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Megiddo's Shadow    by Arthur Slade order for
Megiddo's Shadow
by Arthur Slade
Order:  USA  Can
Wendy Lamb Books, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Arthur Slade tells us that Megiddo's Shadow has been his hardest book to complete, taking five years of research and writing. In his dedication, Slade writes of his grandfather Arthur Hercules Slade, who returned from Canada to England to be the first in line to enlist - 'The final battle between England and the Turks was the battle for Megiddo (an ancient city built on a seventy-foot rock platform; the meaning of 'Armageddon' means 'the armies will gather at Megiddo'.)' When asked what war was like, his grandfather replied, 'I was everywhere that Jesus was, but I couldn't find him anywhere.' Slade was inspired by his grandfather's story to write Megiddo's Shadow, set during World War I, in 1914.

By post, Edward Bath learns of his brother Hector's death in the line of duty at the German front in France. Enlisting as older than his actual sixteen-years of age, Edward leaves behind his ailing father and their farm in Tompkins, Canada to train in the military in England. Edward's first regiment is the Bull Moose Boys. Adept at training any wild horse, to his dismay Edward is assigned to the Remount Department, The Fifth Imperial Remount. He protests, 'I didn't sign up to train horses! ... I might as well be back on the farm in Canada.' Edward remembers his father's words on the art of breaking horses, as he watches the camp breakers beating the valuable animals to let them know who's boss. While breaking one particular horse, Edward is injured and sent to the dispensary where he meets nurse Emily Waters. Each is equally smitten. As Edward and Emily are re-assigned, their relationship grows through letters.

The glory and vengeance Edward sought is replaced by the horrors of war, seeing soldiers with missing limbs, and the realization that he must not only fight to survive, but also must kill. Transferred from infantry to be a yeomanry trooper, Edward travels to Palestine to fight the Turks, knowing that a 'trooper's horse is the difference between life or death in a cavalry charge'. Edward's faith is tested over and over again, as fellow soldiers and horses die on the battlefield, as well as from illness brought on by pests and the elements. To his father, he writes, 'I have seen many things I wish I had not seen ... I do wonder if I should have left home ... I wish I had been a better son, somehow. But I wanted to be a good brother, too.'

Edward's narration places readers in the tempest of battles, feeling the protagonist's fear, love, and grief throughout the story's action, with unexpected trials and losses. He comes to understand why his father has 'taken to his bed' time and again, reflecting on his father's military service in the First Royal Dragoons in the South African Boer War. Arthur Slade has written a powerful story, portraying historical events with well-actualized characters.

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