Olberleutnant Wulf is not a passionate Nazi. In fact, he rather detests their blustering and goose-stepping snobs. He is one of the Third Reich's best fighter pilots though, and he has made quite a reputation for himself, both as a fighter and a disrespectful Nazi. Lilya, "The Red Witch," is the Soviet Union's best female fighter pilot and former member of "The Night Witches," the infamous (to the Germans) all female bomber squad. For both the skies of World War II torn Germany and Russia are at times forgiving and and others merciless. With little love for the politics of their respective homelands, but duty bound to protect them, Wulf and Lilya will fall into the others' enemy lands and hands, only to escape. Will they be able to escape the harsh realities of war, and their mutual attraction, though?
Smartly written and plotted by Yann (Innommables, Bob Marone) and lavishly and accurately illustrated by Romain Hugault, The Grand Duke is a rare work of realistic World War II era historical fiction. Described as a "Romeo and Juliet type story," The Grand Duke is more a tour de force of a look into the lives of two fictional, but very likely and realistic, fighter pilots and their war torn lives. The story paints the picture of two noble souls fighting a war against each other while doubting at heart the political beliefs and motivations of their respective countries' leaders and guiding philosophies. Both Lilya and Wulf are highly likable, if at times morally dubious, characters. In war there is often little that is black and while moralistically, and Lilya and Wulf represent that aspect in their character as well as their nobility.
What really makes The Grand Duke a pure joy to read is Romain Hugault's stunningly beautiful and historically accurate art. Hugault, an aviation reference book illustrator, demonstrates here that he is more than just a master of artistic representations of his beloved airplanes. The frigid landscapes of WWII Germany and The USSR as well as the other weapons of war such as tanks, artillery, and other various war machines, along with the era's deadly, but beautiful, flying machines are lavishly and gloriously recreated on the page. His depictions of aerial warfare are simply breathtaking with their near photographic quality. He is also quite the talented illustrator of the female form, as he also demonstrates here.
While a mature readers title (The Grand Duke does contain some nudity), it is one that should be widely read and enjoyed by anyone who has an interest in World War II history and avionics as well as well written and drawn historical fiction. Highly recommended.