Vienna's Last Jihad
Author: C. Wayne Dawson
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2013)
Binding: Paperback, 334 pages
Islam and the West had been at war for centuries, and the last part of the 17th Century found Europe in turmoil and the Ottoman Empire still attempting to expand into Europe. Sultan Suleiman The Magnificent had laid siege to Vienna in 1529, but failed to conquer the city. Some historians call this the “high water mark” of Islam’s expansion, however, the sultans of the Ottoman Empire did not receive the memo.
In the West, the Thirty Years’ War had ended in 1648, and the printing press was fueling the Reformation. The Christian Reformation had split the Catholic Church and the Counter-Reformation, or Catholic Reformation, had begun. Religious orders were formed in the Catholic Church, with the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, organized along military lines, the most effective order. The worldliness of the Renaissance Church had no part in their new order. The earth was the center of the universe, and any contradictory teaching was heresy.
Sultan Mehmed IV, The Hunter, realized Europe was ripe for conquest and Vienna, the Golden Apple, was the gateway. It was time to force the gate.
The story opens on June 20, 1683. Mathis Ziglar, a young professor of Oriental Languages and Koranic law, had been summoned by the College of Jesuits. He was pacing near the lecture hall, waiting for someone to escort him to the meeting. Am I to be honored or threatened, he wondered? And why am I so important when the largest Muslim army in eighty-nine years is marching toward our city?
Father Schneidermann arrives and escorts Ziglar to the council. Entering he finds eight men, four of which are Jesuits. Father Sistini, the Jesuit rector, greets him and announces the purpose of the summons is to review Ziglar’s progress toward tenure, and determine if he would be retained for another year. Then the real purpose of the meeting is revealed — to determine the correctness of Ziglar’s spiritual beliefs.
Father Brauer, a Jesuit and Ziglar’s future antagonists, attempted to embarrass Ziglar and discovers his quick mind and tongue, things that will both aid and hinder him through the story. The test came when Sistini posed a heresy question, “Will you renounce Copernicus’ teaching about the earth revolving around the sun?” Ziglar provides a bland answer and stirs a debate, thus establishing his character as intelligent, quick witted, knowledgeable and brash.
As the Muslims draw nearer, Ziglar becomes a translator and then an interrogator for the army. He is captured by the Tartars and recruited as a spy in order to protect his family and Magda, his fiancée. He reveals his agreement with the Tartars to the duke and becomes a secret double agent. Bauer despises Ziglar and lusts after Magda.
What follows is a rollicking adventure that tells the story of the Siege of Vienna through Mathis Ziglar’s eyes and adventures. The reader will experience the intrigues, customs, fighting, beliefs and the horrors of the late seventeenth century from both the Western and Islamic side.
Vienna’s Last Jihad is historical fiction at its best — religion, brutality, fanaticism, treachery, war, fighting, political intrigue, and spies and counter spies. A great read.
Reviewed by: Lee Boyland (2014)
Brash and brilliant, twenty year old Mathis Zieglar, Professor of Languages, faces an agonizing choice. Should he fight the Turks who take his family hostage and move to destroy Vienna? Or should he betray his army to save his kin? One by one, Muslim agents murder Mathis’ closest associates in an attempt to isolate him from his comrades. As 138,000 Turks grind down Vienna’s 11,000 defenders with no relief in sight, Mathis’ only chance to save family and country is to use his ability to speak Tartar and the knack he learned as a child to leap, whirl and strike. Foreword to Vienna’s Last Jihad, by Stephen O. Fought, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus and Former Dean of Academics, Air War College. Dawson’s characters leap from the page, orient the reader, and immediately begin to unfold the drama of Vienna’s Last Jihad. The personalities draw you into their times and circumstances and, in near-Shakespearean roles demonstrate frustration, betrayal, amazing trust, and philosophical brilliance. The drama educates the reader in matters of history and warfare, from the intricacy of armaments and fortress design, to the brutality of combat as well as the politics of the times. You are there and Europe must turn back the Ottoman Empire, but Europe is behind and Vienna, the linchpin in Europe’s defense, is at great risk! At one point our characters have conducted a raid into the enemy camp, kidnapped an important warrior and seek to interrogate him.The individual is hung upside down and the customary torture begins. Mathis and Tannenberg cut him down with Mathis saying “I’m doing the right thing....Killing a man in battle is one thing. This stinks.” This brings to center stage the seminal question of: “How can we (as a civilized society) fight, and win, against a society that is so fundamentally different from ours, without so changing ourselves in the process that we might as well have lost in the first place?” This battle within the characters is their Jihad, and the question persists in our circumstances today. The book is worth your read. It is first and foremost entertaining and high, fast-paced drama. It is also history, as history should be taught -- in the circumstances in which it was created. And finally it deals with fundamental dilemmas we face today, but done in a manner just enough removed from today’s circumstances to be instructive.