Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Prisoner of Night and Fog 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.


  1. Great review on this book!

  2. A very interesting and honest review, it's a time period that I've not read a lot of book about myself as I'm always a little afraid of them because of what a sad and brutal period of time it was. I've been reading some very missed reviews about this book, both good and bad and am really unsure if it's a book for me or not. Thanks for your honesty with this review.

    Thea @ Gizzimomo's Book Shelf

  3. This was not the easiest one to get through, but I enjoyed it. I loved how real and fictional people worked together
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

  4. It seems as if everyone has read this already and I felt so bad for pushing my ARC to the back--particularly as readers seem to LOVE this debut!--but your review has me thinking it should stay there, Mandee. I'm not a fan of narrators who fail to see simple, in-your-face clues and though I love historical fiction, I need to be connected to the storyline and characters to truly fall for it. Sorry this didn't work out for you dear--I think I'll be pushing this back down my TBR. It doesn't seem to be my cup of tea after all.

  5. I've seen reviews for this one that run the spectrum from mad love to sheer hate. Such a polarizing book with the blogger community. I admit that so far my most trusted blogger friends haven't cared for it all that much so I do believe I'll be skipping it altogether. The naive MC sounds like she would irritate me and like you said, that combined with the predictability of the historical events to it just don't make it seem all that worth it for me. I wish you'd had better luck with it but I enjoyed reading your thoughts ^^ I hope your next read is/was much better! xxxx

  6. The main reason why I haven't picked up this book yet is because of my initial introduction to this book. I prefer first person POV over third person POV, and Gretchen in the first few pages of the book doesn't sound like my kind of heroine. The dazzling reviews make me wish to give this book a go though, but your review just make me rethink it again. I think this is a wonderful book as long as you can look past the naive heroine and some info-reminding. :)

    Thank you for the honest, beautiful review, Mandee! <3 :)

  7. Oh I am sorry that this wasn't what you hoped it would be, Mands, but even though you didn't enjoy it so much I think you wrote a really great review!
    I think it's pretty interesting, the prospect of this different perspective when I personally haven't read very many books set like that, but in this instance I don't think it would be my kind of book.

  8. I'm sorry that you weren't able to enjoy this Mands, I'm glad that the book did pick up for you somewhat as the book progressed. But thank you for your honest review, there have been so many praising reviews for this book so far, so its always nice, to get a differing opinion!

  9. Brilliant review! I almost picked this one up myself, but this is now the fourth review I have seen of this that was very negative. This just feels like a book I wouldn't really enjoy. It's a piece of history I find fascinating and, like you, love reading about it and love that it is becoming more common in YA. This just feels like something I would have a lot of issues with, especially with the death of the poor beloved cat ;)

  10. I will confess that I'm not a big lover of historical fiction. It's just not in me to real connect with it, though I've tried. Perhaps that's why one of your all-time favorite books remains unread in my kindle :( Still, the cover piqued my interest. But if YOU didn't love it, then I most definitely will not. ;D

  11. Awesome review Mands. I read this one a while back and usually dislike most historical YA, but really enjoyed this one. It felt as though it had more dystopian traits to the storyline for me, with the revolution brewing, probably why I enjoyed it as much as I did. Apparently it's part of a series, will you continue onto the next book?

  12. I'm sorry this one didn't work for you! I've been pushing it on everyone, but the reactions have been really mixed. Usually naivete bothers me too, especially if we know something the MC doesn't, but Gretchen's arc managed to work for me. I didn't think her gradual understanding was too slow or too fast, even though I wanted her to realize how evil Hitler was. Hopefully you'll have better luck with your next read! <3

  13. I know what you mean, I love historical novels too but if I don't feel like the story is realistic, I don't engage.

  14. I've seen thus book floating around a lot lately, but I wasn't completely sure what it was about. The idea is quite interesting, to show Hitler in such a close up situation, rather than just an evil figure head. Historical fictions are often a hit & miss with me, for that very reason that they can sometimes be predictable if they don't bring something new and engaging to the story. On a positive note the cover is eerily beautiful. Lovely review Mands :)

  15. Thanks for your review Mands, this wasn't quite my cup of tea either but I thought it was because I wasn't the biggest fan of the time period. Having your perspective sort of illustrates that others who ARE a fan of the time period could not like the book for totally different reasons too.

  16. Aww it's a pity that you didn't like this more. Especially since you actually like the time period. I for one am always a little vary of war books because they can be a tad scary for me but I wanted to give this one a shot because of the hype surrounding it. I am a little worried though, now :(

    Thanks for your honest review, Mands! :)

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

  17. "you don’t introduce a beloved cat and a psychotic brother and not know instantly that he is going to kill that cat." <--- hah, so very true. I guess you're right with it being slightly predictable, because hey, we already know what happened at the end of World War 2, so what else is going to happen here, unless it's an Alternate Universe reteelling? Sorry you didn't like this one so much, Mands :) It's good to read a different perspective amidst the positive reviews this book has gotten!

    Faye at The Social Potato

  18. I do understand why you didn't enjoy this one, Mands. I can see how it was a little predictable. I really enjoyed this and found the story to be really compelling, though I did find the MC a little too gullible at times.

    Lovely review, lady! <33

  19. Aww, I'm sorry you didn't much enjoy this Mandee! I really loved it, but I can definitely understand your complaints. It is slow to get going and rather predictable, though I just loved seeing the new perspective. :) Great review!

  20. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who started this and felt like DNFing. I'm glad to see I didn't make the wrong decision. I find third person hard to get into as well, and I think I'll just give up since it didn't make much of an impression on you. Thanks for your honest thoughtful review!

  21. I'm sorry this was so disappointing for you, especially since I've picked up the audio of Code Name Verity based on how much you enjoyed it.

    I do actually like the concept of novels where people are in favour of Hitler - it DID happen, and millions of people WERE on his side, just as millions of people were against him. I think it's something important that gets missed in high school education though - we didn't even cover the demise of Hitler, only the lead up to his success and the war. But I think it's important for people to know both sides of him, because if we're teaching history partially to make sure we don't repeat the mistakes of the past, then we need to understand that Hitler was very good at getting popular support. I also think it's important that, as with this story, the opposition comes from within Germany and not a member of the Allies.

    It's one of the things I always find fascinating about historical fiction. There are some period of history that are so popular - the Tudors, WW1 and WW2 and yet other events are almost completely forgotten or ignored by historical fiction. And it always intrigues me to see what portion or perspective of history gets told and is most successful in these stories.


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