I do not offer to do book reviews unless I am almost certain to like the book. I do not know enough about the craft of book writing to critique a book, so any review of mine is bound to be more about how I feel about a book than about where that book ranks in that absolute scale that some people employ with such ease.
'Veiled in Shadows'. My decision had nothing to do with the fact that I have known and liked Al for nearly a year, and with having been with him in the last months leading upto publication. The main reason why I offered to review the book was because of the cover. Yes, you heard it right. I decided that I was going to like the book because of it's cover.
I am one of those people who does judge books by their covers- if nothing else, the cover gives me the genre, and in a country where books are not categorised by genre and synopsises can be misleading, that is a useful thing to know. But in case of 'Veiled in Shadows', it was more than just that. Al designed the cover himself, so I was sure that the cover would be an accurate representation of what the author hoped to achieve from the book.
And I was not disappointed!
'Veiled in Shadows' is the story of a half-English half-German 'Princess' who calls herself "Katharina..... My second name, it seems less pompous and more German than Victoria. My daddy calls me Victoria Chesterfield, but I prefer Katharina von Brunnenstadt." Bold, beautiful and intellegent, we first meet her through the eyes of a young Nazi officer who thinks he is saving her from a wild boar, but ends up having his head chewed off for destroying a breeding boar.
She proceeds to fall in love with the Nazi officer remarkably quickly, but just before the outbreak of World War II abruptly breaks off their engagement and moves to England. In England, she meets a young fighter pilot, and despite loving him, turns down his proposal because she loves another. She follows her cousin into the English Secret Service, and defects to Nazi Germany under very mysterious circumstances. To say much more would be to give the plot away, but her ambivalent actions keeps you guessing till the very end.
Allan Russel knows a thing or two about creating and maintaining suspense. Who is Katharina/ Victoria? What does she stand for? What is she fighting for? Who is she fighting against? You get conflicting pieces of evidence and despite the prologue seemingly having told you everything, nothing falls into place till the last chapters.
What made the book even more engaging was the fact that the story emerges through multiple points of view, none of them Katharina/ Victoria. She is 'Katharina' to her German lover, and 'Victoria' to her English lover. Her subjects in Baravia call her 'Princess', and her cousin calls her 'Vikki'. She is different things to different people, but all of them love her.
I am not a fan of war fiction, but I am glad I read this book, and I would without hesitation recommend it to anyone.
Disclaimer - Al sent me a copy of the book expecting a review, but the fact that he sent me the book is not the reason for my rating it as high as I do. Had I not liked the book, I would have either declined to review it, or made do with a summary and some general observations.
Veiled in Shadows is available on Amazon.