3 out of 4 stars
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Lieutenant James “Jamie” Munro and half-Warramunga Corporal Jack "Jacko" O'Brien are part of the Australian Army stationed in the Middle East during World War II (WWII). The two officers become close when Jacko rescues a wounded Jamie in combat. Their bond continues to deepen as the war drives them from fighting Vichy French in Syria to running intelligence service in Egypt, to tracking down war-crime fugitives in Australia.
I picked up The Warramunga's War hoping to experience WWII from the viewpoint of an aboriginal Australian officer, but the book wasn’t what I had expected. Despite the author’s efforts to weave real historical events into the story, it doesn't feel authentic. The impact of Jaime and Jacko's espionage activity in Cairo seems ambiguous and insignificant to the war effort. All characters appear unaffected by the war. They don't seem to be in danger at any point in the book. Despite the German spies being described as “efficient and dangerous,” they seem utterly incompetent and harmless. Apparently, they can't hide their German accents from Egyptian prostitutes and belly dancers either.
I also find the title confusing and misguiding. At first, I thought it referred to the Warramunga tribe fighting in WWII, but that is incorrect because the tribe doesn't partake in the war or any war for that matter. In fact, the tribe only makes a brief appearance in the book. Despite the spotlight given to Jacko’s heritage, it has little significance in the war. While Jacko can accurately shoot any obscured target, an uncanny ability which he attributes to his Warramunga root, he only uses it twice. One may argue that his dark skin tone helps him blend in with the Egyptians, but none of his team members get singled out for having a lighter skin tone.
In all fairness, The Warramunga's War is an action-packed adventure. The story is told in a linear progression with a steady, smooth flow. The dialogues sound natural, and the characters’ playful banters are fun to read. However, Kater’s straightforward, sometimes methodological storytelling results in a lack of suspense and drama, and the story comes off as bland. While the book is not that long at 324 pages, everything after the Egypt arc felt like a drag to me. Toward the end, I was left wondering as to what the point of this story is.
The Warramunga's War by Greg Kater is a cross-continental adventure with many different elements like crime, mystery, espionage, history, and romance. Unfortunately, Kater couldn’t really make these elements work together, so the story ends up being a little of everything but fails to make a strong impression. On the plus side, the book is remarkably well-edited, and I only find a handful of errors. Since this novel is missing a certain depth to make it more meaningful and realistic, I give it 3 out of 4 stars.
This book would be a good choice for readers who enjoy a long adventure packed full of action. However, I think there are better options out there for those who are looking for a historical fiction novel about espionage. Since the book has a subplot about a mysterious serial murderer and rapist, I wouldn’t recommend it to minors and people who are easily disturbed by such content.
The Warramunga's War
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