In 1915, 15-year-old miner Alec Shorecross decides to leave the army and join the Royal Flying Corps but finds himself in an “underground war” instead, in Wilson’s second novel marking the centenary of World War I (Wings of War, 2014).
Caught in a rockfall in a copper mine in Coachman’s Cove, Newfoundland, Alec sees no future other than mining or fishing, so he joins the army. Soon, though, he decides that he wants to make a difference beyond just being a soldier. “My contribution is futile. What can one person do?” So, instead of being “another soldier among thousands,” he joins the Royal Flying Corps—but with no flying experience, he is assigned to the 169 Tunnelling Company in France, ironically leaving the mines of Canada to tunnel under the battlefields of the western front to set explosives under the German lines. Young readers might be familiar with trench warfare of World War I, but this part of the early war will likely be new and fascinating to them, and Wilson ably evokes the claustrophobic, dark terror of the underground war and the coming of age of young men amid the battles. A bit of a romance with a pretty Belgian nurse foreshadows her prominent role in Wilson’s next book about the Great War.
A fascinating war tale that will have young readers digging in for a captivating read. (Historical fiction. 10-14)