Of Knights and Dogfights

A WWII Novel

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
426 Pages
Reviewed on 01/21/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers' Favorite

Ellie Midwood’s Of Knights and Dogfights is set before and during World War II and tells the story of four young men who join the flying school at Schwechat near Vienna in 1938. Coming from different backgrounds, they all share a love of flying for the freedom and the dangers. We meet Johann and Willi, complete opposites, Rudi and Walt, who is half-Jewish. When war breaks out, they are sent off to fight for Germany in Europe, North Africa, and later on the Eastern Front. Not all of them survive the war, but long before it is over, they begin to question the reasons and rationale, and whether they are fighting for the right side. They have doubts about the Nazi regime, the sanity of Hitler and the lies and propaganda they are expected to believe.

When I chose this book to review, I was not sure I would enjoy it as much as this author’s other novels. I am a great fan of her work and Of Knights and Dogfights is one of her best. Midwood did not disappoint. This is not a ‘man’s’ book despite its detailed descriptions of the dog fights, the handling of the planes and the aerial tactics. Topics of friendship, beliefs, morals and comradeship are all explored as these teenagers fly one mission after another. The slow dawning of what part these brave young men were being forced to play on the chessboard of an insane man’s dreams was masterful. In places I smiled, in others my eyes filled with tears. Midwood knows how to spin her words as she takes you to the desert in North Africa, then to the frozen wastelands of Russia. She pulls no punches in describing the brutality and the gut-wrenching scenes against the backdrop of a shameful period in history.

What made this book really special for me was the realization that while the Nazis/Germans have been vilified for the part they played in World War II, there were many fine, upstanding people who did not share those beliefs and stuck to their values until the very end and even beyond. I was amazed to read that the two main characters were based on the lives of real people who flew for the Luftwaffe. I can’t praise this book highly enough and I wish I could give it more than 5 stars. It stands head and shoulders above any other World War II novel I’ve ever read.

Trudi LoPreto

Of Knights and Dogfights by Ellie Midwood is a World War II historical novel that is different than any I have read before. The story is told through the eyes of Johann, a young German boy. He enlists and goes to flying school, sharing a room with three other young men, and they quickly become the Four Musketeers. They work hard to learn how to fly and are soon send off to fight the war. Johann and Willi form a bond that is stronger than brothers. The two make an exceptional team and become the best flying aces of WWII. Willi is wild and sometimes reckless while Johann tries to stay calm and keep Willi controlled. The two encounter battles, hate, and violence, with themes of friendships, death, love, years of being held as prisoners, and so much more together.

I found it fascinating to peek into the mind of the German soldier and see that they had the same doubts, fears and concerns as the boys fighting on the American side. They questioned the rules, regulations and ethics of Hitler and the Nazi party and silently wondered if they were fighting on the right side. The portrait of all they gave up, but mostly their youth and who they were forced to become, was sad and painful to read. Author Ellie Midwood did a superb job of telling their story and putting the reader right into the cockpits, and into the battles of both the war and within Johann's and Willi’s minds. I was surprised to find out that while the story is written as fiction, two real life men are the inspiration for the book. If you like reading about the history of WWII, then this book is a must as you will look at the war in a very different way.

K.C. Finn

Of Knights and Dogfights is a historical novel set during the Second World War, penned by author Ellie Midwood. This superb work focuses on the other side of the fight, on a group of young men in Austria, training for the Luftwaffe in 1938. As the precipice of war awaits, the group of very different young men is thrust into a terrifying regime under the pretense of defending their countries and their families, but when the war begins for real, they begin to doubt the reasons for which they fight. Willi and Johann in particular struggle with the infighting among the regular soldiers and the terrifying SS, discovering more and more horrible truths about what’s going on back home.

Ellie Midwood is a well researched author in her field, and this triumphant work really shows it. I adore the conflicted concept of following heroes who are perceived to be on the dark side of history, and I feel that Willi and Johann’s experience is a much more common and relatable one for the people of Europe than those terrifying few monsters who took control of everyone else and drove the world to destruction. The prose is beautiful, the dialogue clear but arranged in a style which makes it sound authentically Austrian throughout. The overarching plot of war is perfectly balanced against the character narrative to create a tale which speaks for the individual as well as the overall political tale. I would highly recommend Of Knights and Dogfights to all historical fiction fans looking for an accomplished tale.