Field of Blood

By Markus Heitz

Field of Blood, a novel by Markus Heitz
Book details Books in the series About the author

Over the next three days, three reviews will stand before you. Read them in any order, some elements will be the same, others quite different. If you would like to go straight to the segment unique to this review, please start with paragraph 4. 

Drafting a book must be like standing in front of a series of doors, which one do you step thorough? Each option will make the novel a vastly different read, characters could be good or bad, the world may implode or explode. Like parallel universes, these differences are infinite, each option creates more options. An infinite library of books never quite written. Markus Heitz decided to experiment with this idea with his three Doors novels. Each starts the same, but then diverges. 

Walter van Dam’s daughter has gone missing within a series of underground tunnels and he will do anything to see her return. He is rich enough to hire some of the best to find her; a Professor of Geology and a couple of cave explorers make sense, but why also have a bodyguard, paranormal expert, and clairvoyant? It seems that these tunnels are not as they first seem. Gravity seems to fail, and monsters stalk the dark. Strangest of all are the doors found deep below the surface. Which door will our rescuers open? 

In Field of Blood the team decide to open the door with the ! Inscribed on the front. Within it is not more cave formations, but instead a portal to a different past. The year is 841 and Europe is once more at war. Two of the largest ever armies recruited to date are preparing for battle. The victor will control Europe and large chunks of Moorish lands, the losers will be wiped from history. Whoever wins, it will end in one of the bloodiest battles in history. This is the scene that our rescuers find themselves trapped in. 

Upon exiting the door, they stumble across the scene of a recent massacre. Wishing to blend in, the team dress in what clothes are available. Unbeknownst to them, they are now wearing the livery of a Duchess who is key to the direction the battle will take. In their attempt to survive they must convince the locals that they are Dark Age warriors and not futuristic warlocks and witches.  

The Dark Ages have their name for a reason, and I know little about what happened in Britain, never mind mainland Europe, during this time. This is not usually an issue in science fiction as anything can happen, but Heitz likes to play with alternative realities. His vision of Europe in 841 is one dominated by both warrior men and women. In fact, it is the Empress who is in charge and rumours are abound that a female Pope in imminent. There is an interesting slice of misogyny that plays through the novel as treason is afoot from a group of men. I do not think this is what happened, but I could not attest to it, therefore this alternative history may in fact be reality, undermining the point. The 1944 location of Colony is better known and more obviously alternative. 

Despite not understanding if this was an alternative history book or a time travellers avoiding breaking history book, there is still merit in the location. The Dark Age storyline really comes to the fore as the battle beckons. Heitz can throw his characters into an old school slobberknocker of a fight    

There is a contemporary storyline that plays out far more mysteriously. There are hints of shadowy corporations and networks of failing portals. This X Files like mystery is explored in all three novels, from slightly different perspectives. Over the three books you will get a fuller sense of what might be happening and whilst it made complete sense to have such different adventures behind the doors, it was a little odd that events diverge so much in the present, when not much has changed. 

Although I had a disconnect with the historic setting of Field, I found myself enjoying the character arcs more. In this novel our characters are given room to breathe, in the literal sense as the other books see them being offed quickly. We get to know a lot more about the dynamic of the group and many of the secrets they hide.  

The Doors series is translated from German and has locations and characters from the country. In the case of Field this adds an additional barrier for readers not versed in the various power players of Europe at the time. Although the books start the same, they do drift into slightly different genres. In this case the book takes a step back from the action and concentrates more on character. It is far stronger in that aspect, but action fans may be a little disappointed, even with the epic battle towards the end.  

Written on 5th March 2021 by .

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