Where Eagles Dare Not Perch
Zachary Webster is a sharpshooter in the Civil War, fighting for the Union. Whatever idealism he once had is gone now, driven out by the war, until he’s become cold and distant from his family and friends. He refuses to talk about the war, and when he does, he shares gruesome stories that terrify his younger brother Ethan.
Then, just before he goes from his home in Maine back to the front, he kills a man he suspects of stealing the heart of the girl he loves.
From there, the story splits three ways. Zachary goes back to the war, losing himself still more in the carnage of countryman against countryman. The older brother of the dead man chases after Zachary, bent on revenge. Catherine Brandsford, the woman Zachary loved, leaves Maine as well, determined to protect her lover and absolve herself if she can. The three plotlines go their own ways for most of the book, connected more by the characters’ thoughts of each other than by any physical connection, but chapter by chapter, the three characters grow closer to finding one another again. The book builds up to an exciting climax that you’ll have to read to believe.
Where Eagles Dare Not Perch is a fabulously real war novel, set in the horror of the early 1860s. The author doesn’t only expose the readers to the horrors of the war itself but also to the inhumanity that ordinary humans can commit. There is potential for darkness in everyone, the book seems to say, whether it’s brought out through war, grief, or simply that person’s nature.
But even as the book seems intent on revealing the darkest parts of human nature, it shows a gentler side to humanity as well. Catherine meets friends and foes on her journey to the front lines, and while she is pushed into torments that might break her, she finds a core of strength that keeps her from giving up. The murdered man’s brother meets a pair of escaped slaves who treat him like a man after he’s spent too long being treated like an animal. Even some of the soldiers find moments to show that they have not been wholly corrupted by the horrors of war but still have some humanity left in them. It is a book about the dichotomy of the human experience: even as we are pushed toward darkness and despair, we can find the light.
This book is not for the faint-hearted. There are some disturbing scenes featuring gore and rape, and anyone sensitive to those subjects will want to tread lightly. Even so, I would highly recommend this book.
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