Saturday 16 February 2019

#BookReview — The Vogels: On All Fronts (The Half-Bloods Book 2), by Jana Petken #HistoricalFiction #WWII @AuthoJana

The Vogels: On All Fronts
 (The Half-Bloods Book 2)
By Jana Petken

“The Vogels are fighting on all fronts in this compelling story of intrigue and betrayal in a world at war.” 
European citizens feel the full force of German injustice, but not all are willing to bend the knee. From France to Poland, Resistance groups fight from the shadows to thwart Nazi rule and hinder their goal to exterminate Jews. 

In Russia, Wilmot Vogel struggles to survive the ravages of a frigid winter, compounded by the German army’s lack of progress. Hit by a surprise Russian attack on the front lines, however, he finds himself facing an even greater challenge than the freezing weather and Soviet bullets. 

In Łódź, Poland, an idealistic doctor is resolved to oppose the Third Reich, but is he willing to betray his country? Will a Gestapo major find the answers he’s looking for? Can a ghetto Jew avoid transportation to a Nazi extermination camp? 

Can two spies rekindle their friendship, or will past betrayals become hurdles too great to surmount? Can Britain’s MI6 maintain the upper hand in a contest against the German Abwehr? Who wins when one man fights for British interests whilst the other seeks to undermine them? 

In the darkest days of war, love flourishes. Two women with very different paths are led to one man who changes the course of their lives forever – but only one will win his heart.

 I’m still trying to wrap my head around Paul being married to a Gestapo Major’s daughter, Wilmot spending time in a prison camp, and your father being a British spy. What sort of family have I married into?”

There are no winners in war, or so it is said. For the Vogel family, the war has brought division and mistrust. They are a household divided. While two sons fight for the Third Reich, the other, along with his father, is a British Intelligence Officer.

Max Vogel will not fight for a government, a country, that had so fundamentally lost its way. He will do everything in his power to thwart the Nazi Regime and help the Allies win this war.

Wilmot Vogel did not think his life could get any worse than the time he had spent as a prisoner in Dachau concentration camp, but that was before he experienced winter on the Eastern Front. Supplies are slow in coming, and the winter seems as never-ending as the war. However, Wilmot, unlike Max, believes in the Führer and the Party. He dreams of committing an act of true heroism. It is his ardent desire to one day have an Iron Cross pinned to his uniform.

With small acts of heroism, Paul Vogel finds himself fighting injustice from the right side of wrong. A doctor for the Third Reich and son-in-law to the Gestapo Major, Kriminaldirektor Biermann, Paul plays a dangerous game of cat and mouse. He isnt the person his father-in-law, and the Third Reich wants him to be, but if he refuses to conform, then he risks everything.

From the dangers of occupied France to the adversity of life on the Eastern Front, The Vogels: On All Fronts (The Half-Bloods Book 2) by Jana Petken is the compelling account of one family as it navigates the horrors of World War II from opposing battle lines. 

Petken’s narrative is flawless. This is a story which appals, impresses, and fascinates in almost equal measures. However, what makes Petken a master bard is that she knows when to pull back and change the scene, which gives her readers a chance to catch their breath. Petken can do this because the story is told by several points of view, which I found exceedingly compelling and utterly riveting.

Petken has a novelist eye for detail, not only with regard to the history of this era in which it is very obvious that she has spent many hours researching, but also in the study of human fallibility. Petken has created characters that are very real in the telling. I thought the portrayal of Paul’s wife, Valentina, showed how easily some German citizens believed fabricated and colossal untruths. Valentina is so blindly loyal to the Führer and her father that she cannot see the truth even when it is looking right at her. Valentina believes that she is part of the “master race,” and yet, as a mother to be, she cannot place herself in the shoes of her Jewish counterparts. She has been told the Jews are vermin and that is that. She has ceased to think of them as humans. They are an annoyance — and she wishes they would all disappear. Valentina is a stark contrast to her husband. Paul is loyal to his country, but he isn’t as devoted to the Führer and the Nazi Party as he has led everyone to believe. As a doctor, Paul deplores the things he has seen and the things that he has been forced to do, but on the other hand, he isn’t the victim in this story. There are decisions that he makes which have profound consequences on innocent people. Paul is, I guess, an ordinary man, who has been thrown into Hell without a map to guide him. Therefore, his story is one of utter heartbreak.

At times the tension in this book was so unbearable that I found myself holding my breath as I daringly turned another page. It is well documented that the German Army failed to supply their soldiers with equipment and clothing for the tempestuous winter weather on the Eastern Front. However, to read about a character whom I have come to care for made this knowledge all the more poignant and upsetting. Wilmot’s struggle to not only stay alive but to keep his wits was, at times, tremendously hard to read, and I did find myself in tears on more than one occasion as he faced one unimaginable horror after another. Petken’s portrayal of the terrible conditions on the Eastern Front was masterful. There is a realism that comes with Petken’s writing that is almost tangible. She has a visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading.

I thought Petken’s portrayal of MI6, and the very secret Special Operations Executive (SOE), was fabulous and a direct contrast to the Gestapo, especially when it came to interrogation tactics. Like his father, Max is involved at one time or another with both organisations. Max is a very experienced intelligence officer, but he is also a son and a brother. Max cannot understand why Paul chooses Germany and the Nazis over, what is so obvious to Max, the right path. Max is the only brother who sees the Nazi Party for what it really is, and he will do everything in his power to bring them down. Max lives in a shadowy underworld. He faces a different type of war to his brothers. I thought his story was tautly gripping.

The Vogels: On All Front (The Half-Bloods Book 2) is a wonderfully magnificent book that was so enthralling that I simply could not put it down once I had started. I cannot wait to get my hands on Book 3 and find out what happens to this extraordinary family.

If you are looking for your next great World War II, historical fiction read, then look no further than The Half-Blood series. You will not be disappointed. This series has everything you could want, and then a bit more.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Jana Petken

Jana Petken is a bestselling historical fiction novelist and screenwriter. 

She is critically acclaimed as a bestselling, gritty, author who produces bold, colourful characters and riveting storylines. She is the recipient of numerous major international awards for her works of historical fiction and is presently in talks with film producers regarding one of her titles.

Before life as an author, she served in the British Royal Navy. During her service, she studied Naval Law and history. After the Navy, she worked for British Airways and turned to writing after an accident on board an aircraft forced her to retire prematurely.

Connect with Jana: Website • Twitter  • Goodreads


  1. Well done, Jana!

  2. Congratulations, Ms Petken. Your book sounds very interesting.


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Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx