ABOUT: Kirov XII - Three Kings
Fans of the long Kirov Saga will be
pleased to know that the story continues right on schedule come May 15 with the release of Volume 12, entitled Three Kings. The title has several references in
this volume, one from a dark warning given by Ivan Volkov in a meeting with Adolf Hitler when the man who has been called ‘the Prophet’ tells the Führer that,
to win the war, he must slay three kings. The first to fall was seen at the climax of book 11, Hinge of Fate when the Germans launched Operation Felix to
storm the vital British fortress at Gibraltar. The second and third kings are Malta and Suez, the three places Fedorov insisted Britain must hold way back in Book 2, when Kirov last visited the Mediterranean,
albeit in a different time line from the one now playing out in Altered States. There are other references to the meaning of the title in the story, but they can’t be
disclosed here. You’ll soon see for yourself!
The Altered States trilogy that just concluded with the dramatic events presented in Hinge of Fate has covered
the last six months of 1940, at a time when Britain’s fate is far from certain, eventually leading us to a major point of divergence in the war with the attack on
Gibraltar. Being the fourth book after the resurrection of the saga in the Altered States trilogy, Three Kings is actually what the author calls a
“bridge novel” to the next segment of the tale, a trilogy that will take us through the next six months of 1941 beginning with Volume 13, Grand Alliance. These bridge novels tend to be very character
centered, as new story lines develop when the main characters react to these events and the ongoing crisis they precipitate.
Three Kings opens right where Hinge of Fate concluded, in the St. Michael’s Cave beneath the Rock of
Gibraltar, and presents the final outcome of the German attack, and the sortie by Hindenburg and Bismarck as they break out towards safe ports on the French coast. Karpov also makes an
appearance with a devious new plan to take his revenge on Ivan Volkov for his back stabbing betrayal
after the Omsk Accords. From there, the author lays out the various plans now blooming in the minds of
the War Cabinet and Admiralty, and the Devil’s Adjutant, Ivan Volkov, travels by zeppelin to meet with
Hitler in Ploesti. There he warns Hitler of a dangerous man named O’Connor and tells him what he must now do to win the war
This is a perfect setup, as the book then brings us to the Western Desert, introducing two prominent
historical figures that will now take their moments on the stage of this vast war, Generals Wavell and
O’Connor as they plan a desperate offensive to stave off the Italian advance into Egypt. If you are a fan
of the desert war, you’ll love this one, as it is now clear that the Mediterranean and North Africa are to
become the principle theater of the war as Germany pursues Admiral Raeder’s long advocated indirect
strategy in an effort to defeat Great Britain before confronting Sergei Kirov’s Soviet Russia.
So break out your pith helmets, don your black berets, find those knee length khaki shorts and dust off
that jeep you’ve been keeping out back. The drama, action, and color of the great seesaw battles in the
Western Desert are dead ahead! This volume will cover all of Operation Compass, the offensive that
began as “O’Connor’s Raid” and became much more, and the Führer doesn’t like what happens at all.
Volkov warned him that O’Connor was a ‘dangerous man,’ and now he sets his own champion down on
those unforgiving desert sands, none other than the legendary Erwin Rommel, out to begin writing that
legend as he leads the newly formed German Afrika Corps into the desert. But this will not be your
Great Grandfather’s Afrika Korps. The German control of the Western Med opens new strategic
possibilities for supplying Rommel, and OKW soon sets crosshairs on the second king at Malta, a job
for Kurt Student’s 7th Flieger Division. This will lead to a much stronger German presence in North Africa, posing a grave danger to Britain’s holdings in the Middle East.
With these dramatic war events underway, I will now say that there are going to be some MAJOR
surprises in this volume, one that I anticipated, but others I never saw coming, and they will figure
prominently in how this tale, and the war, plays out. Fasten your seat belts, because this novel continues
with what will probably be the most definitive and authentic alternate history of these events ever presented, and Three Kings closes with a fantastic segment where something happens I simply cannot
even begin to hint at.
As alternate histories go, this has to be one of the very best ever done. In the last six months of 1940
covered by the Altered States trilogy, we saw naval duels in the north, and action spawned from British
operations aimed at the Vichy French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir and Dakar. When France joined the Axis in
outrage against these attacks, it opened up all the strategic possibilities now playing out as the story
proceeds. The history itself presents endless possibilities when in the hands of someone who obviously knows and loves it so well.
Schettler’s spin, in moving the modern battlecruiser Kirov to the past, not only sets up all the great naval
battles we’ve been treated to in the series, but also presents him with an opportunity to really discuss
that history and the ramifications of the changes he now presents. This is done largely through the
continued development of Anton Fedorov, the young navigator aboard Kirov who jumped from his post
and out the bridge citadel hatch to catch a glimpse of that first Fairy Fulmar that overflew the ship way
back in the opening volume of the series. The Author uses Fedorov to be his voice on the history,
analyzing the events and the consequences of the distorted changes now reflected in that cracked
mirror, as Fedorov might put it himself. And Fedorov has also set a watch on the history he so loves,
trying to find ways of getting it all back on track, which has spawned any number of exciting spec-ops raids.
We’ve followed him into Siberia, down the stairway at Ilanskiy to meet the young Sergie Kirov, into the
Caspian on his hunt for Gennadi Orlov, where we got treated to a full blooded amphibious assault with
modern era hovercraft led by the gritty Sergeant Troyak. The German panzer troops got a real surprise
in one of my favorite volumes in the series, Fallen Angels, and there’s more actions like that battle
coming due to a major event that happens in this volume. As usual, both Fedorov and Orlov have
something to do with it, as the author ties all these forays into Siberia by Fedorov and Orlov together into a string of causality that leads us to a truly decisive happening here in Three Kings.
That is what is so great about the story’s intricate plot line. Everything matters. What looks to be an
errant weed in the devil’s garden when you first encounter it, is actually a clever story seed that returns
later to find full bloom in the tale, and several seeds planted earlier begin to sprout here with dramatic new developments.
A perfect example of this was that first journey by Fedorov along the Trans Siberian Rail to look for
Orlov in Men Of War… Or did it begin when Orlov decided to jump from that helicopter in Cauldron of
Fire? You decide. In any case, what looked to be nothing more than a cameo appearance by the man
the ship and series was named after, Sergei Kirov, has since become the entire foundation of these
recent volumes that comprise the Altered States trilogy. Things happen, characters are introduced to
play their roles and then they exit stage right. But they also get unexpected encores later that become
essential to the outcome of the tale. This shows how carefully thought out this long, intricate plot line is,
and I’ve loved every moment. I honestly cannot say there is any other series I have read with such
tremendous depth, fidelity to the solid marble of the history itself, and such convincing alternate history as this master craftsman sculpts the new face of this war.
The “believability” factor of these novels is top notch, largely due to the fine tuned detail in the story.
Most every historical character is a real person, and I’m not just speaking of the Admirals and Generals
here. Sometimes the action will be shown through the eyes of a seemingly minor figure, like Lieutenant
Dawes in the action at Gibraltar. Three Kings introduces a new minor character in the colorful figure of
Vladimir Peniakoff, otherwise known as Popski to the British, who later went on to organize and lead
the PPA, a long range raiding and demolition group known as “Popski’s Private Army.” You’ll be
pleased to learn that he has a few new recruits off the battlecruiser Kirov, and Troyak and his Marines will have to brush up on their desert chops.
That’s just one thing that makes these novels ring so true. The author also goes to great lengths to cover
every aspect of how the historical characters deal with the eventual knowledge that men from their own
future history have returned to take up arms in this war. Admiral Tovey and Alan Turing, sleuthing the
enigmatic presence of this strange ship they called Geronimo, do not finally learn the real truth of its
origins and identity until the volume we have just concluded, Hinge of Fate. It isn’t just a simple treatment
of “hi, we’re from the future, have a look at our iPads.” No. The author takes us inside the heads of all
the historical figures as they are confronted with the terrible reality of the ship’s presence, and as they
slowly weigh and sift the impossible evidence before them, we are slowly convinced with them that this
is all real. It is all so skillfully done that there is no need whatsoever for the author to ask me to have a
“willing suspension of disbelief.” Brother, I’m a believer, and I can’t wait now for the next volume as the story forges ahead into 1941.
Thankfully, the wait is short, and we will continue to get a new episode of the story every 60 days.
Considering that these are full length novels, 36 chapters and all over 300 pages in length, that is no
small achievement. And taken as a whole, the Kirov Series stands as a truly outstanding alternate
retelling of WWII, with a little science fiction, a dash of time travel, mystery and intrigue, and a full cup of
the history itself in loving detail. It simply hasn’t been done any better.
Kirov Series: Three Kings
will be available in the kindle story by May 15, and as a quality trade Paperback from CreateSpace.