Kingdoms Fall — The Korniloff Affair
by Edward Parr
Create Space Publishing, 2014
New York Times headline of 9 November 1917
The fast pace of the second installation weaves intricate events as they unfold across the continent with Gresham and Wilkins as witnesses or players. The book opens with them chasing a mysterious German spy trying to incite rebellion in Ireland to undermine the war aims of the British Empire. While this theme continues, our novice spies once again take on their military role in the Battle of the Somme. The book is at its best when it describes action on the battlefields where our heroes shine…most of the time. However, given the fast pace, the book quickly moves back to explaining the diplomatic dealings of building and shifting alliances. Thus the scenes quickly shift to Italy with a young Mussolini, to Salonika and the Greeks, and ultimately to Romania.
As the daring duo leave for Romania the pace magnificently slows down. Just like the first book, Edward Parr does a splendid job of telling the story of the lesser-known theaters in the war. For example, the book accurately (with a bit of creativity on the role of Gresham and Wilkins) describes Romania's entry and subsequent failures in the war. As the adventures continues to unfold, the author further develops the characters' personal side.
|General L.G. Kornilov, 1916|
A new character is introduced, a nurse who is caring for one of our heroes but develops as a love interest for the other. The nurse Emma is American, an aide-mémoire for those Americans who romantically volunteered to serve in the war's early years. Emma becomes both a challenge and asset to Wilkins and Gresham as they move to their biggest adventure yet: keeping Russia in the war as an ally while its very empire is collapsing at the beginning of the Russian Revolution. The tale touches on the complexities of a revolution where a young Stalin, Kerensky, and finally General Korniloff try to guide the fall of the empire and the future of Russia in their own visions. This collides with the mission of keeping Russia in the war, and ultimately each of our main characters has to choose his own dangerous path in the tumultuous events rapidly unfolding. Gresham, Wilkins, and even Emma shift between the roles of behind-the-scenes player, witness, and sometimes victim as the final scenes unfold. The storytelling is illustrative and action-packed. This book is highly recommended, and as a reader and historian I eagerly await the next in the "Kingdoms Fall" series.