Saturday 13 July 2019

#BookReview — Before The Brightest Dawn (The Half-Blood Trilogy Book #3) By Jana Petken #HistoricalFiction #WW2 @AuthoJana

Before The Brightest Dawn
(The Half-Blood Trilogy Book #3)
By Jana Petken

Jana Petken’s extraordinary historical epic, The German Half-Bloods Trilogy, reaches its sweeping, heart-wrenching conclusion. 

In The German Half-Bloods and The Vogels, Jana Petken followed the turbulent lives of an Anglo-German family as they forged their paths through the Second World War. Now, the conflict intensifies in the Soviet States, North Africa, France, and the growing resistance movement in Poland. 

Will Max, Paul, and Wilmot Vogel survive the most ruthless phase of the war to date? 

Max takes a path to momentous events in North Africa where he balances undercover games of espionage in decadent Cairo with dangerous missions behind the German Afrika Korps’ lines. 

Paul’s loyalty to the Third Reich continues to wane as Germany’s extermination programmes in Poland expand, and he is stalked by the new Kriminalinspektor, Manfred Krüger. Can he stay one step ahead of a man who has been ordered to destroy him? 

Wilmot faces new challenges in the Afrika Korps, but is he mentally and physically prepared to lead his men into Libya’s fiery desert and against the British 8th Army? 

Before the Brightest Dawn, the long-awaited Book 3 of the Half-Bloods Trilogy, concludes the story of the inextricably entangled fates of three brothers … through a war that becomes increasingly brutal and cruel.

“If such a thing as sympathy existed in war, no one would die, and soldiers would shake hands with the enemy and march homeward without a drop of blood being spilt…”

But, when the best political weapon is that of terror, and it is mistakenly believed that *cruelty commands respect, there is no room for sympathy — only blood.

It had become a war of ideologies. National Socialism and the Germanic-Nordic blood on one side, and the other… Not men. Not women. Not children. They were certainly not people. On the other side, there were only animals.

Paul Vogel had seen The Third Reich’s idea of mercy, and it had made him sick to the very bottom of his soul. But nothing had prepared him for the horror of the Łódź Ghetto. Paul wanted to become a doctor because he wanted to make a difference. How was he supposed to treat the ghetto’s many patients when he was denied necessary supplies and equipment? And how was he, as a man who had sworn to do no harm, to stand by and do nothing as men, women, and children were shot in the streets? And what about those who were herded into cattle cars on the Sonderzüge, was he to stay quiet and say nothing about them as well? Paul has a decision to make. Does he continue to obey orders or does he dare to turn his back upon the Party, upon his own country, and fight with the Polish Resistance?

Wilmot Vogel had always dreamed of being awarded an Iron Cross. He had demonstrated his bravery and courage in Russia, and his dream had come true. Wilmot wears his Iron Cross with pride. He had hoped his next post would be in Europe, somewhere less inhospitable. Instead, Wilmot finds himself in Libya, with the Afrika Korps under the command of Erwin Rommel. However, this is a different type of war to the one Wilmot has fought in before. The heat is relentless, the food disagreeable, and the Allies are under the command of Field Marshal Montgomery. Wilmot knew the war in Africa would be no easy win. But he was beginning to suspect that he would be lucky if he came out of this with his life.

Max Vogel was also in Africa, but unlike his brothers, he had been a member of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), from the very beginning. He could not stand and fight for a country that had so fundamentally lost its way. Thrown into a world of espionage, Max must keep his wits and his courage, for the Allies depend upon the information he can uncover.

Compelling, engrossing, the most vivid of tales, filled with moments of pure heroism as well as the deepest of tragedy, Before The Brightest Dawn (The Half-Blood Trilogy Book #3) by Jana Petken is the story of one family who is torn apart by the deadliest war in recorded history.

Having tutored Modern European History for many years, I have seen more than my fair share of black and white photographs of soldiers, taken during World War II, and while doing so, I have often wondered who these soldiers were and what happened to them. This story reminded me of those photographs and, although fictional in the telling, Before The Brightest Dawn gives us an insight into what it was like to fight on both sides of the war.

Wilmot, who despite mistaking nationalism for patriotism, is at heart a good man. He has lived through the horrors of being a Soviet prisoner of war only to find himself fighting for his life in the deserts of Libya. His war is an incredibly hard one, and yet his determination, and his loyalty and caring attitude, especially towards Egon — a shell-shocked young soldier — made him a very likeable character. He is young and full of life despite the terrible suffering he has endured, and his cheeky arrogance helps him to survive the war and all her horrors. When I started reading Book 1, I did have my doubts about Wilmot, he is almost besotted with the idea of Hitler and the Party, and because of this I feared I was going to struggle to connect with him, but in the end, I think he was one of my favourite characters in this series. He starts this series young and naïvely idealistic, but by Book #3 he is a seasoned soldier, and Hitler has well and truly fallen off the golden pedestal that Wilmot had initially put him on.

Despite it all, Wilmot also has an air of vulnerability about him. He is still a young man at the close of Before The Brightest Dawn, and he finds himself on the losing side. Much is written about the allied victory in works of historical fiction, but not as much is written about the German defeat from the German perspective. By showing both sides of the war, Petken has painted a very vivid and rounded story that swept me away in its brilliance.

The dangerous game of espionage that Max plays, and the risks that he takes to gather information made this story tautly gripping. I adored Max’s characterisation. He is incredibly driven, and he gets the job done despite the risks to himself. But there is another side to him. He is a brother, a son, and a fiancé. He wants to protect his family by bringing about an end to the war so that they can all be reunited.

Paul’s story is a cross between Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark and Wish Me Luck, a British television series about the resistance that was first broadcast in 1988. So many times, I found myself in tears as Paul’s story unfolded in front of me. Here is a decent, caring man who is being asked to do things that go against every fibre of his being. Paul is a very moral man, and he does not get caught up in party politics. Unlike Wilmot, Paul is a patriot, but he can see nationalism and the Nazi Party for what it truly is. His choice is simple. Either he toes the party lines and does as he is told without question, or he fights back. But if he does that, then he may well find himself in front of a firing squad. His decisions and actions really helped to drive this story forward, and I liked him very much. In truth, I was enthralled by Paul’s story from start to finish. His character is incredibly well drawn. A photograph come to life.

Once again, Petken has presented her readers with a historical rich tale, where nothing is beneath her attention. The hours of research that has gone into this book, and indeed this series, clearly shines through in the impressive prose and the persuasive narrative. Petken is one of those authors who makes history come alive.

I have enjoyed every minute of this series and now feel slightly bereft that it has come to an end. If you are looking for your next World War II historical fiction series which shows both sides of the war, then look no further than The Half-Blood Trilogy. I look forward to reading more books by this author.

I Highly Recommend.

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

*“The best political weapon is the weapon of terror. Cruelty commands respect. Men may hate us. But, we don’t ask for their love; only for their fear.” Heinrich Himmler (original year not specified).

Pick up your copy of
Before The Brightest Dawn
(The Half-Blood Trilogy Book #3)

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

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx