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Reviewed by Teresa Syms for Readers' Favorite
Before the Fortress Falls by A. L. Sowards tells the story of Vienna’s attack by the Ottoman army. Wilhelm von Schor is a courtier under the Emperor. His brother Xavier, who has had a major falling out with Wilhelm, serves in the Emperor’s army, while their sister and Xavier’s twin, Katja, is reluctant to accept things in life and the court. As the city prepares for the Ottoman attack, the Emperor, Wilhelm, and their entourage flee the city in search of other armies that will come to Vienna’s aid. Katja desperately wants to stay in Vienna to find her brother and also to protect her beloved home and city. On her way back into the city, she encounters her childhood friend Toby. Katja and Toby discover they are still as linked as they were as children, and despite the battle raging on around them their bond grows. Katja volunteers in the church to bathe wounded soldiers and the sick. Every day she awaits word about Toby, who is set to work as a counterminer. A task that is extremely dangerous and deadly, but also vital to the war effort. When at her lowest, it is either Toby or Xavier who keeps Katja motivated and therefore keeps her faith. How will this end? Will the Ottoman Empire capture Vienna, its citizens, and enslave the people? Or will Vienna be saved through the help of other countries wishing to be free of the Ottomans? Will the city wall hold? This is a story of love, faith, and the desire to be free, no matter the cost.
I applaud A. L. Sowards’ Before the Fortress Falls. I have never before read a book that captivated me so completely. I fell into the story and was lost until the end of the book. The plot was so well developed, as were the characters. I could definitely relate to Katja and her strong, independent will. She loves fiercely and wants her family together. The way the author wrote different sections of the book which pertain to the main characters was brilliant, giving great care and attention to the main characters who are all fighting for the same thing…freedom and the ability to live as they wish. It is rare that a book holds my attention as well as Before the Fortress Falls did. A. L. Sowards is an incredible author and I truly look forward to reading more of their work. This was a fantastic story, steeped in history; full of strength, determination, and the human spirit and love. Not only love for one’s family, but a stronger love for one’s country, family, friends, and people. I highly recommend Before the Fortress Falls. It is an exceptional book.