A Sword in the Darkness
by Jeffrey Romero
WestBow Press

"Do you see their logic? The more they succeed, the more it’s okay to live outside the realm of the truth."

With World War II as the backdrop, Romero's narrative is one of resolve in the direst circumstances. Opening up with Tegan Braden recovering from injury, the storyline does a thorough job of creating a main character ready to embrace his highest self despite mounting obstacles in his path. While the character development is stellar, the readers are thrust into the heart of the battle, getting to experience the inferno of action and tumult unfolding in the skies.

From their early lives, Tegan and Kent Braden, Hispanic by birth, are adopted in what can only be deemed as a divine encounter. Behind the eight ball, the siblings are subject to a life of abuse at the hands of their biological parents. Only when their younger sister dies does the duo craft a plan to escape their Colorado town. What begins as something quite reminiscent of the Boxcar Children series, with Tegan and Kent adventuring through Colorado on a train, culminates in their both being adopted by a family of faith.

While Kent follows in the footsteps of his adopted father, Reverend Braden, Tegan's destiny has something else entirely planned for him. As the story unveils the decade-plus of their childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, it also sheds light on the excruciating pain of a mother when her son breaks the news that he has joined the United States Air Force. Such is the case for Tegan, whose entire trajectory is shifted from a football-playing athlete to an individual who feels his purpose and identity are embedded in unwavering loyalty to his country.

As the story progresses into Tegan's time in the Air Force, particularly the injury suffered during the Pearl Harbor attack, Romero's use of fluid dialogue balances well with the expository prose portions that shed light on the war. This consistency and ease of plot development exist throughout the work, making audiences intimately involved with Tegan Braden's evolution from a mere Air Force member to a captain. When he earns the Purple Heart and is honorably discharged due to his injuries, the collective reader would naturally assume this would break him. After all, the entirety of his identity is placed into being the "sword in the darkness" for the United States. In fact, even after being told to leave the US Air Force for three years, Tegan's diehard attitude for flying and contributing to the Allies' cause remains undeterred, resulting in him temporarily flying for Canada.

Through Tegan, readers get a glimpse of what life in the military is like, especially the danger and exhilaration accompanying a war from above. In the process, seeing countless friends perish is heartwrenching, a direct cost of war that seems inevitable to defeat an even greater calamity in Hitler. Midway through the book, Romero introduces sixteen-year-old Fritz Wallerstadt, a similar flying prodigy. However, he refuses to fly for the Germans as their atrocities are brought to light with undeniable evidence of horrors. How Tegan and Fritz both follow their inner voices adds intrigue as the novel moves into its latter stages.

While there are many books on World War II, exploring what flesh-and-blood humans would have realistically experienced is incredibly rare. It is difficult to imagine what could be going through the mind of a child whose father is being taken away for adhering to his values. From the Allies' unified efforts to the Gestapo's ruthlessness, Romero does an effective job of recreating that landscape and allowing readers to envision what those moments could have been like and how palpable the fear may have been for many who knew that death was imminent. Ultimately, Romero's work employs the ideal blend of action, storytelling, character development, and even engaging topics of philosophy and religion to capture the mind of historical fiction aficionados.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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