With so many historical fiction books that focus on the time period that includes both World Wars and the pre and post events that accompany them, who is to say how many readers out there are eager to read yet another one? In truth, there is a historical fiction series that proves to be unlike other books of this genre. For rather than focusing mainly on the darker moments of this time period, bestselling and award-winning author Gerald N. Lund’s Fire and Steel series focuses on the light found in the darkness kept alive by families sticking together. This series follows the Eckhardt family in southern Germany and the Westland family in southern Utah through some of the world’s darkest parts in history. With three volumes having been released in the series so far, readers can look forward to following Lund’s families in his recently released fourth volume: The Proud Shall Stumble.
It is the early 1920’s. Germany is enduring many post-World War I struggles and the National Socialist Party is attempting to free Germany from the turmoil. Standing closely behind the party’s leader Adolf Hitler, Hans Eckhardt becomes involved in an attempted coup in Bavaria that goes horribly wrong. The outcome has terrified Hans’ family for they may never see him again. Across the ocean, post-World War I America is enjoying a time of prosperity that has been coined as “the roaring twenties”. The Westland family thrives in the peace and is ecstatic to see their son, Frank, and his rich wife, Celeste, visit from the east coast. Though even in peace, trials and tribulations lurk in the shadows.
As aforementioned, The Proud Shall Stumble is the fourth volume in the Fire and Steel series and while it may not be the best book to introduce oneself to the series, it will not confuse readers in the slightest. Even if one were to pick up the series from this volume, it is easy to get into the swing of things with the book being able to stand on its own, thanks to Lund’s writing style and storytelling. His writing style is to be commended for he writes in a way that is easy to follow for those who have not read any of his other books or who are not as familiar with certain parts of history. With so many characters, Lund focuses on dialog more than descriptive detail and is able to carry on the story incredibly well through it as H.G. Wells did with The Time Machine. For those intrigued by or even unfamiliar with history, come the end of many of the chapters, Lund leaves a note for the readers as to his historical references and his own fictional additions to history.
Given the three previous volumes to introduce many of Lund’s characters, for new readers to the series, the characters can, at first, be a bit overwhelming. However, once again thanks to Lund’s writing style, it does not take long for readers to know who is who. The characters were likeable and realistic with the families having their peaceful moments as well as their conflicting moments. Lund gives a fairly equal amount of focus time on each of the families. The Eckhardt’s most certainly have it rough in Germany, but Hans’ unwillingness to give up and his wife Emilee’s newfound and undying faith keep them moving forward. The Westlands have a wonderful sense of family and faith. Even when this family faces troubled times, their strength to endure it together and come out of it together is written beautifully. Aside from Lund’s families, he did an exceptional job of writing Hitler’s speeches. While he mentioned in various author notes that he took certain facts and lines from speeches and articles he did find, the rest he wrote himself. He wrote Hitler’s speeches in a way that will make Americans believe that is what he said.
Lund is most certainly an accomplished author, having written historical fiction, general fiction, and religious fiction. His Fire and Steel series has been considered an epic historical fiction series. While it may not be “epic” per say, it is most certainly intriguing. Its focus on the Eckhardt and Westland families overcoming trials and tribulations by sticking together is a much more pleasant way of reading about this dark time in not only America’s history, but Germany’s history, as well. For those intrigued to read the series from the beginning, they will be taken on a journey with the families spanning across a time period of over sixty years in history: A Generation Rising (1896 – 1918), The Storm Descends (1918 – 1919), and The Shadow Falls (1919 – 1923). The Proud Shall Stumble is an intriguing piece of historical fiction and, with its focus on the time period of 1923 – 1930, promises to captivate more readers with future volumes to come.