War: what is it good for, in genre fiction? War stories can provide a framework and reason for pulse-pounding action that compels readers to turn pages. They can be used to examine small unit dynamics, how a band of sisters and brothers forms, reacts to each other, and deals with external pressure. Sometimes war stories present higher strategic narratives, as when characters caught in a council of wars see the conflict as a gameboard, a battle of wits, determination and skill—a game played with human lives, but no less a game for that. There is also the more basic need for stories to have conflict to increase tension and keep the reader’s interest. There are many ways to ramp up that tension, but bombs falling, and the enemy army coming across the trenches at our heroes, is a straightforward way of doing so.
All of these elements are present in Brian McClellan’s novella War Cry. McClellan is no stranger to writing war stories, as in his Powder Mage flintlock fantasy novels, novellas, and stories. War Cry is set in an original fantasy universe, and one with a higher level of technological development than the Powder Mage universe, more of a WWII or Korean War level of technology.