... superb ... Dispensing with the MacArthur-Nimitz meeting in his first chapter (it’s a good tale, but often told) allows Toll to turn his focus on the Navy, his true area of expertise as well as his enduring passion, and he deftly completes the portraits of Admirals Ernest King, Chester Nimitz, Raymond Spruance and William 'Bull' Halsey that he provided in his previous volumes. What emerges is a study as detailed as it is unsparing...And while the names of these Navy giants do not roll off the tongue as readily now as those of their celebrated Army counterparts, they should — with Nimitz emerging as the true architect of America’s Pacific naval strategy and Spruance as his masterly, if sometimes overly careful, tactician ... Toll’s expertly navigated narrative includes a number of new insights as well as a new approach that hypothesizes the struggle between 'sequentialists' and 'cumulativists' inside the American military ... Toll’s familiarity with this hitherto hidden tussle, while still incomplete, is elaborate enough to be provocative, which new historical ideas often are ... Toll’s trilogy is a departure: It is exhaustive and authoritative and it shows the Navy in World War II as it really was, warts and all ... But no history of the Pacific War can be complete without presenting an intimate knowledge of Japanese naval and political decision-making. Toll does this too, showing a tactile command of the subject that puts Japan’s war in its proper perspective.
Toll skillfully shifts his narrative focus throughout all of this from the broad-scale operational side of things to the personal and even anecdotal ... Naturally, the book’s tragic, dramatic high point deals with the main reason for that abrupt surrender: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Toll narrates this gruesomely familiar part of his story with the solemnity of a modern-day morality play; every detail is familiar from earlier accounts, but he imbues them a very readable austerity, as when he’s dealing with the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima ... the title’s meaning is a bit of a mystery to me ... traffics in such familiar narratives throughout its length, always guided by Toll’s spare eloquence and obvious mastery of his vast array of source materials. The Pacific Theater has had entire libraries of histories written about it over the last seven decades (with many, many more such histories to come, since 2021 marks a nice clean 80 year anniversary of its beginning), and Toll has written a trilogy fit to stand with some of the best of them.
... while his is an American story, Mr. Toll writes insightfully about the enemy home front, making fine use of Japanese sources and dropping hints of the demons possessing—and devouring—the other side ... Though Twilight of the Gods spans a little over a year, this is the longest volume of Mr. Toll’s trilogy. In some ways its story is the most morally complex, treating life-and-death decisions made on the cusp of victory and defeat ... factual, though not overly judgmental ... The author’s strength lies in teasing out vivid details of the complex air and naval operations ... Mr. Toll weaves a brilliant final act depicting one of humanity’s epic tragedies. This book and its predecessors set a high bar for historians of the Pacific War.