It was during a trip to Austria that Tricia Goyer was inspired to make her first foray into fiction. While touring Mauthausen she heard the story of 23 Americans who liberated a local concentration camp and that the first person into the camp to help the prisoners was a Nazi wife. She knew this was a story she had to write and the result was her first novel, FROM DUST AND ASHES.
She has continued to write books based on the events of World War II, but her latest, DAWN OF A THOUSAND NIGHTS, shifts its focus to the South Pacific theater of the conflict. Starting in Hawaii in the days shortly before the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the story introduces readers to pilots Libby Conners and Dan Lukens. Libby is working as a flight instructor on the island where prejudices against female pilots are less ingrained. Dan is a hotshot Army Air Corps pilot. Their paths cross at a local beach and it's not long before the two become a couple.
DAWN OF A THOUSAND NIGHTS is an atypical romance novel in that the central couple spends the bulk of the story separated. Dan is shipped out to the Philippines, sent further into the South Pacific, and Libby promises to wait for him. But in his absence, what was then unthinkable happens. The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor and Libby makes the difficult decision to head back to the mainland and join the new Women's Auxiliary Ferry Squadron (WAFS).
The years that follow provide grueling tests of endurance --- physical and emotional --- for both Dan and Libby. Captured by the Japanese, Dan experiences the legendarily brutal Bataan Death March and years as a POW. Meanwhile, Libby suffers a freak accident on one of her missions and faces the possibility of losing her sight --- and her ability to fly --- permanently. And when a would-be suitor hits the scene, Libby has to weigh her hopes for a future with Dan against the very real possibility that he is no longer alive.
One of the hallmarks of Goyer's writing is that she approaches her narrative from multiple angles. And in DAWN OF A THOUSAND NIGHTS she gives us not only Dan and Libby's perspectives, but also that of Natsuo Hidki, an interpreter in the Imperial Japanese Army who also attended college in the United States. Natsuo has been trained to value honor and allegiance to the Japanese Emperor over all, but he is conflicted by the memories of his time in the U.S. and the kindness shown to him by one of his classmates in particular.
The plot might not offer much in the way of surprises, but the effort Goyer puts into her research to create vivid and historically accurate landscapes --- political, social and physical --- for her books is well-spent. The story is certainly a compelling history lesson as it incorporates news articles, letters, and official broadcasts from the era. Fans of the historical fiction genre certainly will be pleased with this new addition.
Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel on September 5, 2005