After co-authoring the hit 2019 military thriller Red Metal with #1 New York Times bestselling author Mark Greaney, Lt. Col. Hunter Ripley “Rip” Rawlings IV kicks off his solo career with Assault by Fire, a high-powered thriller that should connect with fans of A.J. Tata and the classic 1984 film, Red Dawn.
Major Tyce Asher, a U.S. Marine Corps infantryman and the hero of Rawlings’ new series, was born and bred to fight. Love of country fueling him every step of the way, Tyce has already gone to war on more than one occasion—both in Iraq and Afghanistan—when readers meet up with him here. Then tragedy strikes. A single grenade robs Tyce of his leg, but really, that’s just the beginning. Gone too are his sense of purpose, his confidence, and the career that he loves.
Picking up the story a couple of years down the road, Tyce has been reassigned to West Virginia and tasked with training National Guardsmen, something he isn’t exactly thrilled about. He misses the battlefield, the camaraderie, and all the pride he felt serving on the front lines.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, there are those in the Kremlin who view America as vulnerable. With the United States military spread out, their numbers on the homefront are as thin as ever. Russia, seeing the chessboard differently now that certain pieces are moved around, wargames a bold, daring strike on American soil, and implements that plan—hoping to catch the US off guard, and more importantly, before they can stop the threat coming across the ocean.
For Tyce, it doesn’t take long to realize that World War III has just begun when the Russians land near West Virginia with very little standing in their way, and he assembles a band of misfit troops who suddenly go from “weekend warriors” and reservists to America’s only hope. Their goal is to fight back and hold off the Kremlin’s attack until the US military can pull their troops back home—once again putting Tyce on the front lines of a battle, but this time, it’s to fend off an invasion unlike the United States has ever seen . . . and the stakes couldn’t possibly be any higher.
It takes a certain type of person to pull off a plot this complex, and Rawlings is one of the few people alive who is capable of bringing this story to life. The issue is that there are so many moving parts, and in order to simplify it for a thriller, the writer has to have a deep understanding of not only geopolitics, but military responses too. That is what makes Rawlings the perfect author to pen this bold concept, and his background (he spent time at the Pentagon as a Strategic Planner) adds validity to this battle scenario in a way that makes it too real for comfort. Russia attacking the United States can’t actually happen, right? America would nuke them into oblivion before they even set foot on US soil. Well, not so fast, and Rawlings explains how and why this setup isn’t nearly as far-fetched as one might think in this book.
Between Red Metal and now this book, it’s clear that Rawlings is a smart, capable writer who sees things in a big-picture way. The surprising thing, for me, was how well he developed his characters. Tyce, while not perfect (and there is room for growth in future books), is built into a solid protagonist who can shoulder the load of this series. Likewise, there’s a deep and diverse cast of secondary characters who steal scenes and, quite frankly, make this book fun. Plenty of vets and reservists make their way into the lineup, sure, but there are a number of hunters, firearm enthusiasts, and random civilians thrown into the mix too—and Tyce has to find a way to lead them all. That sort of “ragtag” band of misfits becomes an endearing unit that readers will surely enjoy following through the mountains and foothills of West Virginia, but even so, action drives this one, and Rawlings delivers that as good as just about anyone.
As terrifying as it is unputdownable, Rawlings’ Assault by Fire reads like a modern take on Red Dawn that works for so many reasons, chief among them being Major Tyce Asher—who appears to have a bright future in the thriller genre ahead of him.
Author: H. Ripley Rawlings
Series: Tyce Asher #1
Pages: 356 (Paperback)
Release Date: September 29, 2020
Real Book Spy Rating: 7.5/10
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.