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About Grand Alliance

In what is undoubtedly the longest Alternate History epic of all time, John Schettler’s Kirov Series is now entering its fourth trilogy set with the publication of Grand Alliance, July 15, 2014. And that’s not counting the three ‘bridge novels’ that link these trilogies together, (Men of War, Armageddon and Three Kings, the novel we’ve just concluded.) It’s the “Game of Thrones” for Alternate WWII history, every bit as complex and engrossing as that popular series for those that know and love this history. Fans of the series have now become accustomed to the author’s blistering 60 day turnover for a new episode in the story, and it never fails to satisfy the cadre of hard core series readers. One reader review referred to the series as “the crack cocaine of Alternate History fans,” and if you are one of the many hooked on this story your new fix is just around the corner.

Three Kings presented us with some rather dramatic developments as it set the table for the decisive segment we are now entering. It began with a wrap on the fall of Gibraltar in Hinge of Fate, then moved into the Admiralty plans on how to compensate for that tremendous loss, while Ivan Volkov paid a visit to Hitler with some friendly advice. The action then moved to the Western Desert where the historical characters of Wavell and O’Connor take center stage for “O’Connor’s Raid,” the counteroffensive that  delivers a stunning defeat to the Italians. As this concludes at Beda Fomm, we suddenly move to the arrival of the first of the ‘Three Kings’ that lurk behind the title when Gromyko and Kazan finally show up and contact Kirov, which has already been in theater for many months.

The German side of the war planning then proceeds with the introduction of Erwin Rommel and the creation of his Afrika Korps to stop O’Connor, but this time the author does what the Germans should have in early 1941, and sends Student and his crack paratroops to attack Malta. That’s another of the meanings behind that title, as the Three Kings the British must control in the Mediterranean were Gibraltar, Malta and Suez.  With one king dethroned at Gibraltar, and the second embattled at Malta, Rommel began his counteroffensive to run the table and reach Suez—but not so fast. Fedorov’s mission to find and rescue O’Connor leads to a most dramatic and decisive event.

Now the seemingly errant threat of the story that saw Orlov and Troyak investigate a ground contact on the way to Ilanskiy in the airship Narva comes to full bloom. The “Devil’s Teardrop” Orlov finds there acts like a kind of beacon, and when the Russians attack the British 7th Brigade at the Sultan Apache British Petroleum Oil concern in southern Egypt, 2021, the detonation opens a rift in time that is strangely anchored directly to the object Orlov found. The result is that the entire British 7th Armored Brigade, lined up in column of march for a move to Mersa Matruh, now suddenly appears in the desert north of Siwa Oasis—right where Fedorov’s team has landed to search for O’Connor! Who knows where they might have ended up if not for that Devil’s Teardrop, or if they would have moved at all, but the arrival of this unit adds a dynamic new angle to the story.  The resulting interaction between forces of the WWII era and Brigadier Kinlan’s modern Brigade is classic Schettler, all moderated by a desperate Anton Fedorov trying to force the Grand Alliance we now move into with this next volume.

The third dramatic arrival in Three Kings is the return of Argos Fire. The box Fairchild finds under the Oracle of Delphi does not lead the ship to Antediluvian times as per an earlier book proposal, but here, right into the thick of this growing battle, a much more appropriate  tie in for that plot line that was nearly the length of a full novel in itself when you add up all those chapters. At the end of Three Kings Brigadier Kinlan decides to move north as planned, and the action that leads to is the subject of Grand Alliance. Kinlan has a full modern brigade, the great grandsons of the Desert rats, only instead of rickety Mark VI machinegun tankettes, a few A-10s and Matildas, Kinlan now adds 60 Challenger II main battle tanks and two battalions of Mechanized infantry in upgraded Warrior IFVs to the British order of battle!

The opening of Grand Alliance sees Kinlan finally convinced of his fate by Fedorov, and now those two men must induct General O’Connor and Wavell into the ranks of “the believers.” Rommel’s timetable for a move east to unhinge the last British defensive line south of Sidi Barani keeps the pressure on, but the action soon moves north toward the battle this startling development sets up. Meanwhile the arrival of Argos Fire creates a few tense moments when both Kirov and that ship detect the presence of advanced hostile electronic signatures in theater. Fairchild knows they have shifted into WWII, so this is somewhat alarming.

The struggle now is how to integrate the naval elements together into one force capable of opposing the massive Axis fleets now mustering in the region. The Italians sortie with the bulk of their heavy units, and they are to be joined by a combined Franco-German fleet. So the action in Grand Alliance shifts from the land battle to the naval battles in successive three chapter segments and both these major engagements conclude before the end of this novel. Then both sides have to sort things through, see what they have left and plan for new tactics.

In the meantime, Vladimir Karpov is his old self again. Spurned and betrayed by Volkov, he goes to Sergie Kirov in a three chapter meeting in the Kremlin that is one of those character interaction segments that I really love in this series.  Then Karpov sets off seeking new grand alliances of his own and we get another interesting twist at the very end of the novel that is quite ominous.

So batten down the hatches, lock and load, and prepare to move out on both land and sea. The battles portrayed on the cover of the novel come to full bloom here in a great opening volume to this trilogy. I can only imagine what awaits us in the next book, Hammer of God, a title I think is derived from something O’Connor says here in Grand Alliance. The next book promises us more action at Crete, in North Africa, with continued action at sea and in the deepening mystery that surrounds Karpov’s sojourn. In the meantime, here is your summer blockbuster! Grand Alliance should be available on or before July 15 at a kindle reader or app near you!  Enjoy!

--T. Banner





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