Prisoner of Night and Fog (Prisoner of Night and Fog #1) by Anne Blankman
Published June 10, 2014 by Hachette AU
Source: the publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 2 stars
From the blurb: Munich, 1931 - Hitler is on the rise. A compelling coming-of-age tale for fans of Elizabeth Wein, author of CODE NAME VERITY and ROSE UNDER FIRE.
Gretchen Muller has, as best she can, dealt with the horrors of her family's past. Her father, a senior Nazi officer, died trying to save the life of their leader, Adolf Hitler. And now Germany has the chance to be great once more. Swept up in the excitement and passion of life in Munich in 1931, seventeen-year-old Gretchen has embraced the life laid out for her by that leader, her 'Uncle Dolf'. Gretchen Muller has, as best she can, dealt with the horrors of her family's past. Her father, a senior Nazi officer, died trying to save the life of their leader, Adolf Hitler. And now Germany has the chance to be great once more. Swept up in the excitement and passion of life in Munich in 1931, seventeen-year-old Gretchen has embraced the life laid out for her by that leader, her 'Uncle Dolf'. But the secrets of the past cannot be silenced forever. When Gretchen receives a letter from an anonymous sender claiming to have more information about her father's death, she becomes swept up in a desperate and dangerous search for the truth. With the full might of the ever-powerful Nazi party on her tail, it is a race that will risk everything she has and change her life forever...
Prisoner of Night and Fog is Anne Blankman’s debut novel. Set in Munich in 1931, it follows the story of Gretchen Muller, a seventeen year old girl, who counts Adolf Hitler as a close family friend. Her father was killed protecting him eight years ago. Since then she helps her mother run a boarding house, and she tries to avoid angering her older brother Reinhard, as he retaliates with cruel tricks or violence. When she receives word that her father wasn’t killed but was murdered by his own party, she gets drawn into the mystery surrounding his death.
You don’t mention Elizabeth Wein’s books in a blurb without peaking my interest, but I think those high hopes coupled with the main character, as well as the fact that this story is written in third person, left me feeling very disappointed.
Gretchen is a very naïve and gullible girl, but her personality was believable. She’s been without a father for eight years, and for twelve years Adolf has had influence over her and her remaining family, so much so that she believes his opinions unquestioningly. But, her naïvety made for quite a frustrating narrator – it takes her so long to pick up on obvious clues, she spends a lot of time thinking questions and then answering them as if having a discussion with herself, and she constantly refers back to things that have already been covered, which made me feel as if the author was worried her readers wouldn’t be able to remember facts and events.
It must be difficult to write a book involving true stories and fantasy, in this case the years leading up to WWII and Hitler’s life. Most teens will have studied history in high school and I’m sure that will include WWII and the events that led to it. Modern History was one of my favourite subjects and so the facts in the story were not new to me. Even if you didn’t study this time in history, most people will have heard of Hitler and have a strong, negative opinion of him. So, while the beginning of the book struggles along slowly, showing how Gretchen has such a nice time hanging with Hitler, I was waiting for her to realise how manipulative he was being, and that of course happens because the author doesn’t try to alter history.
So, the events based on history were slightly predictable, but so too were the events of the author’s creation – you don’t introduce a beloved cat and a psychotic brother and not know instantly that he is going to kill that cat.
This is a time in history that I love reading about, despite how horrifying and depressing it is, and I love that historical YA fiction seems to be on the rise, but this book just did not work for me. In fact I almost quit reading at about 30% but I pushed on, hoping for the best. And it did pick up, once Gretchen realises the truth, but still it was a real effort to read this story and I doubt I’ll be picking up the sequel.
Thank you to Hachette for my review copy via Netgalley.