Publisher: Rune Publishing
Page Length: 303 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
“…in this war, Death played the fiddle and armies danced to his tune.”
Lieutenant Johannes Wolf had conned his way into the 13th Michigan Calvary, but that seemed like a lifetime ago now. The war had changed him. It had changed them all.
Wolf has risen from the ranks—he is always “one shot away from a promotion”. He has escaped the horrors of Libby Prison and has seen things he wishes he could unsee and done things he wishes could be undone. But the war was not over for him, yet. Now he must face a fight not only for his life, but for the lives of those in his regiment, his general, and the future of his country…
Daniel Greene has again demonstrated why I am so committed to the story that he has to tell. Northern Dawn (Northern Wolf Series, Book 4) was everything I was expecting and then a bit more.
The most salient element of the narrative, especially in this story’s case, is courage. Not only does Greene define the very nature of the word, but through his characters we witness how courage goes hand-in-hand with the utmost desire to stay alive. If courage falters, all is lost, and everything that both sides have fought for would have been for naught, which was why the armies of both sides of the conflict needed generals such as Custer and Hampton.
Greene’s depiction of Union Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer has fascinated me from the beginning of this series. The war had turned the boy general into a man, but still a somewhat reckless one. He willingly exposes himself to danger in this novel by staying mounted upon his horse, so that his men could see that he was not afraid. I could not decide if I admired him for his courage or for his pig-headed determination to have his own way, despite the dangers and despite Alger pointing out that “You cannot inspire men from the grave.” But while men fell around him, and horses died underneath him, Custer somehow survived. There is a morbid sense of invulnerability about him, as there was with the historical man. Was he reckless with his men’s lives? Greene argues in this story, no, but there is a sense of admiration for the man and despite his faults, he inspired his troops and they would willingly ride through Hell knowing that he would ride alongside them. I thought Greene’s depiction of Custer was sublime.
Greene also explores the relationship between courage and reputation. Reputations were built and destroyed upon the battlefield. The respect of their peers, and indeed the enemy, is at the forefront of many an officer’s mind. This respect, I guess one might call it rivalry, is played out beautifully between Custer and his best friend from West Point, Thomas Rosser. Despite being on opposing sides, the two are torn between wanting their regiments to meet and not wanting them to meet. They have no desire to kill each other, but they both would like the opportunity to boast, especially on Rosser’s part, that one had bested the other.
When it comes to the courage of the soldiers, their most desperate desire is to stay alive. But Greene shows how many were conflicted—they wanted to stay alive, but at same time they did not want to kill. Likewise, through characters such as Wolf and Wilhelm, we witness how seasoned soldiers deal with the horrific injuries and deaths of their comrades-in-arms—it does not get any easier losing friends. This novel also depicts a deplorable act of revenge, and although Greene has fictionalised the way one of Hampton’s sons dies, he does remind the reader that an eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind.
Greene’s depiction of the terrain, the weather, the life of both Union and Confederate soldiers, and of the almost unbearable toll on both man and beast in each regiment, is drawn with an intuitive understanding of this era. If a horse went lame they immediately shot it rather than allow it to rest, which shows the desperation of the situation. Neither army could afford to slow down. This callous attitude to life, be that towards man or beast, demonstrates the horrors, but more importantly, the realities of warfare during this period. The soldiers bravely engage the enemy, knowing that here, in this place, at this time they could die, meaning that Yankee Doodle becomes not only the soundtrack that the soldiers march to when they are ordered to advance, but it also becomes the requiem for the dying and the dead.
I thought the depiction of The Battle of Trevilian Station was masterfully portrayed. The fear, the hope, and the desperate desire for more coffee, really illustrated the true horror of fighting a war on all fronts. There is an edge of almost hysterical fear that is kept in check by the officers and acts of bravery on both sides. But Greene has also given his readers the opportunity to experience the battle at a more personal level. Having read the other books in the series, Wolf is a character that I have really come to care about, and thus to see his determination, his resolve to serve, not just his country, but his friends, means that he is a protagonist that a reader cannot help but connect with, and it is because of this connection that we can experience what it must have been like to charge headlong into the enemy camp, while praying that your luck would hold and your horse would not be shot out from under you. Greene has rendered this battle, and the lives of the officers and soldiers, as authentically as possible. I could feel the terror of both the cavalry and their horses, I fancied I could smell the blood and hear the cries for help. This novel is hauntingly beautiful because of its realism.
What I like about this series is that you are privy to both sides of the war, and although the majority of this novel is spent with the Union Army, Greene has also explored what life was like in the Confederate Army as well. The skill of the generals, the sacrifice of the men, and the gratuitous loss of life becomes almost intolerable, especially for men such as Hampton. And although Greene has used a little creative licence in the depiction of the death of Hampton’s son, he does not gloss over the devastating impact of his death on his father. As in John Jakes' North and South series, Greene allows his readers to sympathise with the consequences of the war, and the sacrifices made, as well as reminding the readers, through characters such as Eliza, what they were fighting for to begin with. But this war was not just about emancipation, it was about keeping together a union, a nation, a people.
To get the most out of this series, you really need to start with Book 1, Northern Wolf. This series maps the progress of the American Civil War in a way that I have not come across before. This series is, quite simply brilliant.
Northern Dawn (Northern Wolf Series, Book 4) by Daniel Greene is an utterly enthralling book which, along with the rest of the books in this series, is deserving of a place on your bookcase.
I Highly Recommend.
The Coffee Pot Book Club
Daniel Greene 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.
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