The first in a World War II trilogy forms a weak foundation for the series.
The author has covered many American conflicts in earlier works, most recently World War I (To The Last Man, 2004). This time the stage is World War II, but despite the scenery, the play itself is far from dramatic. In a lengthy preface, Shaara wonders what he can add to the legacy of writings about the conflict. He explains that his goal is to tell the story from multiple perspectives, “and to tell their story through their eyes.” He chooses notable names (Eisenhower, Rommel, Patton) and a few dogfaces (including Private Jack Logan). The timeline runs from the North African campaign through the invasion of Sicily. The preface, lengthy introduction and overall framework give it the feel of a book for young readers. Here is Erwin Rommel, desperate for supplies in order to succeed in capturing Egypt. Here is Jake Logan peering down the sight of the main gun on his tank. Here is Dwight Eisenhower, trying to balance the egos of George Patton and Bernard Montgomery. Shaara relies on history to give the story cohesion, but his characters remain mere sketches. Both Rommel and the author seem to be running low on fuel. Shaara adds dialogue and inner monologue to otherwise traditional date/time/place historical text. The action of a tank battle occurs over a few pages, while the lengthy conversations at each side’s headquarters can run twice as long. Highly charged moments fade quickly between the shuffling of perspectives. Lengthy summaries of minor movements and maps used to illustrate the text impede narrative flow. The multiple voices do not achieve harmony.
Likely to appeal to younger readers, but World War II buffs and adult fans of historical fiction will expect more.