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Before the Fortress Falls

"Grip your hope tightly and don't let it go. Clouds may darken it, may blot it out completely, but it's worth holding on to, even when you can't feel it or see it."


The Ottoman Army is approaching Vienna and all within it's walls must decide if they will flee the fortress or fight for survival. In the hopes of reuniting with her twin brother, Katharina Schor choses to stay in Vienna and face the shadow of war. Throughout the seige Katharina becomes all to familiar with the fear, heartache, and pain that accompanies battle. However, she also learns of the hope and love that shine through even the darkest moments in life.

thoughts & feelings

A.L. Sowards has quickly become one of my favorite historical fiction writers. They way she interweaves fictional characters with real historic events is captivating. Let's not downplay how much information is contained in her novels. To provide all that information and background in a natural way, without us feeling like we're reading a history textbook, is vital to these stories. From now on I will be snagging up every single one of her books, along with the few already published ones I am missing.

Now, let's get to the specifics of Before the Fortress Falls. Like all of my prevous A.L. Sowards adventures I knew absolutely nothing about the time period in which the story takes place. Let's be honest for just a minute, how many of us actually learned about history in the 1600's? Not me! Ok, maybe it was briefly covered in an art history class but that's not the same thing. Linked together? Most definitely, but not the same thing. Luckily for those of us who aren't historians but still love historical fiction, Sowards has included a few vital things to help us out. YAY! First, she includes a small dictionary of words and terms we may not be familiar with. To be honest I read through this list three different times. Once before starting, as the fighting scenes picked up, and again at the end. You probably don't need to read it that many times but it helped me "see" everything so much better. Second, is maps and diagrams of the Vienna fortress! I love maps in books and found these two images so helpful. I loved that I could flip to my maps (use a sticky note to mark these pages) with each attack and advance that occured. They helped me understand the fortresses strengths and weaknesses, how the Ottoman Army was attacking, and why they may have chosen that area and order.

My favorite thing about this novel is a little different than in my past reviews. It wasn't a character or moment for me but rather a theme that ran throughout. To me this novel and historical event are about finding and holding to hope and faith during the darkest times. A.L. Sowards wove these moments throughout the novel in an incredibly realistic and relatable way.

One of my favorite moments in the book is when Katja says "I believe in why is my faith so shaken? Why am I so scared all the time?" This entire conversation rings with truth, but these two sentences might be my favorite of the entire book. I love that Katja admits that her faith is shaken and she is scared, if not terrified, but she still believes in God. In my life I have felt this quite a few times. It's almost like these huge moments of faith shaking fear are moments when we have to choose what to hold on to and how we will proceed. Are we going to curl up in a ball and do nothing? Or do we push on and do our best despite the circumstances that surround us? These are moments that we all face or will face in our lives to some degree. This conversation brought tears to my eyes while also filling my soul with hope.

book tags

Steam Level: clean, kissing

Language: clean

Trigger Warnings: death, violence (not graphic)

Content Warnings: The Content Note at the beginning of this novel states: "This book is based on a real historical event. Efforts have been made to portray the type of warfare that actually took place as accurately as possible without being graphic, but the level of violence may make some readers uncomfortable. This novel includes combat with muskets, bayonets, pikes, sabers, daggers, knives, explosives, and hands. It also depicts pillage, desecration of enemy bodies, and hospitals overwhelmed by disease and casualties."

book information

Title: Before the Fortress Falls

Author: A.L. Sowards

Rating: 5/5


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