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||June 3, 2013
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David Litwack - Author
Part love story, part fantasy adventure, part family drama and moving chronicle of recovery, Along the Watchtower is the story of a severely wounded Iraq War vet who battles his way back to a normal life, both in the real world of a VA hospital and in the fantasy realm of his dreams.
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.
An echo of an echo. A dream interrupted by hushed voices talking the way people do near the deceased at a wake. One voice gruff, a man’s, possibly a smoker. The other mousy, almost a squeak. Three fingers pressed on the inside of my wrist. Thick fingers.
“His pulse is strong. Let’s give it a try.” The man’s voice rose. “Freddie, can you hear me?”
I recognized the name. Freddie. Short for Frederick. A name that must be me. Then panic. I’d been dreaming of castles and kings. Why would I want to be Freddie?
“Try his rank,” the woman said. “They’re trained to respond by rank.”
An image flitted across my mind. Iraq. An explosion. My mind recoiled. I groped about in the darkness, trying to find the castle again.
“Did you see that?” the man said. “His eyelids twitched.”
“Lieutenant,” the woman said, louder now. At least I was no longer deaf. “Can you wiggle your thumbs?”
There was somewhere else I needed to be, something important I was supposed to do. My mind was a jumble. When I couldn’t fit the puzzle pieces together, I sent a signal to my thumbs.
“Wonderful.” A touch on my palm. The woman this time. Slender fingers. “And can you squeeze?”
I did. She squeezed back. At least I wasn’t alone. I’d always worried hell was being alone for eternity.
“Good. Now your toes.” I felt a draft as she removed the sheet. “Can you wiggle your toes for me?”
I concentrated and wiggled my toes. She sounded pleased. But then I reached for the next level before I was ready. I tried to bend my knee.
My back arced like an electric shock had run through me. I wanted to scream but had forgotten how to make sound.
“A convulsion, Doctor?”
“Don’t think so, Mary. More likely pain.”
“Should we keep trying to wake him?”
I waited, not understanding the question but feeling it was important. The pain kept distracting me. Please, send me back.
“No. He needs more time. We’ve done all we can here. Put him back under and we’ll send him home. Let the boys in the States do the rest. He has a long road ahead.”
I wasn’t sure what “under” meant, but I had questions before I got there. What road was he talking about and why was it so long? I shifted my weight onto my elbow and tried to sit.
Oh Christ, my legs.
The smooth sense of plastic gliding across the small hairs on my arm. The pain subsided. My mind began to drift.
A bright flash. Soldiers screaming. Dogs barking. Where was my castle? Where was my quest?
Then slowly, sweet darkness. And the dream resumed.
David Litwack takes us on a journey of self-discovery, forgiveness and love. When meet young Lt. Freddie Williams, he has been the victim of a roadside IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and firefight. His injuries are so extensive, that he is put into a medically induced coma. During the few moments when he is lucid, he is in immense pain, disoriented; lost between reality and dreams. Lt. Williams is an avid World of Warcraft gamer. It didn't surprise me at all as I know A LOT of people become die hard gamers when they deploy. Because, in an deployed environment any escape is better than where your currently residing.
In his dreams Freddie is Prince Frederick. He too is going through a painful time in his life, his father the King has passed. The assumption is Prince Frederick will become king, but first he must solve several challenges. The throne is not the only thing that is riding on his success, his kingdom will be lost and overtaken by a dark evil if he fails in his trials. Prince Frederick is told that he will have guides along the way, but he must always be on the lookout for evil disguising itself as a guide. The other thing is that, Prince Freddie must sit in the watchtower twice a day, at sun up and sun down. It is in these moments of reflections, where the stories begins to intermingle and for me I started to wonder if Stormwind was real, and Freddie's life was the alternate reality. However, as the story goes along, I assume that Stormwind is Freddie's conscious helping him work through the issues that he is dealing with in reality. And while the watchtower is a place of reflection for Prince Frederick, in Freddie's reality his watchtower holds dark memories that he must battle to come to acceptance with. In reality, Freddie is helped along in his physical recovery by his physical therapist, Becky. She pushes him when he gives up and motivates him when he is down. In Stormwind, Rebecca is Prince Frederick's Becky. Both Freddie and Prince Frederick come to rely on their ladies to get them through the trials they are both facing.
Mr. Litwack does a spectacular job of taking the elements of World of Warcraft and making them a vehicle of emotional recovery for Freddie. Through every phase of his recovery, he is able to work through his challenges as Prince Frederick. The twist is you don't know who is helping whom, is Freddie the guide that Prince Frederick was told would assist him through his trials or vice versa. The blending of the worlds is so intricate and vibrant, you cant tell who is helping whom. At the end I was cheering for both of their successes and loves.
If you like Fantasy, Romance and appreciate a good fiction Along the Watchtower is for you. There are elements of each of these genre's that I believe will appeal to every reader. If you looking for an AMAZING read for your vacation reading list, make sure this makes your top 5! You will not be disappointed.
The kind of story that needs to be written, that screams to be read
Book Review originally published here: http://www.iheartreading.net/reviews/...
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.
A great book for gamers and non-gamers alike
David Litwack combines the world of online gaming and events in the real world in his book "Along the Watchtower". The story is about a young man, Freddie, whose legs gets seriously injured by an IED. He wakes up in hospital and when he dreams, he is awake in another world - the world of the game "World of Warcraft". In real life, he has to learn to walk again and he also has to learn to deal with people and his problems. In the dream world, he is a prince whose father has died. The prince has to master a set of challenges to be able to become the next king and save the world from the Horde. If he fails, the world will be overrun and life as people know it will end. The two worlds are intertwined with each other and the events that happen in one world have an influence on what happens in the other.
"Along the Watchtower" is an excellent read! I've enjoyed every single chapter, every single page. I am not a player of "World of Warcraft" but I do play other online roleplaying games which helped me a lot in really living the story. However, I am sure that you do not need such a background to understand and enjoy the story. It is a mix of fantasy and real life, a mix of magic and the harsh reality of a world in which we wish there was magic. The book could have been longer, I was a bit sad when it all was over. David Litwack managed to write a wonderful story in a beautiful writing style that catches your attention and doesn't let it go without a fight.
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