Strap on your pith helmet, load that Martini & Henry rifle, and stand to!

The Zulu War has long been a military history favorite, memorialized in two popular movies, Zulu Dawn , and Zulu. The first presented the invasion of Zululand when the British General, Lord Chelmsford, led his #3 Column across the Buffalo River on 10-11 January 1879. What followed was a series of missteps characterized by overconfident hubris, and downright stupidity. For reasons that seemed perfectly logical to the General at the time, he managed to violate most every rule he penned into his own orders and guidelines for the conduct of armies in the field in South Africa. Historians have long railed against his failure, even after being warned, to laager his wagons and create a sound defensive position at the camp he made near the prominent hill of Isandlwana. Then inexplicably to many, he divided his army without having sound intelligence as to the whereabouts and strength of the Zulus, let alone any real idea of their intentions. The result was the greatest military defeat and disaster to befall British arms in the colorful Colonial Period, when some 1300 British regulars and native troops were slaughtered in a grand massacre of the camp at Isandlwana—all while Chelmsford had half his army out on a reconnaissance in force to the east.

Could the disaster have ever been prevented? Would sound preparations at the camp and more prudence, caution, and respect for his enemy have reversed the tragic defeat? These are just a few of the questions that writer John Schettler explores and tries to answer in his alternate history of Chelmsford’s invasion, and the battles that followed. Learning why Chelmsford did what he did is an important part of the tale, and this one gives us a very good look at his invasion in a wonderfully written military fiction.

Mister Schettler has been writing in the genres of military history and alternate outcomes for over 20 years. One of his first explorations was the award winning novel Meridian, which explored the fate of Lawrence of Arabia in the deserts of Syria during WWI. That novel spawned four others in the Meridian Series, which ended up visiting the time of the Crusades in Palestine, Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt and the Middle East in 1799, the famous ‘Battle of Tours’ when Charles Martel turned back the Islamic invasion of southern France in October of 732, and finally a thrilling tale that sends the Meridian Team back in time when they discover the great German battleship Bismarck was not sunk on its maiden voyage, which had a dramatic effect on the course of WWII. Their aim is to find out why, and do anything possible to send that battleship to its proper rendezvous with the Royal Navy, and a resting place at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean.

That final book in the Meridian Series tickled a long time fascination the author had for great fighting ships, particularly the battleships of WWII. He was going to write an alternate naval history of WWII, only with the German Navy built out much stronger, with behemoths like the Hindenburg overshadowing  both Bismarck and Tirpitz in power, but then he took a leap of imagination and focused on another ship, the powerful Russian Kirov Class battlecruisers of modern times. That leap has since seen him write the longest continuously running story ever penned in his popular Kirov Series, where cadres of his most loyal fans have stayed with the story through all of 55+ volumes as of this writing. That tale finally became his grand alternate history of WWII, with heavy emphasis on all the naval engagements, but also all the major land battles fought in every theater of the war. It’s a deeply compelling tale of the war, and one where you can get lost in it for days on end with each new release in the series.



In the middle of that long saga, one major subplot involved the discovery of mysterious keys that open heavily engineered metal doors protecting hidden passages. All the keys had been found in special places in the history—at the famous Oracle of Delphi, embedded in one of the Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone discovered in Egypt during Napoleon’s invasion, in a vase on display in the Summer Palace of the Qing Dynasty in China, and also in one of the recently unearthed Terracotta warriors. And these keys are what now make this journey to Zululand in 1879 possible.

The premise is a simple one: two wealthy industrialists have possession of one of these mysterious keys, which conceal rifts in spacetime behind the doors they open. They have used them to take long safaris through the past, wagering with one another on the outcome of famous historical battles. It’s the basic energy that Mister Schettler first kindled in his Meridian Series, and the first of these books in what he calls the “Keyholders Saga” has emerged from his Kirov Series in a wonderful retelling of the Battle of Waterloo. This one, the fate of Lord Chelmsford and his British Army in Zululand, is volume 2 in the series, and not to be missed by any fan of this history.

In fact, the more you know of the history of this campaign, the more you will be entertained. The author explores the effort made by Sir Roger Ames, the Duke of Elvington in Modern times, as he jousts with his nemesis,  Jean Michel Fortier playing for the Zulu side of this war. The Duke is trying to save Chelmsford and prevent the disaster at Isandlwana, and Fortier is trying to make sure the fierce impis of the Zulus properly devour the British. The result of this contest takes us to the heart of all the decisions Chelmsford had before him after crossing the Buffalo River into Zululand, and the alternative choices he might have made to alter the disastrous outcome. Yet even if you are not well versed in the history surrounding the battle, you will certainly be well educated by the time you finish this novel.

Beginning at the crossing of the Buffalo River on 10-11 January, the author shows why it took Chelmsford nearly 12 days to move just nine more miles into Zululand. In that interval, all the many possibilities and choices before him are explored, and Sir Roger Ames is doing his very best to get him to correct his oversights and errors, and push the course of the campaign to an alternate outcome. The history buffs will enjoy all of this segment, and then, midway through the book, the time to prove whether the Duke’s interventions have saved the hour finally arrives with “The Coming of the Shadows,” the massive Zulu army of some 20,000 men against less than 5,000 under Chelmsford’s command. From that point on, the last half of the book is all the alternate history battles that flowed from the Duke’s interventions, every bit as detailed and visceral as those in the movies.

So strap on your pith helmet, load that Martini & Henry rifle, and stand to! Zulu Hour is a wonderful leap into all this fascinating and exciting military history by an author that had emerged as the new master of that genre, with over 60 books out now that use some means of time travel to get modern day characters back in to the heart of these famous battles, and live them through in a way they never could while safe and sound in their libraries or reading chairs. Zulu Hour presents a convincing, well-researched alternate outcome of this first great clash between Lord Chelmsford and the Zulus, and it’s one that no fan of the genre, or any of this military history, will want to miss.

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NOTE: Printed versions of the Kirov series are available and will also display on Amazon when you click the “For Kindle” link.

Available Jan 1 2021

MAP LINKS: (Warning, may be spoilers! view them when you need them)

The battle: Day 1 (Spoilers!)

Historical battle

Zulu Land




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