War: A Paranormal Fantasy
“. . . a tale of a personal war played against the background of a global one . . .”
War has come to Europe but snake shifter Lash doesn’t care, voicing the opinion of many human Americans at the time: “Why should I care about what happens to people thousands of miles away?”
Supernaturals in Europe aren’t waiting around for the outcome. They’re already turning to Devlin, their equal in the US, for help. Devlin’s answer:
“Because the war will spread here if Hitler and his kind are not contained…right now our official American position is to mind our own business . . . that is the human position…when a fellow Ruler asks in good faith for aid, it is bad manners to refuse.”
Devlin wants volunteers, not draftees, however. Lash’s only concern is getting former lover Nancy out of Italy and back to the States and finding his nephew who’s been drafted. Problems escalate. Supernaturals are being rounded up but not for the same reasons as humans.
“Hitler loves the occult, and Devlin has word… several vampires have been captured, as well as various werecreatures, faeries, and witches. Those not killed . . . are among troops being mustered, but they’re also recruiting others of their kind . . . Hitler has just gotten a supernatural boost to his army . . . Our key value to the Reich is our regenerative power and quick maturation in animal form.”
With that incentive, Lash finds himself on a ship to Europe, searching for the two people he still cares about and facing a war he doesn’t want to fight. Devlin also gives Lash a book, The Art of War. Through the ordeals he faces, Lash uses it as his guide:
“The book was interesting, and I admit I liked it. Sun Tzu had a lot to say, and he wasn’t a jerk about it, but very practical . . . I was heading into war, something I’d never known, not on this scale. I could use all the help I could get.”
By a quirk of fate, Lash ends up in the German army as an SS officer in the were division. He makes personal enemies whom he confronts for the duration. He also witnesses atrocities, human and supernatural bravery and sacrifice, as his fellow shifters begin to question their orders.
“We can’t do this,” Dieter whispered. “This is not war, to just kill them like meat animals. How does this reaffirm us as the better people? How does this bring us glory?”
Lash himself commits acts he also considers abominable. As most people will in wartime, he rationalizes everything he does as a necessary means to the end he seeks. In the midst of it all, he meets four men he’s able to call friends, and he does some soul searching as to his reasons for joining the war.
“I got dressed and went for a walk, wanting to be alone to think. As I went out into the street, . . . it hit me that was why I was happy: I was never alone here . . . And that made me wonder if I’d been right to come charging in here to fight the Germans.”
Lash finds Nancy, but damages have been done; he doesn’t know “if there’s enough time in a lifetime to heal what she’s been through . . .” He and his four comrades-in-arms make a dash for freedom and the Allies.
“I’d had enough of war and mud and cold and bloody, torn up bodies. . . . Someone else could finish it. I was getting out of here alive. The rest I could figure out when I managed that.”
Like most ex-soldiers, Lash will return to America changed, though life there will be the same; like some, he’ll find himself questioning what’s gone before as well as what’s to come.
“When the war ended, a lot of wrongs were put right. A lot more wrongs were just compounded . . . I stepped off the boat, just one of many returning GIs . . . And I cursed them, all of the damned humans, because they were all happier than I was . . . My life wasn’t going to be peaceful, no matter what I’d hoped for . . . ”
Amid historical facts and statistics, Ms. Hall has once again made Lash into a paranormal Everyman, reflecting the outrage of an individual thrust into a conflict not of his own making but doing the best he can to survive while striving to hold on to his personal values.
It’s a tale of a personal war played against the background of a global one. Sometimes it’s not a pretty story, because war never is. Often sympathies may not be with him, indeed he may not even be liked, but it’s a story needing to be told with fiction pointing out universal truths.