Before the Fortress Falls

Written by A. L. Sowards
Review by Thomas j. Howley

In the summer of 1683, the nations of Europe are under threat of extinction at the hands of the invading Turks of the Ottoman Army. As that all-conquering force is approaching Vienna, capital of the Holy Roman Empire, the emperor and some of the wealthy inhabitants flee to safer havens. Still, a stalwart military garrison and many of the city’s citizens remain behind to defend their home.

Katja Schor, scheduled to leave with her wealthy parents, decides to stay when she learns her brother Xavier, a musketeer commander, is returning to defend the city. As she volunteers for aiding the defense in any way possible, she is unexpectedly reunited with a close childhood friend, Toby. Toby, a commoner, is now a woodworker craftsman and has joined the ranks of the combat engineers who perform counter-mining operations around the city’s perimeter. He and Katja pick up their childhood friendship, which rapidly develops into something much stronger under the stress of impending disaster. All three of them become integrally involved in defending their city from the besieging enemy and rampant disease while hoping relief forces from other Christian lands can save them before their ultimate destruction.

This is a spectacular account of one of the most significant and decisive events of the last thousand years. It is a novel of romance and much more. The descriptions of combat above and below the ground are far superior and more accurate than other books of this type. The portrayals of the suffering of the innocent civilians and wounded soldiers are heart-rending. The entire plot takes place over just a few months as action and tensions incrementally increase until the climactic ending. Tough to put down and ultimately inspirational, this novel is heartily recommended.