A Tragic Warrior Lost in Two Worlds…
The war in Iraq ended for Lieutenant Freddie Williams when an IED explosion left his mind and body shattered. Once he was a skilled gamer and expert in virtual warfare. Now he’s a broken warrior, emerging from a medically induced coma to discover he’s inhabiting two separate realities. The first is his waking world of pain, family trials, and remorse—and slow rehabilitation through the tender care of Becky, his physical therapist. The second is a dark fantasy realm of quests, demons, and magic that Freddie enters when he sleeps.
In his dreams he is Frederick, Prince of Stormwind, who must make sense of his horrific visions in order to save his embattled kingdom from the monstrous Horde. His only solace awaits him in the royal gardens, where the gentle words of the beautiful gardener, Rebecca, calm the storms in his soul. While in the conscious world, the severely wounded vet faces a strangely similar and equally perilous mission—a journey along a dark road haunted by demons of guilt and memory—and letting patient, loving Becky into his damaged and shuttered heart may be his only way back from Hell.
[Full disclosure: I received a free paperback from David Litwack so I could review this book in conjunction with the blog tour. As always, this is an honest review.]
Having previously read David Litwack’s work I was expecting a novel that was mostly high fantasy or maybe even a combination of science fiction and fantasy. What I didn’t expect was a high fantasy story running in conjunction with a very real heart-wrenching story.
Freddie has had a crappy life. Both of his parents and his older brother are dead and he was severely injured in Iraq by an IED. Most of his squad died but he lived so in addition to his physical injuries there’s some pretty huge survivor guilt mixed in with PTSD. Add to that the fact that his developmentally disabled brother went missing because of him years ago and you’ve got the makings of a Shakespearean tragedy. You’d think a book with a plot like this would stray into opera level dramatics but it never does. David Litwack’s writing has improved since There Comes a Prophet so he gets just the right amount of emotion without ever becoming too sappy or cheesy.
His characters are very much three dimensional. Both Freddie and his alter ego Frederick are three dimensional characters facing (obviously) similar challenges. In the dreamworld all of Frederick’s challenges are a metaphor for what’s going on with Freddie in real life, from his rehabilitation to his growing feelings for his physiotherapist. Now a book like this could very easily stray into the territory of sexism because it would be easy to portray both Becky and Rebecca merely as background characters who help the hero reach his goal. That’s very much not true. Becky is a complicated woman with her own demons to look out for and she’s a very determined and competent physio. You can’t ask for much more than that where a romantic relationship is concerned: two people with their own problems come together slowly and try to work those problems out while acknowledging that some scars may never fully heal.
The plot isn’t fast-paced by most people’s standards but this is definitely a character driven novel. You’ll cheer for Freddie to succeed after going through so much and you’ll feel his pain as your own. He’s a very vivid character and his world of rehabilitation is brought to life by David Litwack’s amazing writing. Most people have never had physiotherapy but I have so I can tell you that the scenes between Becky and Freddie are pretty darn accurate (especially the attitudes of the medical staff). And to top it all off, this book ends on a satisfying note. Not all loose ends are tied up but enough are so that you’re pretty sure what happens to Freddie after the story.
Basically, this is just a good book. I’m so glad I joined the blog tour for it!
I give this book 5/5 stars.