Guest Review: Skybound by Aleksandr Voinov

Posted: July 13, 2013 by sidlove in 4.5 Star Reviews, Book Reviews, Guest Reviewer
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Reviewed by Nishka G.

TITLE: Skybound
AUTHOR: Aleksandr Voinov
PUBLISHER: Riptide Publishing
LENGTH: 44 pages
BLURB: Germany, 1945. The Third Reich is on its knees as Allied forces bomb Berlin to break the last resistance. Yet on an airfield near Berlin, the battle is far from over for a young mechanic, Felix, who’s attached to a squadron of fighter pilots. He’s especially attached to fighter ace Baldur Vogt, a man he admires and secretly loves. But there’s no room for love at the end of the world, never mind in Nazi Germany.

When Baldur narrowly cheats death, Felix pulls him from his plane, and the pilot makes his riskiest move yet. He takes a few days’ leave to recover, and he takes Felix with him. Away from the pressures of the airfield, their bond deepens, and Baldur shows Felix the kind of brotherhood he’d only ever dreamed of before.

But there’s no escaping the war, and when they return, Baldur joins the fray again in the skies over Berlin. As the Allies close in on the airfield where Felix waits for his lover, Baldur must face the truth that he is no longer the only one in mortal danger.

REVIEW:

This story is short but powerful. On the losing side of a war, the German forces are fighting their last battles. The main character is a mechanic, working tirelessly to repair fighter planes so the man he worships can fly into the danger and defend Berlin from the invading forces.

Rarely ever does an author in this genre dare to step this far outside the comfort zone. There is very little about the German forces in that time period that will inspire sympathy. Yet, within the first few pages, the stark reality of a war is revealed. It doesn’t matter which side is right or wrong, nor does it matter who wins or loses, because war reduces all men to baser creatures. In the end, when surrounded by death, each man will focus on saving what is most dear to him.

Felix is a simple character prone to unexpected glimmers of insight and depth. The story is narrated from his point of view. He struck me as a young man, although his age is never stated. A man who dreamt of flying as a boy but when the time came, failed the test. Some parts of him are sweet and uncomplicated, almost idealistic.

“I would devote myself like this to another man. Take a bullet meant for him, and die in his arms, knowing I had fulfilled my destiny.”

The man he worships from afar is a fighter pilot, a legend. Vogt is a bit elusive through most of the story, partly because we don’t have access to his point of view. His first interaction with Felix centers around a bullet that Felix had dug out of the pilot seat, and those few sentences they exchange are almost too painful to read.

Their entire relationship is full of melancholy. Not only because the war is at their doorstep, but because they are so different from each other. Everything about Vogt, as seen through Felix’s eyes, is intimidating. The way he carries himself, the things he says so nonchalantly and without the slightest regard of how they may be perceived, even his reading material. Herodotus’s Histories, a far cry from the fanciful and highly imaginative Karl May adventures that Felix is reading. With each page I felt more and more anxious for Felix, more and more certain that the story would end in heartbreak.

“I’m the eagle who died in his egg while my brother grew up strong and proud.”

Still, a connection blooms between the two men. Something beautiful and fragile and short, made all the more powerful by the fact that this is likely to be their only time together. As the end nears, the despair deepens. We all know how WWII ended. The German forces are determined to fight until they are completely obliterated. A mention is made of suicide missions, of fighting to the last man. The story accelerates, and although you might think you know how it will all end, you will be wrong. Trust me.

This brings me to the only reason why this book did not receive five stars. As much as I loved the ending, it struck me as an entirely unrealistic scenario. It also left me with a feeling that this was not the ending the author had originally intended. Regardless, this book was so exquisite that such a small imperfection, in my opinion, can be overlooked.

Aleksandr Voinov has a skill with words that is almost impossible to match. Each sentence in this story has a beauty of its own. I tend to highlight the passages that strike a chord in me when reading a book for the first time. In this book, I gave up after the first dozen pages having highlighted nearly every other section. I’m embarrassed to admit that this is the first Aleksandr Voinov novel I’ve read, but I will be remedying this very soon.

This may be labeled as a m/m romance but it’s so much more; a piece of history brought to life, threaded with unanticipated poetry. I recommend it with all my heart.

Nishka’s Rating:

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Comments
  1. Ilhem says:

    Great review, Nishka G. You started reading Voinov with the master piece.:)

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