Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #1
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 416 (eARC)
Source: Edelweiss
In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I want to begin this review by saying that I typically hate Holocaust literature. Why? It's really the fact that I can't stomach it. Having several Holocaust survivors in my family, the last of which passed peacefully several years ago at the age of 95, makes this a very touchy subject for me. I have trouble learning about such horrors without drawing direct parallels in my mind, and then the pain and nausea immediately set in. But this book is different. Not only is it slightly before the Holocaust, but that sick roiling in my stomach that I typically feel while reading such books stopped at about 30% in because I so quickly became engrossed in the story and was able to separate the fact that I despise literary Hitler just as much as real Hitler.

Anne Blankman truly did her research. She knows the time period leading up to the Holocaust (and by the look of the series, during the Holocaust and after it) very well. This is definitely a historical fiction novel done right. From my own knowledge, I know that nearly every character in this book is a real person, aside from our main character, her family, her love interest, and several other characters invented to make the plot move along. The fate of some characters were altered as well to fit Blankman's universe, but, hey, she does this time period justice. However, I have to take a moment to say that there was a decent amount of info-dumping in this book. At times it read like a historical encyclopedia instead of a story. I'm unsure if this can be attributed to the fact that I knew a lot of the interesting knowledge in this book prior to reading it because of my family history or because the book really feels this way.

Our main character, Gretchen, is definitely unique. She grew up following her Uncle Dolf and was Munich's golden girl after her father, Klaus, saved Uncle Dolf's life. Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. To see him painted in such a positive light made me physically ill, but to see Gretchen transform from a naive follower to a girl (a girl, not a boy!!!!!!) who can defend herself and search for the truth was amazing. I also have to give props to Blankman for characterizing her terrifying brother, Reinhard. I despised him because he was so vile and I literally cringed several times because of things he has done. Blankman hit the nail on the head with this villain and I have to say bravo, though I still despise his very being.

Perhaps the best part of this book was the romance. Daniel Cohen, why I wish you were a good little Jewish boy that was around today. You're existence in my life would make my Dad very happy. But that's beside the point. The point is that it was so nice to see such an amazing fellow acting as a beacon for hope and uncovering the truth for the Jewish population who knew they were facing near annihilation and could do nothing about it. Just a young man, he was risking his life and carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders in order to expose the truth and save many lives. This is an amazing guy with a pure, genuine heart, and even though the world is against him and Gretchen being together, this is one star-crossed pair that I'm going to root for.

The last bit of this story worth noting is the murder mystery. As Gretchen slowly tries to unravel the night of her father's death, her view of the world is drastically changed. While he was once the martyr that saved Hitler's life, it now appears that he may have been murdered. The question is, by whom? This was a really interesting mystery, but it only really exploded in the last 30% of the book. For the rest of the book it was an on-and-off occurrence that could have been a bigger focus but instead was put aside for historical back-story and setting up the romance. I wish this was a bigger focus at times, but in the end this was a truly solid novel.

For many readers this will be a hard story to stomach, but Blankman is one of those rare authors that found a way to take a terrible time in history and turn it into a decent story that was simultaneously emotionally moving and informational. Hitler's rise and the disgusting way he used words to persuade his followers was extremely evident, as were members of all opposing political parties and supporters. Perfect for historical fiction buffs, murder mystery fanatics, and those who adore tales of star-crossed love, I highly recommend reading this book. It may not be easy, but it is so, so worth it and I am so thankful that this will be a series. As a person who identifies with the Jewish religion, I'm amazed that I've somehow managed to find a historical fiction novel that tells the true story of a horrific time in history so factually correct and in such an informational way. And as a devoted reader, I'm amazed that this book worked out so beautifully. I can't say anything else aside from: read this. I cannot stress those last two words enough.


4 stars

~*~Links~*~

FTC Disclaimer: I received no form of compensation in exchange for this honest review.

2 comments:

  1. One of my biggest pet peeves is when an author skips on the research aspects of their books. With such a historical and emotional topic, I am glad to here Blankman did her research. I do not read many Holocaust related books. This one is getting get reviews and it sounds from your review that it is definitely worth the read! Great Review :)

    Ashley @ The Quiet Concert

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