My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ellie Midwood, expert of World War II historical fiction, has done it again. She’s crafted a gripping, emotional tale about the everyday person who lived through such harrowing times.
In Of Knights and Dogfights, we meet two young men just starting flight school, on the verge of the war. More-reserved Johann Brandt and free-spirit Wilhelm “Willi” von Sielaff are roommates at flying school, in addition to Rudi and Walter, two other characters who play lesser roles in novel. Johann and Willi quickly kick it off and become best buddies, having each other’s backs throughout the story.
Once the war begins, Johann and Willi are official pilots for the Luftwaffe (the German Air Force). They fight over the English Channel, in North Africa, and even on the awful Eastern Front. Like most young soldiers, they have dreams of glory and honor as fighting men. They are serving their country, believing they were doing something right and good…until the dark truths behind the Nazi Regime creep out between the cracks. Willi, the more outspoken of the two, is especially adamant on where he stands. He hates everything the Nazis stand for. Johann is of a like mind, but he keeps his mouth shut, not wishing to cause trouble.
Ellie Midwood does such an amazing job of humanizing who we as readers might at first think of as the enemy, because, after all, Johann and Willi are Germans, and they would have been our (I am American) adversaries during the war had they been real people. What’s clear, and this is historically accurate, is that many of the common soldiers, including those serving in the Luftwaffe, disliked the SS, who were basically Hitler’s power-hungry thugs who worked for him. It’s important to remember that on both sides during a war, the common, everyday soldier is not evil. He (or she) is fighting for their country.
Over the course of the story, the innocence of boyhood and childhood dreams is stripped away from both Johann and Willi as they endure the horrors of war, hatred, and persecution. To stand for what’s right in the face of such evil is deeply admirable, and I thank Ellie Midwood for tackling such serious and heavy topics in her books. Of Knights and Dogfights is the fourth book of hers I’ve had the privilege to read and review, and like I say every time, I highly recommend it.