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Destiny’s War is the first in a series of novellas that fictionalize the experiences of a war correspondent, occasional amateur archeologist and sometimes caravan guard Francis Marion Jager during the Desert Campaign of the Great War; the war that was supposed to have been the end of all wars, later known as World War I.
Jager, a young American far from home scraping together a living at the edge of an unsung campaign of a brutal war, left behind a diary of his exploits – a journal that the author has turned into compelling prose wrapped around meticulous research.
Jager is a character caught between multiple sides and perspectives while carefully observing them all. As an American, his observations of the British units with whom he serves, including their attitudes towards their Bedouin allies as well as their German and Turkish enemies, is often sly and cutting. At the same time, he exhibits empathy with the common soldier.
It is 1917, and the war has been going on for three years. Everyone seems to have lost track of its purpose, morale is low, and some have lost their moral centers.
Although still a very young man, Jager has already seen too much; he is as war-weary as any of the soldiers he reports on, and is afraid to befriend anyone out of the very reasonable fear that they will not survive. He is a man who has taken too many losses to sign himself up for more. And yet he becomes involved again anyway.
As a speaker of not merely English but also his grandfather’s native German and the Arabic language of the Bedouin tribes, Jager can see into all the sides of this conflict. Having learned his Arabic while traveling with those tribes, he respects their position considerably more than the British who are allied with them by policy but disparaging of them in practice.
He is the quintessential outsider, able to see all sides of the conflict while being part of none.
Destiny’s War is just the tip of the iceberg of Jager’s experiences. As the story opens, the young man is attached to the Camel Corps, spying for the famous Gertrude Bell. Quite suddenly, he has a historical artifact that entirely too many factions will kill to obtain.
This is only the beginning of his story. Readers who love the epic sweep of Lawrence of Arabia will find themselves immersed in that bygone era, as seen through the eyes of a man who met everyone and experienced it all.
In the end, Destiny’s War feels like the opening chapter of an absolutely fantastic story. It’s a small sampling, the merest taste of a tale that feels like it will be epic. Indeed, the only criticism that most readers are likely to have is that the story feels too short. It’s a tease and a treat.
Readers will be left salivating for the next chapter. This one is highly recommended for readers who love the sweep of history and want to feel as if they are there.