It begins with a haunting quote from T.S. Eliot: “So the darkness shall be the
light, And the stillness the dancing.” Then that dance takes up to a little known engagement in the Norwegian Sea where a mishap at sea triggers events that have far reaching
consequences. The opening of Stormtide Rising presents two old warriors, one at sea in Admiral Raeder, and one on land with Erwin Rommel. Both are given one last chance for glory, and Raeder gets a most unusual assignment, and ultimatum, from Adolf Hitler. That figures into Operation Edelweiss later in this volume, a battle at sea in a most unexpected place.
As for our beloved Desert Fox, Rommel has reached Tunisia with newfound vigor and a big offensive to plan. The Germans had a number of operations to try and stop the Allied advance into Tunisia. They were dubbed Fruhlingwind (Spring Wind), Morgenluft (Morning Air) and Sturmflut (Stormtide), which gives us the title of this volume, and the action quickly takes us to the offensive conceived by Rommel to surge through Kasserine pass, storm Tebessa and turn the Allied flank. That action is presented in all of Part II, but our old desert warrior finds he must contend with the same maddening difficulties that have plagued him all along in North Africa. No matter how many divisions he has, it never seems to be enough, and recalcitrant confederates, Von Arnim in this volume, cause him grief.
The fate of Rommel’s offensive is carefully explained in scenes where Kesselring, Rommel and von Arnim hash out their strategy and make their plans. Initially the prospect of five German Panzer Divisions making one concerted attack here is dazzling, and the plan is sound, but the old maxim that no plan survives first contact with the enemy also comes into play. On the other side of this battle, Fredendall has a much more limited role, being in charge of only two infantry divisions. In his place early, and running all the armored divisions, is one George S. Patton, a match for any German General on the field. The outcome of this battle, and Rommel’s reaction to it all, is aptly summed up in the opening quote to Part III: “One
who cannot dance must not blame the song.”
Then we move to Operation Phoenix to recap events there. While holding the line in Palestine and western Syria, it seems that the British simply cannot stop Guderian’s mad rush along the Euphrates, aimed first at the vital pipeline junction of Haditha and then at the heart of Persia, the ancient city of Baghdad. We get a brief interlude where Hitler launches a most unexpected attack against London that sends a chill through Whitehall to its very foundation.
Then in Part V we get to the heart of this novel,(as depicted on the book cover) featuring Guderian’s invasion of Iraq and the siege of Baghdad. Concurrent with that advance, Hitler also launches a much belated Operation Merkur against Crete, but in this battle, Kurt Student has the benefit of much experience gained by the earlier attack on Malta, and the many airborne operations conducted in the Canary Islands campaign. The Germans use that experience, and a powerful naval sortie by Raeder en-route to his new mission, to further their chances on Crete, and the British garrison there is much weaker, as Freyburg and all the troops from Australia and New Zealand are long gone to the Pacific.
There are a lot of surprising twists in this volume, and most of them are initiated by Hitler. With Russia still in a February deep freeze, the Fuhrer is wasting no time with all these new offensives. Then a visit from Himmler falls like hot lead in a pool of water, and has a most startling result. It seems our Mister Fedorov has been up to something, and we see its results slowly begin to make cracks in the Axis block in Part IX, entitled Sea
The events set in motion by Himmler’s visit all come to a head during the fourth battle presented in this volume, Operation Edelweiss in the Caucasus. Sergei Kirov left over 40 divisions in the Kuban earlier in the war when Manstein broke through to the Volga. Now a major operation is launched to destroy them, and to the victor go the spoils. That causes a great deal of rising tension, a shadow of the title of this volume, and it threatens to profoundly change the storm tide of the war in the east. Ivan Volkov and his associates are on the stage here, with cameos by Vladimir Karpov, (the younger), Tyrenkov, Sergei Kirov and his Intelligence Chief, Berzin. They all figure into the shifting lines of fate that will soon migrate to the far flung battlefronts of the east.
As this volume ends, we again come back to our beloved battlecruiser Kirov,
and discover how the engagement with Kita’s task force concluded. Then the elder Karpov (The Siberian) introduces yet another twist that he has been scheming on for some time. In a
marathon discussion with Anton Fedorov, the two men reach a most startling conclusion about what they must do to achieve their ends in the pact forged with Volsky and Gromyko.
There’s a lot of action here: Operations Sturmflut, Phoenix, Merkur and Edelweiss driving the German onslaught forward, while other engagements over London, and on the seas round out this one. As always, the way all these battles are fought in the minds of the major Generals, their many conferences and discussions, is every bit as engaging as the battle scenes themselves. It looks like we’ll be moving through 1943 at the same pace that we live out this year, 2017. This volume takes us through February of 1943 and into late March. The next Volume, Ironfall will move into April and May of that year, and it will be out by May 1st.
Has the Third Reich finally reached its high water mark here in Stormtide Rising? Get ready to lose yourself in this amazingly detailed alternate history again, with Volume 29 available on or before March 1st, 2017.