For the fans of Hugh Ashton’s other alternate-history novel, Beneath Gray Skies, this novel also features that book’s protagonist, Brian Finch-Malloy.
Now I have never read Beneath Gray Skies, but this wasn’t a hindrance at all, as Red Wheels Turning is set a few years before the events in the earlier novel. Therefore you do not have to have read them in the right order, even though they are part of the same timeline. Where the next installment will fit in this timeline I’m not sure, but for now you’re fine reading this one without the other.
The story begins in the trenches in Flanders, Belgium in the autumn of 1915, where Lieutenant Finch-Malloy serves under a less than competent commanding officer together with his best friend, Sergeant Harry Braithwaite. He receives orders from London to report to the Secret Intelligence branch. Playing it clever, he manages to drag Harry along with him and securing his friend a commission as an officer before their departure.
There they are send off into their new mission together with the Russian Colonel Alexei Petrov, who is not all he seems to be.
Regardless they set off to Russia to uncover a British spy for the Germans, stop dastardly Russian Revolutionaries and see about some new Russian inventions that may or may not turn victory in the war to their side.
I personally am not a fan at all of war stories, but I found myself thoroughly enjoying this one. It’s written in a captivating way, making it easy to keep your focus on the story. The reader is provided with enough information about the characters to understand what makes them tick the way they do without needing lengthy descriptions about their personal history. And there are enough twists and turns to keep it fresh and interesting throughout the entire book.
The author’s mix of historical facts and fictional ones fits his style and the story perfectly. I also like that he’s managed to make it quite clear just how bad things were during the war without having to go into gruesome details and page-long battle scenes. That, for me personally, is a definite bonus.
If you like alternate history, inventions and political machinations, you’ll enjoy this as much as I did.