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HFC Editorial Review of "The Nightmare Kingdom" by Rob Bauer

Author Bio:

A former college history professor, Rob Bauer now brings his knowledge to his historical novels. His books strike a balance of creative storytelling and meticulous historical accuracy. You can download his first novel for free at . One of his books, The Buffalo Soldier, features his own original research about 1890s Montana.

Rob also writes a history blog on his website, , where he reviews historical fiction books and blogs about the historical influence of things as diverse as Martin Luther King, Jr. and fascism.

In addition to his historical novels, Rob is also a huge baseball fan and has written four nonfiction books on baseball history. In 2019 he gave a presentation at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

When not writing, Rob lives at the beach with his wonderful dog Cora and tries to maintain the fiction that he’s a runner. To that end, he swears he’ll finish a marathon someday.

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Editorial Review:

This is the price of defiance. The price of pride. The price of turning our backs on God!”

How did Satan corrupt God’s people into sin age after age? Through appeals to their vanity. By offering them greater knowledge in imitation of God, just as he’d done to Adam and Eve. After puffing up the pride of man, and then filling man’s head with false teachings, Satan had only to stand back and watch as these so-called learned scholars led God’s people away from His truth.

This is the perfect book for readers who love historical fiction, religious fiction, or dystopian stories based on real events.

From the outset, the inciting incident reeling us into the main character’s lives does not disappoint! Sofie and her sister, Hilde, live during the religious upheaval in Germany during the time of zealots and revolutionary game changers like Martin Luther. Immediately the reader is thrust into the action as both sisters live through the Peasant’s Revolt of 1525 when upwards of 100,000 peasants were killed for opposing the aristocracy, incorporating some principles and rhetoric from the emerging Protestant Reformation, using the platform to attempt to achieve their freedom. In the aftermath, the field of burning bones, their own parents among the slain, Sofie and Hilde’s uncle rescues them and take them to Münster.

But the upheaval continues, even as Sofie and Hilde desperately try to carve out a semblance of normalcy in the city. Before long, a prophet arises – The Prophet – a religious fanatic who dreams of ushering in the Second Coming of Christ and the rise of Münster as the “New Jerusalem”. Every day that passes the nightmarish shadow grips its fingers around the throat of the city, squeezing and demanding for all the citizens to submit to the laws of the Prophet – new laws such as: all men marrying age must immediately marry; all adherents must wear a copper coin around their neck and be baptized as adults, showing their acceptance as Anabaptists and defiance of the threat of death imposed from the Holy Roman Emperor for anyone who gets baptized; and the establishment of polygamy to ‘grow the flock of God’ in preparation for Christ to come to his city and throne; and last, all possessions and money become the common share of the people, a sort of communistic or socialistic mix with religion as the touchstone.

Quiet acquiescence becomes a way of life, a way to survive. In the midst of all this turmoil, Sofie finds love with a young man whose own family escapes the city; while Hilde finds herself at the mercy of the Prophet, witnessing and experiencing things no fourteen year old should ever have to experience. But Sofie finds she cannot protect those she loves without falling prey to the restrictive laws, witnessing again and again the punishment upon those who break the rules – beheadings and tortures in the town square on a regular basis.

She is trapped, along with all the people of Münster, inside the city walls, starving from lack of food, lack of intelligent reasonings on scriptures, and lack of reliable guidance from any direction; and when the Holy Roman Emperor comes calling outside the town walls, besieging in order to destroy the rebels, Sofie comes to a quick realization that she must save herself and her sister before it is too late for any of them.

This is not an ordinary historical fiction novel, nor is it strictly dystopian, since the unfortunate reality is that this truly happened. The horrors of the Peasant’s Revolt and the later years of the Münster Rebellion actually occurred as the Anabaptists denounced Catholicism from a radical Lutheran perspective, proclaiming that the scriptures called for the absolute equality of man in all matters, including the distribution of wealth. The pamphlets, which are part of the story and were distributed throughout northern Germany, called upon the poor of the region to join the citizens of Münster to share the wealth of the town and benefit spiritually from becoming the Elect of Heaven.

Rain lashed the shutters, the musty smell of wet clothing strong in the close air. Had the men dared open the shutters, they would have seen the Old Church of Amsterdam looming over them, its great bell tower spiking into the murky leaden late afternoon sky. But this was too important to worry about the world outside. The future of mankind hung in the balance.

This truly became a dystopian society whose leaders sounded like the medieval equivalents of David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Warren Jeffs – a terrifying episode in actual Germanic history, and Mr Bauer brings this all to life in a very vivid way, recreating the harsh reality and connecting the reader to the characters in a very believable way, but does so without gratuitous violence or gore, which undoubtedly there was much of from both sides of the coin.

I knew nothing about this event before this book. I knew some about the events surrounding Martin Luther and his break from the Catholic Church, but the details of this, plus the presentment of some of the Anabaptist explanations of the scriptures in Revelation and Daniel was incredibly educational, as well as interesting. And it is not done in a non-fiction way, but rounded out in a believable storyline and dialogue. Sofie is a strong woman who grows stronger each and every day, and Hilde, though appearing fragile, finds the strength to avenge herself and the wrongs done to her, and both girls lives revolve around the destiny of the city itself; and all the while, they are supported by amazing friends and family in the face of religious persecution.

When people’s beliefs are strong enough, or when they want to believe something badly enough, facts don’t matter. People want to feel right in their beliefs. For a lot of people it’s easier to imagine they’re correct, regardless of facts, than to face the possibility they might be wrong. They’ll look for any sign, however dubious, to prove they’re right, at least to themselves.”

This is indeed the dark side of religion and while embedded in the sixteenth century in this story, reflects modern-day society and the political and religious braggadocio of today. How very easy that even happened in Münster might happen again in our day – just a small nudge neatly wrapped in the ideals that the delusional and narcissistic leaders are doing things for God, in his name. People would follow like lemmings to the precipice, just like the so many did in following The Prophet of Münster, especially if they do so without knowing the full truth for themselves. Without a doubt, Mr Bauer did a tremendous amount of research and gives us a relatable novel, one for the reading, and adds with it a theme song sung and loved by that vile Prophet, one that will forever haunt the reader after reading the story.


“The Nightmare Kingdom” by Rob Bauer is awarded the “Highly Recommended” award badge and five stars from The Historical Fiction Company.


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