The Damned of Magdeburg

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
539 Pages
Reviewed on 08/22/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

The Damned of Magdeburg by H. Allenger is a historical fiction novel that chronicles the lead-up to the 17th-century Sack of Magdeburg, one of the most notorious massacres in world history. Allenger explores the human elements of a period that we don't really know much about, given that Magdeburg was ravaged and razed by flames. The creative lending of voice to wholly fictional people as well as real people significant enough to be portrayed in Allenger's fiction allows readers to immerse themselves in religious turbulence. To achieve this Allenger uses religious fanaticism as the plot markers, employing the seven deadly sins and having the characters of Magdeburg embody them in one form or another. The irony is cleverly intentional and as the story progresses inside the Protestant holdout of Magdeburg, it also escalates outside, where the Imperial Army and the Catholic League move their chess pieces toward the inevitable.

Historical fiction is tricky for a number of reasons, but when it revolves around the inevitable downfall of tens of thousands, both the reader and the author have to contend with knowing how it will ultimately end. It's like stories that take place on the Titanic. The reason why we always return to these stories is that, when done well, we don't care that we know how it ends. We only care about whether or not OUR people, our characters, survive. This is why The Damned of Magdeburg by H. Allenger works, and why I really enjoyed this novel. The beginning is going to turn people away because it's quite a complex amassing of information. Please push through. The actual story, the people, the characters—the book truly does read like normal fiction. The dialogue is robust even when it's not super 1600s-ey, and the dynamics within the individuals, families, homes and lives of Allenger's characters are entertaining. And that's what we're all here for, right? A jealous husband with a minxy wife, one character calling another a 'Renaissance man' during the actual Renaissance, and an introduction where a man asks, “Then you are single?” after a woman tells him her husband died in the war...I happily fist-pumped at these. The reality is that we don't want complete reality in a fiction novel and Allenger is merciful in not dumping facts on us. Instead, he allows us to enjoy the story and the people in it. Does it end well? Er. Not for most. Does it satisfy? Abso-Tserclaes-lutely. Very highly recommended.