ACES by Michael  January


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In this historical novel, a friendly rivalry turns bitter when two pilots find themselves on opposing sides as World War II breaks out. 

In the 1930s, Aaron Miller and Michael “Miki” von Steuven are both students at Princeton University and the best of friends, despite hailing from radically disparate backgrounds. Aaron’s father is a Polish immigrant who moved to New York nearly penniless and built a wildly successful construction business. Miki grew up in Westphalia; his father is a German noble and the family’s prestige and wealth are tied to an ancient pedigree. But both students are talented pilots, and bond over the amateur races they enter and routinely dominate. These competitions are thrillingly portrayed by January (co-author: Frankenstein Diaries, 2015). The pilots’ friendship, though, is complicated by a shared passion for Lacy Dunbrough. While she loves Aaron, she’s perpetually frustrated by his unserious impetuosity, and her family unabashedly prefers Miki. Miki proposes to Lacy and she accepts. The two move to Germany but she is quickly dismayed by Hitler’s increasingly ominous rule and the malignant treatment of the nation’s Jewish population. Miki joins the Luftwaffe and is sent to Spain, and Lacy begins to worry that he has changed in some profound way she cannot countenance. Meanwhile, Aaron decides to decamp for Canada to join the Royal Air Force, eager to do his part as war finally breaks out in Europe. A grand showdown of sorts between the two expert aviators seems theatrically inevitable, and the emotional stakes are effectively raised when Aaron believes Miki’s shot down one of his closest friends. In his propulsive tale, January vividly captures the fast-paced terror of combat in the air, and the peculiar mixture of precision and bravado displayed by the best pilots. But the predictable plot strains readers’ credulity, and the writing is as unreservedly histrionic as it is formulaic.

An action-packed but melodramatic war tale.

Page count: 343pp
Publisher: Winged Lion Publications
Program: Kirkus Indie
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