Book Review: Pass of Fire by Taylor Anderson

Posted August 14, 2019 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Pass of Fire by Taylor Anderson

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Pass of Fire by Taylor Anderson
Genres: Alternative World, Military Science Fiction
Published by Ace Books on June 11, 2019
Pages: 480
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Straits of Hell, Deadly Shores, Blood in the Water, Devil's Due, River of Bones

Fourteenth in the Destroyermen military science fiction in an alternate world series and revolving around an increasingly smaller group of human sailors from a pair of destroyers from our World War II world working to survive with the various species of this alternate world.

Do consider reading the initial chapter, Our History Here, as it’s a useful summary of the action to-date.

My Take

Whew, another terrifying tale — that’s species- and character-driven with lots and lots of military action leavened by humor — in the Destroyermen series that had me stopping and starting so I could keep my heart rate and emotions under control!

As always it’s good versus evil with massive sacrifices on all fronts, men who interpret the progress of a battle and do what they must, including a massive betrayal against his own.

It astonishes me how bigoted the Doms are about those “animals”!

“Is it not amazing to be able to converse with animals? Perhaps they might make suitable slaves. Even pets!”

It does make for a nice contrast for the Lemurians who view both males and females as equals…and a lot of females have a command.

The enemies have improved their weapons and their battle tactics, and it’s dang scary. Halik’s New Army is an excellent example, and I certainly appreciate Enaak and Svec’s concerns about Halik’s loyalties. On the one hand it’s amazing how educated Halik’s army has become, which also makes it a greater menace. Even worse are the citizens of the Dominion — including women and children! — who join in with the Blood Drinkers to fight. It’s that cold approach and the Doms’ evil that makes me appreciate Orrin Reddy’s new battle plan. Gruesome, but effective.

Ooh-wee, the confrontation and “education” of the Giver of Life is fascinating. She isn’t stupid and has been questioning Esshk’s and the Chooser’s actions for a while. It’s a nice switch on my impression of her and her mother in previous stories. It’s also been a fascinating evolution of the Grik throughout the series. Witness Halik’s army

Hmm, Palace of Vanished Gods… Anderson does talk of the Grik architecture and that some of it must have been done by an earlier race whom the Grik drove out or that a more evolved Grik had created. Now that sounds like a bit of foreshadowing…!

Anderson includes a fascinating bit of back history on how the League arrived in this world, including that they brought a huge chunk of that world’s Tripoli onto this world’s!

Fiedler has some terrifying news for the Alliance about the power of the League albeit tempered by the League’s manufacturing issues while Don Hernan’s attitude to people who don’t care for the Dominion’s idea of ruling is also terrifying. Even Gravois is appalled. Gravois’d better be careful though, for Don Hernan will turn on anyone.

I love it! I love it! Rebecca and Saan-Kakja finally get reamed out! And the Gentaa actions will shock you…almost as much as they shock the Republic.

Yep, it’s easy enough with third person global subjective point-of-view to “listen in” on all sides and on important characters to gain our own perspective on them and events.

And in his quiet way, Lawrence is a hero.

The Story

Time is running out for the Grand Alliance of humans and Lemurians. The longer they take to prepare for their confrontations with the reptilian Grik, the Holy Dominion, and the League of Tripoli, the stronger their enemies become. Ready or not, they have to move — or the price in blood will break them.

Matt Reddy and his battered old destroyer USS Walker lead the greatest army the humans and their Lemurian allies have ever assembled up the Zambezi toward the ancient Grik capital city, even as the army of the Republic of Real People approach from the south. Standing against them is the largest, most dangerous force of Grik yet gathered.

On the far side of the world, General Shinya and his Army of the Sisters are finally prepared for their long-expected assault on the mysterious El Paso del Fuego. Not only is the dreaded Dominion ready and waiting for them; they’ve formed closer, more sinister ties with the fascist League of Tripoli.

Everything is on the line in both complex, grueling campaigns, and the Grand Alliance is stretched to its breaking point. Victory is the only option, whatever the cost, because there can be no second chances.

The Characters

The Grand Alliance consists of…

…the United States Navy, the United Homes of the Mi-Anakka, a.k.a., Lemurians or ‘Cats, Maa-ni-la, Aryaal, B’mbaado, North Borno, Austraal, the Imperials, the Khonashi, the Shee-ree, the Maroons, the Empire of the New Britain Isles (Imperials, a.k.a., Impies) ruled by Governor Empress Rebecca Anne McDonald (Sean Bates is her steward), the High Chief of Maa-ni-la and all the Fil-pin Lands Saan-Kakja (Meksnaak is her steward), and more. The capital and headquarters of the Alliance is based at Baalkpan, Borno.

Commander (Cdr) Alan Letts is the Chairman of the United Homes and the Grand Alliance. Henry Stokes is the director of strategic intelligence. Cdr Steve “Sparks” Riggs is the Minister of Electrical Contrivances.

I’m not sure who the La-laantis are, even if they do wear fishskin kilts.

The Grik War Front

Sofesshk, which is…
…the capital of the Grik empire and is divided into regular Sofesshk and old Sofesshk and set on the Zambezi River in Africa. The Allied base is the Rest and Reorganization Area at the mouth of the Zambezi, a.k.a., Camp Simy, and surrounds Arracca Field, a new airstrip.

Captain Matthew Reddy is High Chief of the American Navy (and Marine) Clan and Commander-in-Chief of All Allied Forces (CINCAF) and commands the USS Walker. Juan Marcos is Reddy’s self-appointed one-legged steward. Cdr Brad “Spanky” McFarlane is Matt’s XO and Minister of Naval Engineering. Ensign Min-Sakir “Minnie” is the ‘Cat talker. Lt Tab-At “Tabby” is the engineering officer who loves Spanky. Spanky reckons she’s a better engineer than he ever was. More of the crew include Chief Isak Reuben who is one of the original Mice, Corporal Neely is an Imperial Marine learning ship signals and handling, Lieutenant (Lt) Ed Palmer is the signal officer, Chief Quartermaster Paddy Rosen, Chief Bosun’s Mate Jeek is with Special Air Division, Cdr Bernard Sandison is the torpedo officer and Minister of Experimental Ordnance, Cdr Toos-Ay-Chil was swiped for First Officer/Damage-Control, Earl Lanier is the original cook, Lt Sonny Campeti is gunnery officer, and Surgeon Lt Pam Cross is involved with Silva.

Ships include the USS Walker and the Mahan, both original destroyers; the USS Fitzhugh Gray, an all-steel light cruiser and their most powerful warship commanded by Cdr Toru Miyata, a Japanese defector; the USS Savoie, a captured League superdreadnaught still working her crew up, one that includes Gunnery Sgt Arnold Horn as acting gunnery officer with Cdr Russ Chappelle; and, the USS James Ellis, a DD-21.

The Republic monitors, RRPS Ancus and Servius, will join in along with Des-Ron 10 with USS Bowles, Saak-Fas, Clark, Kas-Ra-Ar, and Ramic-Sa-Ar. Tarakaan Island is a self-propelled floating dry dock.

Admiral (Adm) Keje-Fris-Ar, a ‘Cat, is Matt’s deputy and closest Lemurian friend and the High Chief of USNRS Salissa, a.k.a., Big Sal, originally a seagoing Home and now one of five aircraft carriers. Captain Jis-Tikkar “Tikker” is COFO of Big Sal‘s 1st Naval Air Wing. Also aboard are Minister of Medicine and Surgeon Cdr Sandra Tucker Reddy, Matt’s pregnant wife. Diania, an expat Impie gal, is Sandra’s companion/steward/bodyguard — Gunny Horn is nuts about her. T’nis is a Sky Priest who will attend Lady Sandra’s rites.

Colonel (Col) Ben Mallory is in charge of the Army and Naval Air Corps. Lt Cdr Mark Leedom is commander of flight operations at Arracca Field with 2nd Lt Cecil Dixon as his ops officer. Lt Walt “Jumbo” Fisher, a fighter pilot, commands Pat-Squad 22. General of the Sky Hideki Muriname, had been under Kurokawa from the Amagi, who now claims he’d have switched alliances…only Sandra, Diania, and Horn remember him from their imprisonment.

General (Gen) Pete Alden commands the Armies and Marines, except for the Republic. Gen Rin-Taaka-Ar is on the far left. General Muln Rolak, another ‘Cat, had been the Lord Protector of Aryall now protector of Queen Safir Maraan, and now commands I Corps and is Alden’s second-in-command. Gen Taa-leen‘s 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st (Galla) Division under Rolak’s I Corps.

Col Chack-Sab-At, a ‘Cat, leads the 1st Amalgamated Raiders, a.k.a., Chack’s Brigade, the most combat-hardened force in the western theater. Risa is the sister he lost. Major (Maj) Alistair Jindal, a one-armed Impie, is Chack’s XO and commander of the Twenty-first. Chack is mated to the pregnant General Queen Safir Marran who commands II Corps. Gen Mersaak leads 3rd Division. First Sgt Moe has volunteered to go with Chack’s Raiders; he’s got a new mate. Sergeant (Sgt) Pokey had been a captured Grik. Lt Isaa-Kaas is with the 1st Battalion, 9th Maa-ni-la. Capt McIntyre, who is with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Respite, now commands Jindal’s regiment.

Chief Gunner’s Mate Dennis Silva is a wild cannon who thrives on chaos and calamity, mayhem and destruction and is very effective. He’d also a friend of Chack’s. Lawrence, a Grik-like Tagranesi, is Silva’s best friend. Petey is a pet flying lizard.

Maj Abel Cook will take command of the First North Borno, composed of Khonaashi, a tribe of humans and Grik-like beings from North Borno. Cook is still a lieutenant (jg) in the American Navy Clan. Maj I’joorka, a Khonaashi, its former commander, is not yet recovered. Maj Enrico Galay, an Impie, commands the 7th; his Impie Capt Randal Milke is, tragically, not a free-thinker and is with Company B, 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, and new to the 7th which he takes over. Gen Grisa has taken over VI Corps.

The Mk-II Grikoshai, a.k.a., Grik Smushers, are improved tanks. Sgt Kaalo will become a division commander, tank commander, and driver of his tank. Lt Nat Hardee is in command of the PT boats, MTB-Ron-1 (motor torpedo boat).

Col Will commands a division of Maroons (humans who share an ancestry with the Imperials) and Sheeree (Lemurians who never fled the Grik) from Madagascar. Lt Cols Durai and Naasra are part of Will’s command.

Oberleuitnant Kurt Hoffman is the skipper of the U-112, a German type XIB submarine left behind by Gravois to report on the Alliance. Oberleuitnant Walbert Fiedler is a pilot known to Silva, Chack, and Matt, for the information he has passed to the Alliance.

Hij Geerki is an independent-thinking Grik who was taken as a pet by Rolan in Madagascar.

Cdr Russ Chappelle sunk the USS Santa Catalina in River of Bones, 13, in what is referred to as the Neckbone by the Alliance, the nakkle leg by the Grik, and Iron Bottom Channel by Silva.

The enemy here is…

…the Gharrichk’k Empire, a.k.a., the Grik, who are ruled, supposedly, by the absolute godlike ruler, the Celestial Mother, the Giver of Life, who lives in the Palace of Vanished Gods. First Gen Regent Champion Esshk is in command of the army as well as the chief advisor to the Celestial Mother. The Chooser (he chooses which Grik babies go into the cookpots, can live, or will become Hij) has been in cahoots with Esshk. The Hij are the ruling leisure class, which Esshk has destroyed. The Uul are the lower class and worth nothing. First of One Hundred Sagat is a Dorrighsti (a Dark Hunter) and directly under Esshk, loyal only to him, identifiable by the black and red slash marks.

Second Gen Ign is second-in-command to Esshk. We first met Jash in River of Bones, and he’s risen high, now a ker-noll in command of Jash’s Slashers. Ker-noll Naxa has been with Jash throughout. Ker-noll Shelg becomes Jash’s new XO.

Lieutenant Misuo Ando was Muriname’s former XO, who is now Esshk’s General of the Sky. He may hate and fear the Grik, but he’ll help them nevertheless. Cdr Riku is an old comrade of Ando’s. Yanone is the new weapon Ando has created. Eighth Gen Alk will start the attack. Tenth Gen Kuaka will mass for a flank attack. Regent Consort Tsalka had been based in Ceylon.

The War Front of the Army of the Republic of Real People is…

…coming up from South Africa and composed of humans, Lemurians, and Gentaa, who are a more human-like Lemurian who keep to themselves and have sewn up the heavy-labor industry. The Dominus is the Gentaa supervisor. Doocy Meek, a ship’s engineer on another world, is their ambassador to Baalkpan. Nig-Taak is its Lemurian kaiser. The SMS Amerika was a German ship that fell into this world and became the Republic’s flagship.

Inquisitor Choon is the Republic’s spymaster. Gen Taal-Gaak, cavalry, is a rival with Choon for Bekiaa’s affections. Gen Faan-Ma-Maar‘s command includes 3rd and 12th Corps as well as Col Saachic‘s 1st Cavalry Brigade. Gen Loi-Ta-Saa commands 9th Division, Gen Priaa-Ka commands 11th Division, and Gen Mu-Tai commands 12th Corps and hasn’t a lot of experience.

Courtney Bradford is one of the original Destroymen, an Australian naturalist/engineer fascinated by this world, and ambassador to the Republic. Col (Legate) Bekiaa-Sab-At commands the 5th Division of the Army which includes her own 23rd, 1st, and 14th Legions. Prefect Bele is her XO. Optio Jack Meek is Doocy’s son and Bekiaa’s aide. Centurion Honlee Fiske commands the 2nd Century of the 14th Legion. Col Naaris is in command of the 1st Legion and won’t believe Bele.

Cantets are Republican biplanes.

The enemy here is…

Fifth General Akor, who is battling the Republican Army.

The Holy Dominion War Front

El Corazon, near El Paso del Fuego is…
…a coming battle between the Grand Alliance and the Holy Dominion. The Pass of Fire is incredibly important as it is the only navigable channel between the Pacific and the Atlantic.

Commander-in-Chief of All Allied Forces (CINCEAST) High Adm Jenks, an Imperial whose flagship is the Maaka-Kakja, a.k.a., Makky-Kat, captained by Flag Capt Tex Sheider and with Fleet (Vice) Adm Lelaa-Tal-Cleraan on board. Chief Gilbert Yeager is Isak’s half-brother and the second of the Mice. Second Lt Orrin Reddy, Matt’s favorite cousin and a former prisoner of the Hidoiame, is now senior COFO in Second Fleet. Sgt Kuaar-Ran-Taak “Seepy” is Orrin’s usual backseater while Sgt Humphrey, an Impie Marine, is a substitute. Ez “Easy” Shiaa leads the 7th Pursuit Squadron. Daakr is the Raan-Goon‘s COFO. Col Fao-Nuaak is the Gri-maax Lead.

General Tomatsu Shinya, a Japanese soldier who defected, is in command. General James Blair, an Imperial, commands X Corps and is Shinya’s XO. Col Dao Iverson commands the 6th Imperial Marines. Capt Faal-Pel “Stumpy” command the 1st of the 8th Maa-ni-la. General Ansik-Talaa commands XI Corps.

Major Blas-Ma-Ar, a “Cat” Marine under Blair, is in command of the 2nd Battalion which includes the Sister’s Own Division, the 2nd (Lemurian) Marines, the human Ocelomeh (Jaguar Warriors), former Doms, the Pegadores who are suspect, and Col Arano Garcia‘s El Vengadores de Dios. Col Sister Audry is their spiritual leader, a Dutch Benedictine nun. Capt Ixtli, an Ocelomeh, is Blas’ XO. Capt Bustos is Garcia’s XO while Capt Jasso is the bugler. Sgt Maj Koratin, who gave up being an Aryaalan lord to be a Navy Clan Marine and Sister Audry’s protector. First Sgt Spon-Ar-Aak, “Spook”. Lt Anaar-Taar had been with Blas’ C Company. Capt Aakon, in charge of a battery of guns, is thrilled to get up on the roofs.

Adm E.B. Hibbs is on the HIMS Mars which is captained by Resiah Karki and accompanied by Centurion, Mithra, Hermes, Diana, Ananke, Feronia, Poena, and Nesoi. Capt Grimsley commands Jenks’ old Achilles. The USS Destroyer and Sword are Dom prizes protecting transports.

Imperial Dragoons no longer carry lances and have been issued Allin-Silva carbines and are finally deadlier than the Doms.

The enemy here is…

The Holy Dominion, a government ruled by a perverted version of Catholicism that believes in blood and suffering. And are they ever thrilled to mete out the suffering on anyone! Blood Drinkers are an elite, fanatical military order directly serving His Supreme Holiness, Messiah of Mexico, and by the Grace of God, Emperor of the World — whom the Blood Cardinal, His Holiness, Don Hernan de Divina Dicha, intends to murder.

Gen Anselmo Mayta is the new commander of the Army of God, smarter, but still in denial. Col Urco is his aide?? Teniente Tucli and Capitaine Xamirez are to recall regular army units. Gen Allegria, a Blood Drinker son of Hernan, is a hothead under Mayta.

Grikbirds, or dragons as the Impies refer to them, are an aerial force used by the Doms.

The Eastern Front Against the Holy Dominion

The New United States (NUS) is a possible ally with the Grand Alliance and composed of descendants of Americans who had arrived in the 1840s. Capt Anson, a Ranger, is the spy who rescued Kari and Reynolds and is their initial contact with NUS. (Rangers are specialized soldiers with diverse skills, allowing them to operate and survive alone. Sometimes used as spies or assassins.) The Comanches are the best cavalry in the NUS and make excellent Rangers.

Adm Duncan is overall operational commander of the NUS naval and land forces in the Caribbean, aboard the NUSS Zachary Taylor. And he doesn’t believe Garrett. Commodore Semmes commands the NUS Fleet, aboard NUSS Eric Holland.

Signals Ensign Kari-Faask, Fred’s backseater, and Lieutenant (jg) Fred Reynolds, pilot, are on a solo mission on the Atlantic side to contact the NUS and make them allies. Tabitha Semmes is the daughter of Commodore Semmes and is dating Fred.

Capt Greg Garrett commands the USS Donaghey. The Matarife is a prize ship.

The enemy here is…

…the Holy Dominion with the League of Tripoli, a.k.a., the Triumvirate, a fascist alliance of enemies: French, Spanish, Italian, and the lowly Germans whose approach is to conquer and subjugate. Contrammiraglio Oriani is with the Organizations for Vigilance and Repression of Fascism (OVRA). Their current plans are to keep the Doms, Grik, and Allies fighting each other to weaken them for the League’s plans.

Capitaine de Fregate Victor Gravois, French Naval Intelligence, is a lying, backstabbing jerk who is in the Dominion as an ambassador. Capitano Ciano, Italian, commands the Leopardo, an extremely powerful League Leone-class “Exploratori” destroyer.

Grik Persia is…

General Regent Halik‘s territory. He’s an intelligent, free-thinking Hij Grik, elevated from his former status as an Uul fighter. Gen Orochi Niwaa is a Japanese soldier and close friend of Halik’s who has influenced Halik away from the usual Grik stand about their own people. Gen Shlook will stay and hold Halik’s territory.

Col Enaak commands the 5th Maa-ni-la Calvary while Col Dalibor Svec commands the Czech Legion, a.k.a., Brotherhood of Volunteers. Both were detailed by Matt to keep an eye on Halik’s retreat from Indiaa. It’s a very interesting “relationship”, as these allies are also helping Halik. Their combined units include First Sgt Liaa-Binaa, Maj Ondrej Svec is Dalibor’s son, Maj Nika-Paafo is Enaak’s XO, and Maj Nika.

Darja had been Svec’s wife before he fell into this world.

The Prime Regent of Arabia and other vice-regents battle Halik as he crosses their territory.

The Japanese, as…

…an enemy, are no more with General of the Sea Hisashi Kurokawa dead at the Sovereign Nest at Zanzibar (River of Bones, 13).

Me-naaks, a.k.a., meanies, are giant-long-legged crocodiles used as cavalry mounts. The horned kravaa are also used as cavalry. Paalkas are oversized moose-shaped animals used to haul wagons and artillery. Seep is quite useful as both a medicinal paste and a drink full of vitamins. Mountain fish, a.k.a., island fish, Ulaagis, or leviathans, are humongous fish that will eat anything, including ships, and are vulnerable only to acoustic assaults.

The Cover and Title

The cover is the night of the attack in a collage of planes, Grikbirds, steamers and sailing ships on a roiling almost black sea with the oranges of fire and blacks and grays of smoke rising into the dark blues of the sky. At the top, framed on either side by three light orange horizontal lines is the darker orange series information. Below this is the title in white. A testimonial is on the far left in a pale blue. At the very bottom is an info blurb in the same pale blue with the author’s name in the pale orange of the lines.

A too true title for this story is a Pass of Fire on land, sea, and air in Grik Africa and the Holy Dominion.

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