Season 4 Premiere!
Book 25 in the Kirov Series
Big events are underway in the Season Four Premiere of the Kirov Series, Tigers East. The title of the book was unannounced until the heads up “Coming Soon” notice posted on the Author’s web site about a week before publication, and the cover art gives us a strong indication of where this book will take us, back to the German Summer Offensive on the East Front, Operation Blue. That battle is presented in some detail, with the action on two segments of the vast Russian front. The Germans have massed their armor in 2nd and 3rd Panzer Armies, and they make a bold drive for Voronezh as they did in the real history. After failing to cross the Don, that offensive then turned southeast, following the course of the Don River as it drove towards the Volga, but in these events, Manstein has already driven deep into the Donbass region, and is already threatening Kalach on the Don by the time von Rundstedt turns Model and Hoth loose in their massive pincer operation to take Voronezh.
This is the action presented, along with the increasingly desperate Soviet attempts to stop the Germans. When Manstein drove southeast, the Soviets managed to retain several bridgeheads south of the Don at Boguchar, Veshenskaya, and Serafimovich. There, Zhukov had moved many of the armies that fought to try and save Moscow, particularly several Shock Armies formed with Siberian troops sent by Karpov. He has been holding them for a planned winter counteroffensive, but the circumstances force him to play out his cards early in two attacks. The first he calls Operation Mars, which has no association with the real operation launched under that name. Zhukov is just choosing planets to name his battles. This spoiling attack is meant to force Manstein to look over his shoulder, threatening his line of communications, but enter one Hermann Balck and the 11th Panzer Division from stage left, and the action is on.
Balck now becomes a major historical character as he sends his elite division into the battle to try and foil Zhukov’s attack. As the east front action develops, the Germans find themselves simultaneously threatening Rostov, Volgograd and Voronezh, and Zhukov must reach for any reserves he can find to stem the tide, eventually committing, with Sergei Kirov’s blessing, all the reserves he had been husbanding.
While all of this is happening, the story also takes us back to the deserts of Libya where Rommel is brooding on his Mersa Brega line. We get his reaction to the Allied landings presented in Second Front, where his already weakened Afrika Korps must now send the 10th Panzer, as well as Goring’s Brigade, west to von Arnim where the Germans are attempting to build the new 5th Panzer Army to counter the Allied advance into Algeria.
The action in the west is presented as Patton pushes for Algiers, and there is a major sea battle fought by Tovey as a prelude, where something quite significant happens. In fact, this book is loaded with sudden major happenings. Kazan arrives in 1942 early in the narrative, and that has a big impact on Fedorov’s decisions. The naval battle has a big resolution to Tovey’s longstanding feud with the Kriegsmarine, Rommel awakens from his depression at Mersa Brega when he gets some much appreciated news from Kesselring, something extremely big happens on the Allied side involving Tobruk, and it will impact the entire balance of the war in North Africa in a very dramatic way. The bulk of the novel is devoted to these land battles that develop, east and west, the story alternating between the action on two fronts. As the conclusion draws near, the last six chapters take us back to the mission Fedorov has been planning.
He and his little band of Marines have already hijacked the airship Irkutsk, but Symenko continues to gnaw on Fedorov’s ankle, telling him he will have no chance to get through to Ilanskiy. This pressure, and the sudden arrival of Kazan in 1942, throw that action in a most unexpected direction, but where it then ends up taking us is a cleverly devised twist that will not fail to please. Again we see how events and minor characters introduced many volumes ago suddenly are presented as having a major impact on the story. Everything matters in these books. Nothing is ever given ink without careful thought, and a definite purpose in the overall tale.
What happens at the end cannot be divulged here, but Tigers East will keep you turning pages, with lots of wartime action and then the inevitable intrigue that is infused into the story by Fedorov’s surprising choices. Fans of Erwin Rommel will also see their favorite General resurgent here, and determined to stop fighting the last war and return to the mobile battles that made him famous. Through it all, we get numerous appearances by Hitler, Manstein, Steiner, Rommel, Kesselring, Patton, Sergei Kirov, Zhukov, Admiral Tovey and other historical characters, with Herman Balck getting a good deal of ink after his introduction. By the time those Tigers are well east, hammering at the Soviet defense near Volgograd, it is October of 1942. The next volume then promises to take us into the most massive battle ever fought, the author’s rendition of the terrible struggle for Volgograd, where the drama is already well under way in Zhukov’s counterpunching, if premature, offensives. How that battle will finally end remains to be seen in the next book.
The Kirov Series has now reached the mid-point of the war as the tide of affairs has slowly become more even handed through the last several books, Turning Point, Steel Reign and Second Front. The British have stopped Rommel, though he now stirs to life again as a major threat. The Allies have put an end to Raeder’s dream in the Canary Islands, and knocked both Spain and Vichy France out of the war in the startling developments after the opening of their Second Front. The Japanese Operation FS has been halted on Fiji, even as their expansion met its first challenge on Guadalcanal in the real history. The Battlecruiser Kirov has settled the affair involving JS Takami, and sent Harada and Fukada south to continue their arguments somewhere else.
Here the action on the East Front takes the German summer offensive to its conclusion, as the rains and mud of autumn herald the coming of the dread winter of 1942. Can the Soviets muster the offense that will be required to turn the tide in Russia? In any case, we have reached that dangerous balance in the period late 1942 to early 1943, where the Axis has suffered its first major setbacks, but both Germany and Japan remain powerful opponents, and the outcome of the war still remains in doubt. If the Allies can continue to gain momentum and carry on the fight, we have ahead the great battles that formed the heart of the war: Volgograd, Kursk, and surely others in Russia; Overlord, Cobra, Market Garden and the Bulge in the West, assuming those actions ever occur in this history. Fans that have remained loyal to the series from its inception are now have tickets to all those rides, and Season Four starts with a bang here in Tigers East, on sale in the kindle store just in time for the fireworks this July!
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