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Megiddo's Shadow Paperback – September 8, 2006
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 7 Up–An engrossing and thought-provoking story of a young man fighting in World War I. Upon learning of his brother's death at the German front, 16-year-old Edward Bathe lies about his age and enlists, leaving Canada and his father's farm for England. When he injures himself training a horse, he meets Emily Waters, an army nurse. Their relationship progresses through letters when Emily transfers to the front. A move from the infantry to the yeomanry starts Edward's war in earnest, but his plans to avenge his brother's death are altered when he is sent to Palestine to fight the Turks. Soldiers die from the heat and disease, horses fall in action, and friends die in battle. The young man's faith in God and in humanity are shaken, and he returns to Canada injured in body and spirit. All of the characters are fully realized, from Edward, a church-going innocent, to his Uncle Nix, a friend of the family and an army colonel who spouts platitudes about people in the Empire having to dig in and give but who honestly believes what he says. Edward's camaraderie with his tent mates keeps him reasonably sane until he discovers that one of them enjoys killing. Megiddo's Shadow is the perfect book to have on hand for the ever-popular historical-fiction assignment, but don't purchase it for only that reason. Buy it because it is a powerful book that needs to be read.–Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
After his older brother is killed in World War I, a devastated 16-year-old Edward cares for the family farm while his depressed father lays mute in bed. In his pain and anger, Edward vows to continue his brother's fight and help defeat the Huns. Lying about his age, he enlists in the Canadian army and is shipped to England to embark on his tour of duty. There he is transferred to a cavalry unit destined to fight the Turks and begins a tentative romance with a young nurse. Edward's coming-of-age story culminates in the plains near Megiddo, the ruins of King Solomon's city, where it is said Armageddon will take place and Satan will "climb out of hell and gather his armies." Slade skillfully integrates the plot-driven war narrative with the more psychological underpinning of loss: loss of a loved one and loss of innocence. A solid addition to teen war fiction, this book expands the comparatively small body of realistic World War I novels for this age group. Holly Koelling
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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The book is dedicated to five members of the Slade family who all fought in the Great War and only one did not come home. The story follows real battles and encounters during the war. It provides the family insight and possibly some family tales and legends, but even so, this story is an incredible read. As we follow young Bathe on a journey to war, he will find what it means to become a man. The writing was amazing and you will not be able to put the book down.
The historical detail is bang-on and Edward's day to day experiences are so real that the reader can practically feel the grit of sand in her teeth. There is much in this novel that is very mature but it's handled deftly. I found myself weeping many times as I suffered Edward's losses. A compelling read.
If my memory serves, I do not think there is a village or town in France and England that does not have a memorial to the fallen of The Great War. World War I does not loom as large in the memory of Americans. In Megiddo's Shadow, Slade takes the reader to a lesser known front of that war, to Palestine in the Middle East.
Sixteen-year-old Edward Bathe leaves his farm in Saskatchewan, Canada and joins the army after receiving the news that his beloved older brother Hector has been killed in France. All he wants to do is get to the front and kill the Hun who took his brother's life but upon arrival in England he is transfered to the Fifth Imperial Remount unit to break horses. He chafes at the assignment but does meet a horse who will be part of his future when he is reassigned to the Lincolnshire Yeomanry. Slade describes the role of these units on his website :
"Yeomanry were different than cavalry--they were trained to be foot soldiers and mounted soldiers. The idea was that they could ride quickly to their destination and dismount and fight. Or they could charge. They were even taught to get their horses to lay down, so they could use them as cover. The regiment was also trained to use the sword or lance in a charge."
Edward and his horse, Buke become part of the British Expeditionary Force in Palestine. The description of desert warfare is unforgettable.
"A month later, in July, I was sent to hell...
...We fed and watered our horses, working through the night because the day would be too hot for us to lift a finger. As the sun rose, it revealed a desolation only the Devil could've dreamed up: a low, flat valley of white marl and salt, spotted with swamp, stony plain, patches of dense scrub, and a thin layer of dry grass. The land had never know rain. Lumps of dried flesh--dead camels--lay here and there as though dropped from the sky, a sky that had never seen a cloud. A hot breath of wind drove the salty dust into my eyes. Occasionally, a thirteen-pounder gun would roar just to let the Turks know that His Majesty's troops were still here."
Very much a classic boy-goes-to-war novel in the tradition of The Red Badge of Courage (Tor Classics),All Quiet on the Western Front or Fallen Angels, Edward experiences the comradeship of soldiers, a first love and the grim reality of warfare. He faces the loss of those he loves and his faith in God as he struggles to find meaning and survive.
Slade relates his grandfather and great uncles' true stories on his website. They are as gripping and heartfelt as the novel and are very much the inspiration for this book. The letter Edward and his father receive about Hector is taken almost verbatim from the real letter the Slade family received about Percy Slade.
Moving, emotional and wrenching at times, this is historical fiction at its finest. I will be reading more of Arthur Slade's writing in the future.