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The shocking events of Turning Point were seeds well sewn in the long Kirov Series, for more than one large ‘explosive event’ has troubled this alternate history of WWII. Director Kamenski would simply nod his head, for he had pioneered the strange effects these massive detonations can give rise to in the early years of Soviet nuclear testing. So the hard core fan base of the series knows to raise an eyebrow when something goes boom, and that was what we got when Krakatoa went off right in the middle of Turning Point. The battle for Java was just getting underway when that incredible eruption occurred, sending the narrative off in a most surprising and interesting direction.

We know enough to be on the lookout for strange doings, but I didn’t really see Takami coming, and find it a most welcome turn of events. Those scenes where the crew accept their fate, then launch themselves on a mission to try and convince Yamamoto to make peace, were sheer joy. In them, we get a little of the same tension we had between Karpov and Volsky, as Lieutenant Commander  Fukada gets painted with Karpov’s brush in the early going. Harada is more even handed, less compulsive, a little hesitant, and not as decisive as his XO, but he nonetheless manages to earn his rank and keep the ship on the course he wants to sail.

So now we come to Steel Reign, a clever title that references the reign Kirov has enforced on the seas, as well as that of the Japanese thus far in the war. Kirov has lurked like a shadow, nipping at the Japanese Navy, hurting them, but not yet delivering the decisive damage it is capable of meting out. Karpov’s Plan 7 has been a kind of sideshow, catching the Japanese unawares, but in this novel he ratchets up the pressure again as the Siberians move into Northern Sakhalin. That’s going to set up a most riveting conflict with the Japanese Navy, but first, we have some other oddities to dwell upon.

Early in the story, we get treated to some interesting scenes featuring the old characters we all know and love from Kirov—most notably Fedorov, Orlov and Dobrynin, and a most unusual scene that features a dead man—Admiral Volsky! If you were wondering just what happened to the original Kirov when it vanished into that sea of impenetrable fog, stay tuned. Steel Reign opens right there, aboard that very ship, as a kind of forget me not offered by the author. We all know that he never does anything without a well devised purpose, so pay attention there. We grieved when Volsky passed out of the pages of this beloved tale, but now we have him back again, the old ‘Papa Volsky’ that still lives aboard that derelict original Kirov.

It’s more of the strange doings the author has going with his time travel theory, and the odd connections between this altered state of affairs and the original time line. That mojo also extends into a couple great chapters with Orlov and Fedorov, so something is brewing there, you can be sure.

Yet we can still all see what is looming on the horizon out there, and why the author chose to bring a ship like Takami into his story at this hour. Even though Japan enjoys the considerable advantage of controlling the New Hebrides in this altered history, and has been invincible at the outset of its war, Yamamoto knows that they now face a grave challenge against the United States. Midway doomed Japan to fall back onto the strategic defensive, but now we have a situation where Yamamoto has had a look at the possible unfolding of events ahead, and forewarned is forearmed.

That small peek into the future, seeing the fate Japan suffered in black and white in Takami’s library, has sobered Yamamoto and set him on a new course. Then along comes Vladimir Karpov, shaking off the frost and snow in the far north and renewing his Plan 7 campaign in the north. Now Japan clearly faces a war on two fronts, as Mizuchi poses a grave challenge that Yamamoto must deal with to restore balance.

He turns, of course, to his newfound allies. While they came to him to see opportunities for the peace in Harada’s mind, we all knew that Takami was really there to service the war in Fukada’s—and the Lieutenant Commander doesn’t even have to stage a coup for that to happen here.

The next big Japanese offensive takes us into April and May of 1942, and encompasses what were the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway in the original history. So expect a lot of action here, another big Japanese amphibious operation, and carrier duels. Yet Yamamoto has a decision to make. He knows enough about Takami now to realize the ship may be a one hit wonder. So where and how should he best put it to the task of war?  That decision could decide the fate of the US carrier task forces led by Halsey in the south, or the fate of the headstrong and heedless Kirov in the north.

I think we can all read the author’s mind and intention here. Yes, it’s inevitable, and so after a strong central narrative depicting Japan’s next big offensive in the south, the author eventually takes us north, where Kirov and Takami now come on the scene like a pair of lethal gunfighters, destined to meet one another on some lonesome cold sea of war.

It’s a showdown to be sure, one of those great little ‘what if’s’ you often seen bandied about in naval forums. What if that upgraded AEGIS class destroyer meets a Kirov Class battlecruiser in battle? We’re about to take that ride, that is if the Demon Volcano in the Kuriles minds its manners.

late in the novel, we will also get to a scene where Tovey enlists the support of Argos Fire to assist with a very important Commando raid. Afterwards, he meets privately with Elena Fairchild, and the topic moves to one of the great mysteries underlying the story, those strange keys and the portals in time they seem to secure and guard. The Keyholders saga therefore gets a little nudge here with an interesting revelation, and more is promised in the next novel.

Steel Reign also presents us with the aftermath of the long sortie of Kaiser Wilhelm and the Goeben, and Admiral Raeder’s reaction to the windfall cache of technology they have in hand. That plot line gets resolution in the early segments of the story, and from then on, it’s all Pacific Theater action here, with some wonderful echoes of Book III. After all, it was about this same time that the original Kirov appeared on the scene in the Pacific, albeit on another time line. That history is all about to be re-written now, with consequences we have yet to contemplate or foresee.

What if Kirov never returns to 2021 as it did at the end of Pacific Storm? Does that mean the events presented in Men of War never transpire—that Fedorov never takes his fateful ride on the trans Siberian rail that delivered him to that lost railway inn at Ilanskiy? If he doesn’t whisper that warning in Mironov’s ear, then what?

Since the season opener of Doppelganger, we’ve been cruising through safe waters, history where Kirov was never present until May of 1942. Now, in Steel Reign, we finally reach that time again. What are the consequences?

You can bet this author has them all nicely plotted out and waiting for the next volume, announced as Second Front. Does that title also have a double meaning like so many of his other books?

I wonder…

Look for Steel Reign right on schedule come the 1st of March, available for both Kindle and in the CreateSpace store you can reach by clicking on that icon from the books on these pages. And also look for another battle book soon, all the action from the East Front in one continuous narrative.




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Kirov Saga:
Steel Reign

John Schettler

Part I – Déjà vu
Part II – In For A Penny
Part III – Grim Realizations
Part IV – Hook, Line and Sinker
Part V – Developments
Part VI – Combinations
Part VII – Endgame
Part VIII – High Tide
Part IX – 5th of May
Part X – The 7 Keys
Part XI – Presentiment
Part XII – Reap the Whirlwind


36 Chapters - 328 pages

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