Sunday, April 20, 2014

Six Star Reviews: Prisoner of Night and Fog

The highest rating a book can get on Goodreads is five stars. Five stars means the book was awesome, worthy, well-written, etc. But sometimes I wish I could give six—YES 6—stars. These instances are rare, but there are some books that stand out that extra inch. They are truly unputdownable. They are not just great, but extraordinary. They speak to me, and I love them.

So, I’m starting a new blog series called Six Star Reviews. The posts might be infrequent because I’m only sharing the best of the best. And even though this is the first post, I’d like to mention that this is actually the second time this year I've felt a book deserved six stars. The first time was Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse, which I wrote about in this multi-review post earlier this year. Now, onto the main attraction:

Prisoner of Night and Fog—Anne Blankman
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. 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?

I admire Gretchen Müller, the main character of Prisoner of Night and Fog. She’s strong and brave and true. In the beginning, she’s entranced by her Uncle Dolf, following his commands and believing his ideals. But when she’s presented with a contrary opinion, she doesn’t get stuck. She’s open-minded about it, really thinks for herself and doesn’t let her past cloud her possible future.  

(SPOILERS: highlight to read, if you dare).  And when she comes face-to-face with mad, vindictive Hitler, no longer her loving uncle, she doesn’t back down, she doesn’t agree just to agree or shrink back or run away. She looks him straight on and tells him he’s wrong. This scene was so powerful and terrifying and heart-lifting, all at the same time.

In this novel, we see Hitler’s charisma and his madness. We see how they intertwine and how easily people fell victim to his powerful presence. It’s spine-tingling and unsettling because it’s based in truth. Even though this book is set in 1931 Munich, we know what happens over the next 15 years. We know where Hitler goes and what he does, and so to see him as a human character in a fiction novel is both interesting and cringe-worthy.

Prisoner of Night and Fog is well-researched, as proven by the bibliography at the end of the book. (I love historical fiction novels with bibliographies!) It’s based in fact, which makes it that much more thrilling, because even though Gretchen and Daniel are fictional, the danger they're in was very real for many of Hitler’s opponents in 1930s Germany.

This novel reached into my chest and wrapped its pages around my heart and tightened. I flew through the book, somehow both appalled (mostly at Hitler and his Nazis) and intrigued. The story is thought-provoking on so many levels. There’s action and suspense and drama and history and love, all mingled together.

Even though it has yet to be released—the official release date is April 22, just two days away!—I’m already anxious for the sequel (which is mentioned in the Author’s Note.) And just to let you know, I will be buying this book on Tuesday. I can't do this often because it's not within my budget to buy hardcover books regularly, but I’m determined to have a bookshelf adorned with the very best of YA and this novel definitely deserves a spot.

Prisoner of Night and Fog is a 6 out of 5 stars book, and I can’t wait to stroke its spine and smell its pages and wrap it (carefully) in my arms and yeah, I’m a book geek. But I’m a passionate, unapologetic book geek.

My recommendation: READ THIS BOOK. (Especially if you like history and/or star-crossed lovers and/or free thinkers and/or edge-of-your-seat thrillers.)

*Book overview courtesy of

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