Wednesday 11 March 2020

#BookReview — Northern Wolf (Northern Wolf #1) by Daniel Greene #HistoricalFiction #AmericanCivilWar

Northern Wolf
(Northern Wolf #1)
By Daniel Greene

A broken man will be forged in the flames of war...

It is late 1862, and the United States has been ripped apart by civil war for over a year with no end in sight. The war is a distant thought to Johannes Wolf, a young German immigrant with a crippled leg keeping him off the muster lists.

Desperately dredging the gutters for recruits, Wolf cons his way into the depleted, demoralized, and poorly run Union army, and is promptly placed in the undesirable F Company of the 13th Michigan Cavalry.

Wolf's company find themselves riding with Custer and the Michigan Brigade on a collision course with master horseman J.E.B. Stuart and the Army of Northern Virginia in a small town in Pennsylvania, called Gettysburg.

Will they stand tall against the knights of the South and prove themselves worthy? Or will they fall beneath screaming bullets and sweeping blades, becoming more bloody fodder for a lost cause?

"We will either carry this day in glory or fade into history as the men who lost the United States of America."

Johannes Wolf had been waiting his whole life for this. He may not be able to walk very well, but he could ride, and he could fight. With his trusted steed, Billy, he was confident that the day would be theirs and the states of America would once again be united. At least, he hoped...

From a drunken brawl outside a tavern in Michigan to the largest and bloodiest battle fought during The American Civil War. Northern Wolf (Northern Wolf #1) by Daniel Greene is an utterly victorious novel from start to finish.

The historical detailing of this book is staggering. The American Civil War (1861 – 1865) was an especially savage period of history — as civil wars so often are. Such conflicts are tediously protracted, and the loss of life is always nothing short of a tragedy. There are many great fiction books written about The American Civil War, and I will now count Daniel Greene's Northern Wolf among that number. Greene has extensive knowledge of this era and the people who are forever immortalised by their deeds and daring. At the same time, Greene has a novelists intuition of what makes a book entertaining. He has gifted his readers with some truly unforgettable characters, both fiction and historical. Northern Wolf is not, however, a balanced account of The American Civil War for it is told from the Union's perspective. The Confederate States Army is standing in the way of a united America, and therefore it needs to be defeated. Greene wants his readers to lament when the South are winning because of what it means for the characters in his story. I have read several American Civil War books of late where the author tries to tell both sides of the story, which can sometimes make the story rather cumbersome in the telling. Greene's approach to his novel worked exceptionally well, and it made the narrative fast-paced and very engaging.

Greene takes his readers on a march alongside the fictional 13 The Michigan Cavalry as they enlist, train, prepare for war, and finally fight in a battle that would leave tens of thousands dead. For most of this book, we follow the story of Johannes Wolf. After a horrific injury to his leg, Wolf falls into a spiral of alcoholic destruction. He wanted to join the army and fight, for he believes in the Unionists' cause. But he is prevented from doing so because of his disability. His frustration is understandable, and his cunning and his uncanny knack of being able to manipulate an event so that he is eventually considered for the cavalry shows his reckless determination. Like many young men, he has a rose-tinted vision of what war is. He imagines honour when the reality is that he is going to do things he never thought he would do and see things he wishes could be unseen. This brash, hot-headed young man learns that his father was right all along. War is not glorious. It is not honourable. War is death. It is a dark and horrible thing where the losers die, and the winners have to live with a lifetime of nightmares. Wolf goes on an incredible journey during this book, and it was one that was endlessly fascinating and impossible to turn away from. I thought Wolf's depiction was especially well-drawn, and he was a character that I really came to care about.

Dressed in black velvet, his cascading fair hair streaming in the wind, and his sabre drawn, twenty-three-year-old Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer, the Boy General, takes to the stage. Greene presents Custer in all his daring brashness. We watch as Custer rallies his men, inspiring them by leading from the front in this story of battle, blood and patriotism. His almost cavalier attitude and a hefty helping of Custer's Luck meant that men were not only willing to follow him but were willing to die for him. For one so young to animate so many, to give courage in the face of adversity is a legacy that not many generals could ever hope to leave, but Custer does, and Greene honours that legacy in this book. I thought Greene's depiction of Custer was absolutely fabulous. There is a beautiful scene in this book where Wolf admits to Custer that he has disobeyed an order and Custer simply smiles and replies "Haven't we all?" which for me, really sums up Custer's approach to life. History tells us that Custer was often in trouble at West Point, and graduated last in his class, but what he had could not be taught. Greene has drawn on the historical sources for Custer and given his readers a very realistic depiction of a man whose name is still, almost 160 years later, associated with courage, camaraderie, and controversy.

There are several secondary characters in this book, both historical and fictional, but I thought Greene's portrayal of Corporal Wilhelm was sublime. Unlike the eager young men in his regiment, Wilhelm has the wisdom of experience, and he is in the same regiment as his son — perhaps to keep an eye on him. Wilhelm is something of a fatherly figure to these young lads, and he knows how to inspire confidence. Wilhelm brings a great deal to this story, and it was an absolute pleasure reading about him.

Brimming with confidence, General Lee marched his army northwards, across the Potomac River into Maryland and onwards into southern Pennsylvania. And here his army met the newly promoted Major General George Gordon Meade's, Unionist Army. This was the battle which Lee thought would see the Confederacy victorious. Only, it did not quite work out like that. Told with an epic, almost cinematic approach to the writing, Greene has depicted The Battle of Gettysburg in all its desperate horror. The despairing screams of the horses, the thundering roar of the artillery guns, the terror of hand-to-hand combat, all of this and more has Greene portrayed. I could almost taste the smoke from the cannons and gag on the metallic scent of blood. When it comes to writing battle scenes, Greene really comes into his own. They are vivid, evocative and all too graphic. I felt the desperation of the soldiers as they fought to stay alive — their utter fear, as well as their despair, rang clearly out through the expressive prose. There is no doubt in my mind that Greene was in his absolute element as he composed this scene. Brilliantly executed. Fabulously written. Battle scenes don't get better than this.

If you are a fan of battle heavy Historical Fiction, then check out Daniel Greene's Northern Wolf (Northern Wolf #1). I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on book 2 of what promises to be a fabulous series.

I Highly Recommend.

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

Pick up your copy of
Northern Wolf

Daniel Greene

Daniel is an award-winning and best-selling multi-genre author. He made his debut in the post-apocalyptic genre and quickly became known as a must read with his award-winning and best-selling hit The End Time Saga. His deep passion for history has inspired him to tackle the historical fiction genre with launch of the best-selling Northern Wolf Series.

He is an avid traveler and physical fitness enthusiast. He fulfilled a quest of iron by worshipping at the shrine of Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Graz, Austria, an experience he will never forget. If he isn’t working on his next book, you can find him training to survive the impending rise of the dead. 

He is a proud member of the Horror Writers Association and the Historical Novel Society. Although a Midwesterner for life, he’s lived long enough in Virginia to call it home. 

Connect with Daniel: WebsiteFacebook Goodreads.

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