Book Review: Along The Watchtower by David Litwack

17798039Title: Along The Watchtower

Author: David Litwack

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon (Paperback), Amazon (Kindle)

Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

A Tragic Warrior Lost in Two Worlds…

The war in Iraq ended for Lieutenant Freddie Williams when an IED explosion left his mind and body shattered. Once he was a skilled gamer and expert in virtual warfare. Now he’s a broken warrior, emerging from a medically induced coma to discover he’s inhabiting two separate realities. The first is his waking world of pain, family trials, and remorse—and slow rehabilitation through the tender care of Becky, his physical therapist. The second is a dark fantasy realm of quests, demons, and magic that Freddie enters when he sleeps.

In his dreams he is Frederick, Prince of Stormwind, who must make sense of his horrific visions in order to save his embattled kingdom from the monstrous Horde. His only solace awaits him in the royal gardens, where the gentle words of the beautiful gardener, Rebecca, calm the storms in his soul. While in the conscious world, the severely wounded vet faces a strangely similar and equally perilous mission—a journey along a dark road haunted by demons of guilt and memory—and letting patient, loving Becky into his damaged and shuttered heart may be his only way back from Hell.

Some time ago, I read and reviewed There Comes a Prophet, the debut novel of David Litwack. I loved that book, so I was looking forward to getting started on his latest novel, Along The Watchtower.

The first pages introduce us to Lieutenant Freddie Williams, who is stationed in Iraq during the war. An IED explosion ends the war for him, destroying his body and mind. He’s sent back home, where he’s being kept in a medically induced coma for a while. Freddie soon discovers he’s stuck in two different worlds. The first is reality as he always knew it, his life now nearly destroyed, where he’s struggling with family matters and coming to terms with what happened, the guilt over his friends dying during the war, and painful agony. In the other world, he is Frederick, a prince in a fantasy land overrun by demons, horrific monsters and the likes. To save his kingdom, he must withstand terrible visions.

While the story doesn’t sound all that original at first glance, when you start reading it, the original elements David Litwack incorporated become all the more obvious. There are plenty of stories about people visiting fantasy worlds (think about Alice in Wonderland, the Neverending Story, The Wizard of Oz, Narnia, etc.) but those stories are aimed at children. They show fantasy worlds that are intriguing, and even though they may be dangerous every once in a while, the good guys always win. Along The Watchtower is an adult read – it’s a lot darker, both in the real world, and in the fantasy world. When he’s in the fantasy world, Freddie isn’t happy or heroic – he’s traveling through the same, painful journey as he is in real life. While Freddie’s personality develops in the fantasy world, so does his personality in the real world. In the real world, Freddie must come to terms with his injuried, his guilt and family troubles. In the fantasy world, the fate of a kingdom rests in his hands.

The recovery Freddie must make, both mentally and physically, merge beautifully in both the fantasy and the real world, as if they’re connected. That’s more than the only connection though. Freddie begins to find items belonging to the real world back in the fantasy world, except they’re magnified there, more threatening, true obstacles he has to face. The story is, at times, heartbreaking, because the main character just can’t seem to get a break. But in the end, when I struggled through deeply emotional scenes that left me shaking, I was glad that the author didn’t shy away from telling Freddie’s story, or from making it as sad and near impossible as it was. Even if he’s home safe and sound, Freddie continues to struggle to leave the war behind him, and as a reader, you’re sucked into the same struggle, experiencing the same feelings, the post-traumatic stress disorder, Freddie’s pain, his hopelessness, his feeling of losing control over his entire life.

David Litwack incorporates a lot of detail into his novel, and this only helps to enhance the story. Freddie’s emotions appear very authentic. Along The Watchtower is the kind of story that needs to be written, that screams to be read. It’s an enticing, amazing story of a journey of self-discovery and healing, of the consequences of war, of hope.

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