Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman.
Prisoner of Night and Fog #1.
Published: April 22, 2014.
Published by: Balzer + Bray.
Source: Requested an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, HarperCollins Canada!
More from the publisher here.
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.
Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love history. I am especially fascinated by the Second World War, so I love getting my hands on fiction set during that time. Needless to say I was excited for Prisoner of Night and Fog. I got so excited that I was worried my expectations would be too high. I needn't have been worried. This novel is a fascinating and intriguing look at the boiling tension in Germany and the people standing on either side of this rising conflict.
The first thing I have to comment on is the way this novel absolutely oozes history from its pores. It is undeniable that Blankman has done an incredible amount of research into the history here, especially into Hitler and those in his inner circle. There are so many notable Third Reich figures incorporated into the story who, on the page, truly feel like they could be honest representations of their real-life counterparts. I was especially thrilled by the inclusion of real young women from Hitler's circle, like Eva Braun and Hitler's niece Geli, as Gretchen's friends. It was another excellent touch, I thought. 1930s Germany just came alive, to my utter delight. While this novel should be a true gift to anyone fascinated by Hitler and the early stages of his Germany because the history is undoubtedly there, it also isn't a story that is completely overwhelmed by historical details so that a casual reader couldn't enjoy its plot and characters. While there were occasional moments where the plot lagged, there were also many exciting moments, especially in the second half of the novel. I wasn't bothered by the slower parts because I was relishing in the history, but I can understand some readers wanting it to move a bit quicker. But, while having an appreciation for history will absolutely help to appreciate this novel, it's certainly not a must.
The main character, Gretchen, begins the novel as a very naive, sheltered young girl who believes strongly in her Uncle Dolf, the man who has acted as a father figure to her since her own father apparently died protecting him. She is clearly blissfully unaware of his politics and doesn't seem to truly register his cold side. However, when she begins to learn that her father's death was not all it appeared to be, she is determined to stop at nothing until she finds all the answers. Her determination and curiosity get her into some trouble but also make for a very interesting read as she explores all the possibilities in trying to uncover the truth. Aside from the practically pulled from real life Nazis who pose problems for her, one large obstacle in her way is her older brother, Reinhard. He is, quite frankly, a rather terrifying figure to have as a brother as he is completely unemotional but fully dedicated to Hitler's cause. He brings a lot of tension to the story but also serves to draw some interesting parallels with another important, real-life character, so while I felt so much anger towards him, I appreciate what he adds to the story.
Gretchen's romance with Daniel, a Jewish reporter with information about her father's death, was a component of the story I appreciated for its slow blossoming in itself, but also for how it helped Gretchen's growth. Despite the fact that she is uncomfortable with the way she sees Jews treated, she has been taught almost all her life that they are subhuman. The way meeting Daniel and getting to know how utterly human and good at heart he truly is combines with Gretchen's conscience and short encounters with a couple of persecuted Jews comes to reveal how wrong it is to treat anyone like they're less than anyone else. This is a very important step for Gretchen to make to break out of her sheltered life and begin to understand what is right and I enjoyed the way it played out. Not to mention that Daniel himself is quite the cautious and smart but passionate boy who I came to like quite quickly. The way he encourages Gretchen and the honesty and trust that develops between them despite all their differences is very sweet.
To be quite frank, this novel appealed to me in such a way that it felt like Blankman has been digging around in my brain to find out just what fascinates me. I loved the time period, I loved the history, I loved the perspective. The romance was enjoyable but not overwhelming to the plot, which kept me interested and looking forward to what came next. To say I liked Prisoner of Night and Fog would be an understatement. To say I am excited for the sequel would be another.