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ABOUT: Kirov XII - Three Kings

of the long Kirov Saga will be pleased to know that the story continues right on schedule come May 15 with the release of Volume 12, entitled Three Kings. The title has several references in this volume, one from a dark warning given by Ivan Volkov in a meeting with Adolf Hitler when the man who has been called ‘the  Prophet’ tells the Führer that, to win the  war, he must slay three kings. The first to fall was seen at the climax of book 11, Hinge of Fate when the Germans launched Operation Felix to storm the vital British fortress at Gibraltar. The second and third kings are Malta and Suez, the three places Fedorov insisted Britain must hold way back in Book 2, when Kirov last visited the Mediterranean, albeit in a different time line from the one now playing out in Altered States. There are other references to the meaning of the  title in the story, but they can’t be disclosed here. You’ll soon see for yourself!

The Altered States trilogy that just concluded with the dramatic events presented in Hinge of Fate has covered the last six months of 1940, at a time when Britain’s fate is far from certain, eventually leading us to a major point of divergence in the war with the attack on Gibraltar. Being the fourth book after the resurrection of the saga in the Altered States trilogy, Three Kings is actually what the author calls a “bridge novel” to the next segment of the tale, a trilogy that will take us through the next six months of 1941 beginning with Volume 13, Grand Alliance. These bridge novels tend to be very character centered, as new story lines develop when the main characters react to these events and the ongoing crisis they precipitate.

Three Kings opens right where Hinge of Fate concluded, in the St. Michael’s Cave beneath the Rock of Gibraltar, and presents the final outcome of the German attack, and the sortie by Hindenburg and Bismarck as they break out towards safe ports on the French coast. Karpov also makes an appearance with a devious new plan to take his revenge on Ivan Volkov for his back stabbing betrayal after the Omsk Accords. From there, the author lays out the various plans now blooming in the minds of the War Cabinet and Admiralty, and the Devil’s Adjutant, Ivan Volkov, travels by zeppelin to meet with Hitler in Ploesti. There he warns Hitler of a dangerous man named O’Connor and tells him what he must now do to win the war
This is a perfect setup, as the book then brings us to the Western Desert, introducing two prominent historical figures that will now take their moments on the stage of this vast war, Generals Wavell and O’Connor as they plan a desperate offensive to stave off the Italian advance into Egypt. If you are a fan of the desert war, you’ll love this one, as it is now clear that the Mediterranean and North Africa are to become the principle theater of the war as Germany pursues Admiral Raeder’s long advocated indirect strategy in an effort to defeat Great Britain before confronting Sergei Kirov’s Soviet Russia.

So break out your pith helmets, don your black berets, find those knee length khaki shorts and dust off that jeep you’ve been keeping out back. The drama, action, and color of the great seesaw battles in the Western Desert are dead ahead! This volume will cover all of Operation Compass, the offensive that began as “O’Connor’s Raid” and became much more, and the Führer doesn’t like what happens at all. Volkov warned him that O’Connor was a ‘dangerous man,’ and now he sets his own champion down on those unforgiving desert sands, none other than the legendary Erwin Rommel, out to begin writing that legend as he leads the newly formed German Afrika Corps into the desert. But this will not be your Great Grandfather’s Afrika Korps. The German control of the Western Med opens new strategic possibilities for supplying Rommel, and OKW soon sets crosshairs on the second king at Malta, a job for Kurt Student’s 7th Flieger Division. This will lead to a much stronger German presence in North Africa, posing a grave danger to Britain’s holdings in the Middle East.

With these dramatic war events underway, I will now say that there are going to be some MAJOR surprises in this volume, one that I anticipated, but others I never saw coming, and they will figure prominently in how this tale, and the war, plays out. Fasten your seat belts, because this novel continues with what will probably be the most definitive and authentic alternate history of these events ever presented, and Three Kings closes with a fantastic segment where something happens I simply cannot even begin to hint at.

As alternate histories go, this has to be one of the very best ever done. In the last six months of 1940 covered by the Altered States trilogy, we saw naval duels in the north, and action spawned from British operations aimed at the Vichy French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir and Dakar. When France joined the Axis in outrage against these attacks, it opened up all the strategic possibilities now playing out as the story proceeds. The history itself presents endless possibilities when in the hands of someone who obviously knows and loves it so well.

Schettler’s spin, in moving the modern battlecruiser Kirov to the past, not only sets up all the great naval battles we’ve been treated to in the series, but also presents him with an opportunity to really discuss that history and the ramifications of the changes he now presents. This is done largely through the continued development of Anton Fedorov, the young navigator aboard Kirov who jumped from his post and out the bridge citadel hatch to catch a glimpse of that first Fairy Fulmar that overflew the ship way back in the opening volume of the series.  The Author uses Fedorov to be his voice on the history, analyzing the events and the consequences of the distorted changes now reflected in that cracked mirror, as Fedorov might put it himself. And Fedorov has also set a watch on the history he so loves, trying to find ways of getting it all back on track, which has  spawned any number of exciting spec-ops raids.

We’ve followed him into Siberia, down the stairway at Ilanskiy to meet the young Sergie Kirov, into the Caspian on his hunt for Gennadi Orlov, where we got treated to a full blooded amphibious assault with modern era hovercraft led by the gritty Sergeant Troyak. The German panzer troops got a real surprise in one of my favorite volumes in the series, Fallen Angels, and there’s more actions like that battle coming due to a major event that happens in this volume. As usual, both Fedorov and Orlov have something to do with it, as the author ties all these forays into Siberia by Fedorov and Orlov together into a string of causality that leads us to a truly decisive happening here in Three Kings.

That is what is so great about the story’s intricate plot line. Everything matters. What looks to be an errant weed in the devil’s garden when you first encounter it, is actually a clever story seed that returns later to find full bloom in the tale, and several seeds planted earlier begin to sprout here with dramatic new developments.

A perfect example of this was that first journey by Fedorov along the Trans Siberian Rail to look for Orlov in Men Of War… Or did it begin when Orlov decided to jump from that helicopter in Cauldron of Fire? You decide. In any case, what looked to be nothing more than a cameo appearance by the man the ship and series was named after, Sergei Kirov, has since become the entire foundation of these recent volumes that comprise the Altered States trilogy. Things happen, characters are introduced to play their roles and then they exit stage right. But they also get unexpected encores later that become essential to the outcome of the tale. This shows how carefully thought out this long, intricate plot line is, and I’ve loved every moment. I honestly cannot say there is any other series I have read with such tremendous depth, fidelity to the solid marble of the history itself, and such convincing alternate history as this master craftsman sculpts the new face of this war.

The “believability” factor of these novels is top notch, largely due to the fine tuned detail in the story. Most every historical character is a real person, and I’m not just speaking of the Admirals and Generals here. Sometimes the action will be shown through the eyes of a seemingly minor figure, like Lieutenant Dawes in the action at  Gibraltar. Three Kings introduces a new minor character in the colorful figure of Vladimir Peniakoff, otherwise known as Popski to the British, who later went on to organize and lead the PPA, a long  range raiding and demolition group known as “Popski’s Private Army.” You’ll be pleased to learn that he has a few new recruits off the battlecruiser Kirov, and Troyak and his Marines will have to brush up on their desert chops.

That’s just one thing that makes these novels ring so true. The author also goes to great lengths to cover every aspect of how the historical characters deal with the eventual knowledge that men from their own future history have returned to take up arms in this war. Admiral Tovey and Alan Turing, sleuthing the enigmatic presence of this strange ship they called Geronimo, do not finally learn the real truth of its origins and identity until the volume we have just concluded, Hinge of Fate. It isn’t just a simple treatment of “hi, we’re from the future, have a look at our iPads.” No. The author takes us inside the heads of all the historical figures as they are confronted with the terrible reality of the ship’s presence, and as they slowly weigh and sift the impossible evidence before them, we are slowly convinced with them that this is all real. It is all so skillfully done that there is no need whatsoever for the author to ask me to have a “willing suspension of disbelief.” Brother, I’m a believer, and I can’t wait now for the next volume as the story forges ahead into 1941.

Thankfully, the wait is short, and we will continue to get a new episode of the story every 60 days. Considering that these are full length novels, 36 chapters and all over 300 pages in length, that is no small achievement. And taken as a whole, the Kirov Series stands as a truly outstanding alternate retelling of WWII, with a little science fiction, a dash of time travel, mystery and intrigue, and a full cup of the history itself in loving detail. It simply hasn’t been done any better.

Kirov Series: Three Kings will be available in the kindle story by May 15, and as a quality trade Paperback from CreateSpace.

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SHIP ROSTER: Altered States

Battlecruiser Kirov II
- Adm Leonid Volsky
SGN Kazan - Capt Gromyko


British Royal  Navy:
Adm Tovey – BC Invincible, (G3 Class) -  Commander, Home Fleet
Adm Cunnibgham - Commander Eastern Med

Eastern Med Squadron:
BB Queen Elizabeth
BB Malaya
BB Warspite
CV Hermes
CV Eagle
5 Hvy Cruisers
7 Lt Cruisers
12 Destroyers

Vichy French Axis Fleet
BB Normandie
BC Strausbourg
BC Dunkerque
Numerous Cruisers & Destroyers

Italian Fleet
BB Roma
BB Vittorio
BB Veneto
BB Cesare
BB Andria Doria
BB Duilio
Numerous Cruisers & Destroyers


Adolph Hitler - Fuhrer of the German 3rd Reich
GrossAdm Raeder
General Erwin Rommel
General Keitel
General Halder
Adm Canaris - German Intelligence Chief
Hermann Goering - Luftwaffe
Adm Lutjens - Hindenburg
Capt Adler  - Hindenburg
Kpt (KzS) Lindemann – Bismarck

Other Kreigsmarine Ships:

BC Kaiser
CVL Goeben


Admiral Leonid Volsky
Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Karpov
Captain 2nd Rank Anton Fedorov
Captain 2nd Rank Dmitri Zolkin Ship’s Physician
Chief of Operations - Gennadi Orlov

Captain Lieutenant Grigori Rodenko - Radar  & Sensors
Lt.Victor Samsonov - Combat Systems
Lt. Alexi Tasarov - Sonar & ASW Ops
Jr. Lieutenant Isaak Nikolin - Communications
Sgt Kandemir Troyak - Marine Contingent
Cprl Zykov, Marine Detachment
Chief Eng Dobrynin - Propulsion Systems

Other Characters:

Pavel Kamenski, Deputy Director of th KGB (Ret)
Ivan Volkov - Orenburg Federation

Sergie Kirov - Soviet Russia

Other British Characters:

General Wavell - Commander Middle Eastern Theater
Lt. General O’Connor - Commander Western Desert
Major Peniakoff - AKA “Popski”
Lt. Reeves - 7th Armored Bde
Brigadier General Kindal - 7th Armored Bde


Kirov Saga:
Three Kings

John Schettler

Part I – Fire With Fire
Part II – Strategy
Part III – Compass Headings
Part IV – Arrivals
Part V – Rommel
Part VI – Sonnenblume
Part VII – Sky Hunters
Part VIII – The Devil’s Teardrop
Part IX – The Brigade
Part X – Nick of Time
Part XI – Echoes
Part XII – Impossible


I would like to thank Don Ursem, who wrote and provided valuable research assistance in areas related to Airships, and other data that proved to be very useful in this story. - J. Schettler

The Kirov Series: