It's 1940. The Battle of Britain has begun. A young Messerschmitt pilot is shot down over Dartmoor. He tries to evade a manhunt, knowing that if he is captured by the British, his war will be over. But when Josef Schafer falls into the hands of a sinister agent of the Special Operations Executive, his troubles have only begun. He is returned to occupied France having made an impossible deal with the British. As the air war escalates, Josef is in danger in the sky and on the ground. His allegiances are tested as he is torn between loyalty to his Luftwaffe comrades and a French woman whom he is compelled to serve. The stakes are high. Whoever controls the sky above the English Channel will decide the fate of nations.
I found this story well written, gripping and fast-paced. It was interesting to read a totally different genre to my usual list of ‘to reads’. I’m not usually a war story fan, but this book has much to recommend it. The main character is a Nazi, so I was impressed by the author’s ability to make Josef a young man I could empathise with and like. The morality and conflicts of war are handled very sensitively and evenly, so that it is easy to feel the pain and struggle of people on either side of the battle, and also to grasp the truth of evil residing in both sides.
Being a fan of historical fiction, I liked the grounding of this story in real events, and even though the events and issues involved in a world war are hard ones to reflect on, they are certainly issues to be learned from. I think the author handles this well. There is quite a lot of detail about airplanes, air battles, bombing and combat scenes, which suggests an impressive amount of research or knowledge by the writer. While I found myself hurrying though some of those pages, I couldn’t help but feel the fear and tension that this aspect of war evokes, and thought it was appropriate for the story. War scenes are naturally going to be emotive, but these were not overly graphic and were compelling parts of the story.
While this is not a typical romance, in fact far from it, there is a love story at the heart of this story, one which has a great influence on the main characters’ behaviour and future, and one which begs a sequel. Those who prefer to read romances with all the usual elements might be disappointed. Josef does not meet Giselle, a French woman committed to the resistance movement, until halfway through the book. Nevertheless, Giselle is a complex and engaging young woman and the relationship between these two, while unlikely given their loyalties, is one that I found intriguing and touching. The internal conflicts are as real and well written as the external ones.
This could not be called an overtly Christian novel, but the issues raised and the decisions which have to be made by the characters, will cause a reader to question their own values and attitudes. I thought this a very positive aspect of the writing.
I look forward to a sequel to this story and would recommend it to anyone interested in historical issues, and in deep, life-changing conflicts. I’m not at all surprised that The Kingdom of the Air was winner of the Caleb Prize for Unpublished Fiction in 2014 and winner of the Clive Cussler Adventure Writer's Competition.
Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Her earlier novels Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream have been re-released by EBP. Next of Kin, was released by Rhiza Press in 2015 and the sequel, Beyond the Fight, was released in April this year. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website, FB author page or Amazon author page.