Their fight for survival would change the course of history.
When rumors reach Vienna that an attack by the Ottoman army is imminent, Wilhelm von Schor, one of the emperor’s courtiers, prepares to evacuate his family—including his sister, Katja. But Katja’s reluctance to leave the city and the people she loves so well grows the farther the family carriage gets from her childhood home. When she learns that another brother, Xavier, is returning to Vienna with his musketeers, she decides to remain behind and face the shadow of war.
Katja soon reunites with Xavier and also with Toby, a dear friend from childhood. As Katja and Toby renew their friendship, an element of attraction builds on the comradery of their youth, and they quickly realize they have found something worth fighting for: love. But all too soon, the Ottomans encircle the city, blanketing its inhabitants in fear. Katja, Toby, and Xavier must each fulfill their new roles if they are to survive. In the overcrowded hospitals, below ground in the countermines, and on the ramparts defending the city walls, the three must fight for love, family, faith, and the survival of their city and everyone inside.
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Praise for Before the Fortress Falls
“This is a spectacular account of one of the most significant and decisive events of the last thousand years. It is a novel of romance and much more. The descriptions of combat above and below the ground are far superior and more accurate than other books of this type. The portrayals of the suffering of the innocent civilians and wounded soldiers are heart-rending. The entire plot takes place over just a few months as action and tensions incrementally increase until the climactic ending. Tough to put down and ultimately inspirational, this novel is heartily recommended.”
—Historical Novel Society, Editors’ Choice Selection
“I applaud A. L. Sowards’ Before the Fortress Falls. I have never before read a book that captivated me so completely. I fell into the story and was lost until the end of the book. The plot was so well developed, as were the characters. I could definitely relate to Katja and her strong, independent will. She loves fiercely and wants her family together. The way the author wrote different sections of the book which pertain to the main characters was brilliant, giving great care and attention to the main characters who are all fighting for the same thing . . . freedom and the ability to live as they wish. It is rare that a book holds my attention as well as Before the Fortress Falls did. A. L. Sowards is an incredible author and I truly look forward to reading more of their work. This was a fantastic story, steeped in history; full of strength, determination, and the human spirit and love. Not only love for one’s family, but a stronger love for one’s country, family, friends, and people. I highly recommend Before the Fortress Falls. It is an exceptional book.”
“Before the Fortress Falls has become one of my all-time favorite novels. I felt as though I was there during the siege of Vienna in 1683 as I lived the story through the main characters, Katja, Xavier, and Wilhelm. I grew to love Katja, the rich young woman who makes a choice that changes her life forever. As the story unfolds, her eyes and heart are opened to what matters most in life: true love. I worried about Xavier as he fought to defend the city and whether he would survive. And I could hardly put the book down until I learned if Wilhelm’s diplomatic mission was successful or not. This amazing story will whisk you away and stay with you long after you finish reading it.”
—Kathi Oram Peterson, author of Treacherous Legacy (2021) and Danger Unknown (2022)
“Before the Fortress Falls is great historical fiction – interesting characters operating under great duress during one of the most pivotal battles in world history. Built on a foundation of meticulous research, the writing is authentic to the Battle of Vienna but with the added dimension of viewing it through the lives of both soldiers and civilians whose very lives were on the line. I particularly enjoyed the resolution at the end of the story where the great were humbled and the humble achieved greatness.”
—Jerry Borrowman, award-winning author of twenty works of historical fiction and non-fiction.
“Everything I love in a book—thrilling battle scenes, serious emotional appeal, a unique setting and people, and even a little romance. This book really tugged at my heart, making me feel the fear, the anxiety, the hopelessness and triumph through each battle scene and conflict. I was right there with the characters, worrying each day that today would be the last day of freedom, praying that their allies would show up to deliver them from annihilation and slavery. Loved this book. The ending really packed an emotional punch that made the harrowing conflict worth it. If you want to learn about a new piece of history you’ve probably never read about before, this book should be put on your must-read list.”
—Charissa Stastny, author of The Ruled out Romances Series and Of Stone and Sky (2021)