By: David Litwack
Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
Publication Date: June 2013
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: December 15, 2013
Along the Watchtower is a fascinating book that combines a story of the physical and emotional scars left by war and the wonders of a mystical fantasy world, all flawlessly wrapped into one page-turning book.
Lieutenant Frederick Williams, a passionate gamer who enjoys playing World of Warcraft with his fellow soldiers, is stationed in Iraq. While on patrol one hot day, his mind was distracted by the upcoming game scheduled for that night. Freddie was more concerned with how to get past the trolls in the game than what lay ahead of him, hidden in the ground. When the Humvee hit the IED, it destroyed the vehicle and almost killed Freddie. While the IED shattered his body, his dear friend, Specialist Pedey Sanchez, better known as the Archangel, took the brunt of the hit and died from the blast. Freddie survived, was sent to Ramstein Air Base and eventually home to New England where his physical wounds would slowly heal, but what about his emotional scars?
Because of Freddie's serious injuries, he was kept in a medically induced coma for most of his early recovery. The soldier's mind deals with the trauma by imagining a fantasy world, a world where Freddie is really Prince Frederick, the prince of Stormwind in the world of Azeroth. The kingdom has just lost their king, Frederick's father, and while Frederick is next in line to assume the throne, he must first face four 'trials.' Frederick has just thirty days, on his own, to discover, and solve the four trials. If he fails, then the evil Horde that waits outside the realm, will overrun the kingdom. For the thirty days, once at dawn and once at dusk, Frederick must climb up the watchtower and dream. What the dreams show, nobody knows for no prince has ever spoken about them, but how Prince Frederick responds will determine the fate of the kingdom. No other may enter the tower during the thirty days while the prince is tasked with solving the trials. Frederick is warned that magic will enter the tower, stairways will change, strange beings will appear, some to help, some to harm.
Meanwhile, back in the world of reality, Freddie begins his long journey of recovery. His leg has been saved, but it will take months of physical therapy before he can walk again. He is transferred to the VA Hospital in West Roxbury, MA, close to his childhood home on Cape Cod. The physical therapist assigned to the soldier is Becky Marshall, a woman who has brought many men back from the brink of despair. Becky is determined to get Freddie walking again, and works closely with him. As Freddie's body heals, it becomes clear that his emotional wounds are slower to resolve. Becky also realizes that her patient's wounds go all the way back to his childhood, when his family fell apart. Can Becky help Freddie resolve his issues, particularly since she's hiding secrets of her own?
Meanwhile, back in Stormwind, Prince Frederick is trying to solve the trials. Alas, the prince can't even figure out what the trials are, but he is starting to think that perhaps he isn't the right one to save the kingdom. When he wanders into the Royal Gardens one day, he meets a servant named Rebecca. At first Frederick suspects that the young woman is a demon sent to trick him in his trials, but he soon lets his guard down and the two form a friendship. Will Rebecca be able to help her prince solve the trials or might she lead him astray?
Along the Watchtower was an interesting mix of the real-life rehabilitation of a traumatized soldier with a fun fantasy story where the reader tries to solve the mystery along with Prince Frederick. Chapters are fairly short, with a full chapter devoted to one storyline, and then the next chapter switching to the other. The author easily and skillfully slipped between the two worlds so that there was no confusion or loss of flow. I was drawn into the story quickly and initially thought I preferred the fantasy world, but as the plot progressed, I was equally drawn into the real world drama. While the two stories seemed completely unrelated at the outset, as I read, I began to notice interesting similarities between the two. Without giving anything away, I'll simply say that both came to satisfying conclusions.
Quill says: Two stories for the price of one! Whether you prefer military stories or are more of a fantasy fan, pick up a copy of Along the Watchtower and be drawn into a quick reading book.