Book Review, Children's Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction, Uncategorized, Young Adult

Book Review: The Revenge of Tirpitz by M.L. Sloan

Score: Four and a half out of five Storgy typewriters

Other books like this: Blitz by Robert Swindells.

Short Review: Faster paced than a Spitfire and more punch than a V2 bomb. The Revenge of Tirpitz is a told between now and the end of World War II. It is a story of mystery, espionage, revenge and friendship that is unputdownable. The book is marketed at Young Adult but I think upper middle grade readers would love it to.

 

Long Review: Cranachan Publishing may be a small Scottish press, and this may be M.L. Sloan’s debut novel, but wow this one packs a punch. The action starts on an amazing first page and never lets up. Here’s a taste of how it starts:

‘Take this gun,’ said the agent. ‘You will need it. There are Nazis everywhere.’

That hooked me in right away. I mean Nazis, agents, daring escapes, sabotage, betrayal, a horde of Nazi gold, what’s not to like?

M.L. Sloan tells the story of the sinking of the feared Nazi warship Tirpitz at the end of the Second World War, split between two timelines and two places: at the end of the war in Tromso, Norway, and in the present in the Shetland Isles. By the end of the book these two times and places come together for a dramatic ending.

In Norway during the war, we see a young boy Erik dealing with Nazi occupation of Norway, where he strikes up an unlikely friendship with a German radar operator named Hans. The Allies are trying to sink Tirpitz which is stationed in the fjord at Tromso. Not everything is as it seems, and the Resistance is trying to thwart the occupying Nazis.

Tirpitz.jpg

In Shetland, now, Finn and Gus, two teenage fisherman, discover their great-grandfather has been receiving threatening letters from modern-day-Nazis calling themselves the Werewolves. The letters say they are coming for him. They know what he did. They have his friend held hostage, and they are prepared to hurt his family. Reluctantly the boys help their great-grandfather, Olde, escape his old peoples’ home. After which they are pursued by the Werewolves. They flee to Norway across the sea to try and finish what Olde started many years ago.

I really enjoyed this book. It was almost tailor made for me. My grandfather, a Major in the army during the war, spent much of it based in Shetland. I go to Norway several times a year, and I’ve been to beautiful Tromso in the Spring, when the sun never really sets. And to top it off I’m learning Norwegian. However, even if this wasn’t the case, I’d have really liked this book.

M.L. Sloan tells the story very skilfully, splitting it up into lightening fast short chapters, which all end with a cliff-hanger. The pages fly through your hands; try to keep up. All the characters are well drawn, and their relationships they have is what makes the story.

Finn and Gus start out with a generation gap between themselves and their great-grandfather. Erik is Norwegian and shouldn’t be striking up a friendship with a German soldier. People at war must keep secrets and you can’t be sure who you can trust, but trust and taking risks is what people need to do when fighting a war. And with the rise of far-right nationalism across Europe at the moment the modern part of the story feels very relevant.

The novel is also well researched. You can tell the author has gone to the trouble of finding out about fishing boats, sailing in storms, how to sabotage various things, the landscape and language, everything feels real. Even the Werewolves is historically spot on. During the Weirmar Republic there were groups of Nazi mobs, semi-organised groups of thugs, who called themselves Werewolves because the mythical beasts had a different savage-romantic meaning to the Nazis. This research gives the reader a sense of really being there with the characters, absorbed in their fates.

The only thing I thought wasn’t good was the cover design. The pictures of the war boat Tripritz, the British bomber and the fjord were great. However, I felt the sea eagle and the two disembodied heads of the boys made the cover a little too busy and jarred with the content. This is really such a small gripe that it isn’t a reason not to buy the book. I mention it because the cover would put me off when skimming for a new book. Sadly, we do judge books by their covers, even though as in life and this book, we shouldn’t.

To sum up, this is a fast, exciting adventure, split between two times for 11 years old and up. It is a story of heroism, bravery and the costs those heroes experience. World War II, Nazi’s, a hunt for gold, a great chase and a race against time. If you like that kind of thing, you’ll love this.

Reviewed by Daniel Soule

The Revenge of Tirpitz is published by Cranachan Publishing and is available to buy here.

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Michelle lives in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, with her husband, three children and feisty cat Lola. In between chauffeuring her small people here, there and everywhere, wiping noses and tempering toddler tantrums, she squeezes in precious writing time.

Find out more about M.L. Sloan here. Buy the book here.

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