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Last Citadel: A Novel of the Battle of Kursk Mass Market Paperback – April 27, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 97 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tigers and T-34s lock horns in this dramatization of the 1943 battle for Kursk, in southwestern Russia, the greatest tank battle in the history of armored warfare. In his fifth novel, Robbins (War of the Rats; The End of War) explores the maelstrom from the perspective of a rich ensemble cast. The Berkos are a family divided by politics: Dimitri Berko, the patriarch, is an old-school Cossack driving a T-34 under the command of his estranged son, Valentin, a fervent Communist; daughter Katya is a Night Witch bomber pilot. The Berkos square off against Luis de Vega, a Spanish captain fresh from Franco's Blue Division, now in an SS tank brigade commanding the dreaded new Mark VI Tiger, a behemoth so heavily armored it is considered impervious to Russian guns. Caught in the middle of this is Abram Breit, a Nazi intelligence officer secretly funneling information to the Soviets. Separate plane crashes land Katya and Breit in the hands of the same Russian partisan band; meanwhile, Dimitri and Valentin are locked in suicidal combat with de Vega's SS tanks and troops. Robbins's writing might be tighter, but he livens his tale with striking incongruities: the final battle for Kursk takes place in a field of sunflowers. Serious WWII buffs may quibble with some of Robbins's portrayals of battles, hardware and key figures. But the real story here is the duel between de Vega and Berko, both of whom are torn from their natural environments (de Vega from his bullfighting, Berko from his horses) by the war and made to serve ideologies that will destroy the ways of life they left behind.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The battle for the Soviet city of Kursk in July 1943 during World War II involved two million soldiers. Code-named Citadel, it was Hitler's frenzied--and final--attempt to defeat Russia on the eastern front and was the largest buildup of German armed power of the war. Robbins re-creates the battle in this rousing novel: its characters being Hitler; his generals and advisers; Russian, German, and Spanish foot soldiers and tank drivers; fighter pilots (both men and women); partisans; and even elderly men and women digging trenches. Robbins, author of War of the Rats (1999) and Scorched Earth (2002), has done extensive research into the weapons and planes used in the battle, bringing to life the horrors of war. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (April 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553583123
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553583120
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #658,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David W. Straight on August 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This has a flavor similar to that of the author's excellent
War of the Rats. As with Rats, the chapters switch back and
forth between Russian protagonists (a T-34 tank driver, his
sons who commands the tank, his daughter who is a pilot) and
two Germans (an intelligence officer and a tank captain--who
is actually a Spaniard). As with Rats, or Len Deighton's
Bomber, there is a good amount of technical detail--particularly
regarding the T-34 and Tiger tanks--design strengths and flaws,
what it's like to be in one, and this adds a lot to the novel.
Too many war novels like to employ the device of having an evil
antagonist--someone who relishes torturing prisoners, etc, and
who gets his comeuppance in the end. Neither Rats nor this
novel use this device, thank goodness. Engrossing and well-
written!
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Format: Hardcover
David Robbins' Last Citadel is one of the most compelling, exciting and impressive novels I've read in years. I can't remember the last time I read a book like this, one I literally couldn't put down. The epic backdrop of the battle for Kursk - where Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany engaged in history's largest and bloodiest battle - serves as an unforgettable stage, meticulously researched and panoramically rendered. Amazingly, the intense conflicts of the novel's characters exist larger than the titanic clash playing out behind them. Dimitri Berko, once a Cossack, now drives a Russian tank alongside his Communist son, still trying to teach a young man who no longer thinks he needs the wisdom of his father, hoping for one final chance of communion before the two of them face almost certain death. At the same time, Dimitri's daughter, Katya, guides Russian bombers to German targets, a "Night Witch" circling overhead. The stakes couldn't be higher for this family at war. Luis De Vega, the Spanish bullfighter commanding Germany's invincible Tiger tank, rolls closer and closer to Dimitri and Valentin, seething from past wounds, more dangerous than the stabbed bulls he once drove to the ground. The complexity of Abram Breit, a Nazi SS officer turned spy for the Russians, is particularly striking - a man who sees his apocalyptic world reflected in the work of the Cubist painters of his time, broken down into key universal elements that transcend both war and politics. The last battle scene is absolutely riveting, in itself worth the price of admission. The Last Citadel is a grand-slam novel, perfect.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an extremely well written work. Like the British historian-novelist David Howarth, David Robbins is able to take an enormous yet isolated incident and wrap it around three separate stories, a Spanish officer in the German Panzer Division trying to recapture his dignity after a near fatal shooting the year before, a young Russian woman trying to find her pilot lover shot down behind enemy lines, and a father and son on both sides of Russian Communism incarcerated in tight, hellish quarters in a Russian T-34 Tank during the Battle of Kursk in July of 1943.
All this unfolds in the largest tank battle ever culminating with the American invasion of Sicily on July 11, 1943.
You don't have to be a WWII buff to be thoroughly mesmerized by this book, but as in reading an Alan Furst novel, it helps. Professor Robbins deftly paints an accurate view of Hitler's last stand in Russia after the savage defeat of the Germans at Stalingrad, rolling the dice before the Americans enter the war in Europe, thereby turning his near impossible two front war into the resulting three front war.
Yet Robbins does this with beautiful writing. At one point he describes a train station where a passenger train lays in wait while tracks are replaced from a bombing 12 hours earlier: "It had no roof left, just scored beams, and it's sills were marred with brows of soot." Later Katya, about whom one of the stories revolves, awakens before her night mission as some other aircraft take off. "Once they took off [she] listened to the silence return . . . serrated only by crickets and a mechanic hammering at something stubborn."
While telling his stories the description of the battle takes on a more vivid meaning as the reader has humans to appreciate as Churchill wrote, 'their blood, sweat and tears.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Kursk 1943 -- Time and place of the German summer-offensive, codenamed "Citadel". And the Berko clan has gone to war according to its Cossack tradition, as a family. Father Dimitri and son Valentin rumble over the steppe in the cramped confines of their new T-34 tank. Meanwhile, daughter Ekaterina prowls the night skies in her antiquated biplane, braving searchlights and flak to bomb Nazi targets. Raiding Partisan bands strike fear in fascist and friend alike, ruthlessly recruiting men from suffering Ukrainian villages that can ill afford their loss. "Last Citadel" is the third book in Robbins' trilogy of the Eastern Front of World War ll. Like his previous novels, the latest presents the viewpoint from participants of both sides of the conflict, the Soviet and the Reich. Like the earlier novels, this one is impressively researched. The bibliography section looks remarkably like my own Amazon "Listmania!" pages; this should indicate my excitement upon receiving this book! "Last Citadel" is a tighter read than its predecessors. The narrative is much more flowing than the stilted, present-tense format of "The End of War"; and there are none of the distracting sexual vignettes of "War of the Rats". The characterizations are original and quite good. Dimitri, the Berko patriarch, is a Cossack from Tsarist times, contemptuous of the Bol'sheviks. His son Valya is an ardent young Communist and also his father's superior officer. Katya's martial motivation, whether flying her bomber or riding her Partisan steed, is simply to bring honor to her clan. SS Panzergrenadier Luis de Vega, a Spanish Fascist, is driven by his lust for vengeance against the Reds. And Col. Abram Breit, erstwhile Nazi spy, is secretly aiding the Soviets.Read more ›
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