Verini's book is the product of his reporting in Mosul in 2016-17 when he was embedded with elements of Iraq's security forces, including the Counter Terror Service, the Iraqi army, and the Kurdish Peshmerga. He also conducted interviews with Mosul's civilians as Iraqi forces liberated the city.
This is a journalistic account of warfare, replete with literary flourishes as Verini is a skilled prose stylist. The book includes a tour through the history of Mosul from the Assyrians to the present. Beginning with an outline of the author's reasons for covering the Mosul battle, it takes the reader through the months of urban combat before the final eclipse of the jihadists in late 2017.
The book is also an example of a particular school of American post-Vietnam war reporting. It includes various stock elements: musings about the banality of the experience—"War consists largely of waiting for war"—its absurd and surreal elements, and so on. It is, however, less successful as a serious piece of writing about Iraq, the Middle East, or the business of soldiering.
This is reflected in some basic errors. For example, Verini writes that the "dense white bread that Iraqis eat" is called khubz, but this is simply the Arabic word for bread. He informs the reader that the battle for Mosul would be the "climax" of the war with the Islamic State (ISIS), but it was not. Months of fighting remained until the self-proclaimed ISIS caliphate was destroyed. He states that the Iranians have a unit called the "Republican Guard," that tank commanders are called "pilots," that the defenders of Masada committed suicide by flinging themselves from a cliff, and perhaps most strangely, that "modern day Zionists" are "indistinguishable" from ISIS in their "grievance" and "wailing over lost empire." This, unfortunately, is only a sample.
Verini is a talented writer, and parts of his narrative contain genuine insight and vivid depiction. His lack of a deep grasp of the subject matter, however, is a serious flaw.