former nemesis of the other, but now teamed up as the ship prepares to enter the war in the Pacific. They will fight that battle together, just as they did in the Mediterranean through Cauldron of Fire,
and just as they did the first time the ship faced the Japanese in Pacific Storm. It’s great stuff. Fedorov’s knowledge of the history, Karpov’s skill, ambition
and chastened experience, both combine here to get their private little war started, and it promises to be a riveting campaign against the one adversary that came close to actually
delivering a fatal blow to Kirov in past volumes, the Japanese.
But we aren’t done yet with the action in this book. In fact, we’re just getting started. Mixed in with Karpov’s ultimatum and opening hunt of the Kido Butai,
we are treated to one of those great little battles that often go unnoticed in the history, things this author likes to dig up and weave into his alternate wartime tale. In earlier
volumes, we got things like the German raid into the arctic aboard the Admiral Scheer, meeting more than he expected when Admiral Volsky sets out to teach the German sea
Kapitan a lesson. Here we get a wonderful six chapter saga that begins with ‘The Lost Convoy,’ recounting the fate of Roosevelt’s relief convoy bound for the Philippines
and escorted by the heavy cruiser Pensacola. It soon becomes a wild sea engagement, and the author uses this little gem of a battle to detail several significant changes in the
Pacific as a result of the alternate history already underway in the West.
Chief among those changes is the fact that France is now folded into the Axis, and the French controlled
some rather vital territories. They held Tahiti, all of the New Hebrides Islands, including the vital bases at Noumea on New Caledonia, and of course French Indochina. Here we learn how
the French put together an interesting little navy it the Pacific, and the author cleverly relates an alternate history twist that sees the French carrier Bearn, with her cruiser
escorts, fleeing into the South Atlantic at the outset of the war, and eventually making it to Indochina. They end up deploying to the New Hebrides before the Japanese attack begins, and
with the US Pensacola Convoy diverted away from the Philippines to Samoa and bound for Brisbane, the fireworks soon begin when a French Admiral decides to go hunting.
It’s a great little battle, most unexpected, yet much in keeping with the alternate history at the core of these books. Here we also meet a pair of new hybrid carriers, Shiloh and Antietam floated by the US Navy when it was experimenting with cruiser to carrier conversions in the late 1930s. The author seems to like the concept of the ‘Battle Carrier,’ first appearing with the German hybrid Goeben,
the home of Marco Ritter and Hans Rudel. In the Pacific, we now learn the Japanese and Americans each have similar ships, Gozo and Mezu for the Rising Sun, and now Shiloh and Antietam for the US. They are fleeing Davao on Mindanao when the Japanese invade, and they now get pulled into saga of the Pensacola Convoy, along with a Japanese flotilla that was escorting troops to Noumea. Soon the whole thing erupts in a major battle, the alternate history in motion, yet ringing so true, as the author even dives into the war diaries of men aboard the convoy ships to present certain points of view in this segment.
That’s what is simply so great about this series—the loving research that goes into each and every chapter, and I have to wonder how he can get it all done, delivering one solid volume after another right on schedule. The devil is always in the details in these books. Nothing is stuck in there to pad the narrative. Everything is carefully entwined with the plot, and things that sometimes seem insignificant suddenly return in a future volume to have major ramifications. Little clues get dropped, breadcrumbs that lead us deeper into some of the mystery at the heart of this tale. Characters we met in season one return on their ships and planes, and they all have some important contribution to make, their personal fates being an integral part of the outcome of all these events. That is one thing that was impressed upon me in this volume, just what a difference one man can make, one plane, one bomb. The author puts these little “Pushpoints,” as he calls them, into a keen focus in the action, and clearly explains how they serve as levers on the outcome of the battle.
So after all of this, guess what—we have only reached the half way point in this novel, which is literally loaded with combat from one end to another. Next we get the operation Volkov pitched to Hitler in Part VIII of Winter Storm, his daring attempt to augment his air lift capability by borrowing 300 German JU-52s. Ilanskiy, round three, is presented here to bring the other Karpov into the action, for he now commands the reinforced Siberian airship fleet aboard Tunguska,
and watch out. That battle segment plays out in Part VIII here, entitled ‘Rain of Fire,’ and it is most appropriately named, as the airships duel again for that vital little
hamlet at Ilanskiy. But it’s still not over…
The last four parts of the novel, twelve chapters, then move us to the Atlantic again. Hitler has a mind to launch a
belated operation to seize the Canary Islands from the British, and Operation Condor is the result. Like the great depiction of Operation Felix that was at the end of Hinge of Fate,
this is another detailed and page turning battle segment that starts with the fate of Britain’s first escort carrier, HMS Audacity. It then moves quickly into the German
operation, a daring airborne raid launched from Morocco, and backed up by sea landed mountain troops. This alternate history skipped the battle for Crete when the Germans took Malta, and
it gave us that detailed depiction of Operation Scimitar in Syria and Lebanon instead. Now Operation Condor balances the books for the loss of Operation Merkur. The Falschirmjaegers
launch their attack, but the outcome of the battle will depend on who can control the seas between the African coast and the Canary Islands. So here it comes, perhaps the largest naval
battle that will ever be fought in the Atlantic.
Tovey has mustered every ship he can find, while still leaving enough to guard the North Atlantic. He now has Force C in the
Canaries, Force H at the Azores, and he reinforces both by leading in his own murder’s row here, a nice lineup of battleships including Invincible, King George V, Prince of Wales and the Duke Of York. Renown, Repulse and Valiant are also at hand with Force C, along with three British carriers and the attendant cruisers and destroyers.
That lineup takes the field against an equally potent force for this action filled All Star Game that finishes up this novel. The Germans weigh in with Hindenburg, Bismarck, Kaiser Wilhelm and two carriers, the Goeben and Prinz Heinrich. Then comes the French Force de Raid
with heavy hitters like the Normandie, Richelieu, Jean Bart and Dunkerque. All these ships collide in the great naval segments that wind up this tale, and with some
Need I say any more? Page for page, there are more battle chapters here in Tide of Fortune than in any other novel in the series. Now this incredible alternate history of WWII has finally moved into 1942, and you have only to look at your chronology for that year to realize what great action lies ahead in the series. With Kirov now in the Pacific, we’ll certainly see a good deal of that war related, most likely in the Solomons and the US struggle to keep Australia from being isolated, or worse, invaded. In the Atlantic, Tovey and Admiral Volsky team up to give us our point of view there, but oh… something happens at the end of this volume that will threaten to break your heart, as it did mine. You’ll just have to read it and weep…
That said, consider what lies ahead. If the Allies ever do get up off the mat now that the US has entered the war, they will have to plan something along the lines of an Operation Torch as their first offensive, and that will most likely involve Gibraltar too. On the Eastern Front, we’ll likely get in on the Soviet Winter Counteroffensive if it can ever be mounted, but the Germans will be rolling those Big Cats off the production lines in greater numbers, and other new advances will begin to shape the course of the war. What the Germans couldn’t finish in 1941, they will again attempt in 1942 when the weather permits a new summer offensive. I’m betting the major objective will be Volgograd. The air war heats up with the RAF beginning to mount thousand plane raids over Germany, and what will rise to meet them there?
Then we still have Rommel in North Africa. 1942 gave us Rommel’s El Agheila Offensive, the Battles around the Gazala Line like we saw in the last volume, and the fall of Tobruk. But can he ever break out and push into Egypt as he did historically this year? The presence of Brigadier Kinlan’s Heavy Brigade weighs heavily against that, but we shall have to see. It could be that we never see battles at El Alamein, but we might see them take place somewhere else, particularly if the British decide to spend Kinlan’s force to break Rommel in one final showdown. There are a lot of unanswered questions ahead in 1942, and some will likely involve that little mystery that lies beneath St. Michael’s Cave under the Rock of Gibraltar. There was so much action packed into Tide of Fortune that the author did not have time and space to get to that part of the story in this volume, but it will likely be covered soon.
Well, get ready, because that rising Tide of Fortune is coming your way in early September on Amazon, so don’t miss out!