Duty Calls (Battle of Britain 2)
This is the second installment of Holland’s intensely detailed and thoroughly researched series of World War II combat stories. We have left Johnny Hawke behind as he is rescued from Dunkirk, and instead take off with young pilot Archie Jackson, one of the ‘few’. Jackson did appear in a cameo in the first book, and those scenes are actually revisited in the second book – a strange decision, I thought. Certainly my 8-year-old remembered whole phrases of the original descriptions, and after a short while we got the earlier book out and read them in parallel. It was fun seeing where Archie or ‘he’ had been changed for ‘Jackson’, and the other small additions or changes – but in truth it really killed the tension of the opening. The plot also followed what we already knew from the first book, and then there were flashbacks to flight training, and a cut to fighter command for strategy, and a night out with girls – and the book was about a hundred pages in before we were really getting any excitement.
This is a great shame, because these are well written books, and either would work as a stand alone. But for readers of a series? Bad mistake.
Again I can report that my warfare-obsessed son loved it. His attention did wander because of the opening, but there were new things to enjoy, like the excellent explanatory artwork at the front of the book. Factoids matter to this age group, and I’d advise similar information for infantry weaponry or tanks in future books. The heroes are likeable, just real enough, and mostly get to win: again, perfect for the age-group.
So: this is good, and I hope the series continues, but I still don’t think James Holland has hit the sweet centre of the bat yet.