Lying alone in the dark with my kindle, I undertook to read the one book of the Sacred Band Series that I had not as of yet read. I read at night you see, before I crash. I should have reconsidered that policy before delving into such dark material at sundown. I am not one prone to nightmares but the stories within these pages will challenge the most stalwart among us to face the darkness without trepidation.
Janet and Chris Morris spin for us a series of stories that overwhelm us with the sheer desperation of the situations within. They set up the reader to wade into the unknown, the remnants of a broken world and face what comes next.
At the end of World War II, the survivors of Germany and their allies faced an unholy wrath wrought by the victors, and bandits and hate-filled revenge-seekers that unleashed ghastly vengeance upon the population. Magnified by the fact that cities and homes had been leveled by years of war, food was scarce and starvation commonplace, even water was difficult to find, deaths in the east were nearly as great as the war. Likewise, after the “end of hostilities” in Vietnam, those populations too faced a terrible reckoning. It is the way of war and has happened a thousand thousand times in history. The end of the war is not really the end. It is usually the beginning of something somehow worse.
And for the warfighters themselves—the wars will never end. They carry their scars to the grave. Deep and ingrained theirs are ghouls and phantoms summoned by deeds done and seen.
It is into such terror that we stride when we enter these stories.
And these are terrors that are every bit as dark and hopeless as war itself. The Sacred Band faces the penalties of their victory, the hopelessness of a broken land, specters and dark magic--emissions from the war's oozing wounds--that are every bit as terrible as combat and bloodletting on the field of battle. And in these stories, you will also find heroism on a scale that matches that of the books that came before, and it will leave you wanting. These stories are about humanity and its capacity to love and hate and kill and, most importantly, to endure.
It is true, I could easily write of the quality and skill of the authors’ tradecraft. I could write of their attention to detail and the trueness with which they bring characters and locale to life. I could write of all the things that make these stories technical perfection and a great addition to a wonderful series. But, what would all that mean?
Would it not be better to say simply, as I close the back cover, “I am pleased that I have read it?”
Would it not be even more meaningful to whisper to myself so no one else might hear, “I am so very glad that I was not there with Tempus and the others to see what they saw—to do what they did?”
It is a welcome thing that I only had to experience it in my nightmares.