Blog Tour: Prisoner of Night and Fog

Rating: 3.5 stars
Pub Date: April 22, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: young adult historical fiction
Format/Source: DRC, Edelweiss
Status: Book 1 of the Prisoner of Night & Fog trilogy

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour, which was organized & hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club. The full tour schedule can be found HERE. Please go give my fellow tour hosts some love!

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?

When I first heard about Prisoner of Night and Fog, I was extremely interested in the premise while simultaneously hesitant to read it.  Why? Well, I find it intriguing that this book takes such a close view of Hitler as a person, but I sometimes wonder about the fictionalizing of such a prominent historical figure. This internal conflict accompanied me throughout my read so I found myself splitting the plot into two distinct parts: Gretchen's interactions with Hitler and Gretchen's interactions with Daniel. This can also be described as the mystery versus the romance, even though each side of the story affected and shaped the other.

The very first thing I want to discuss, however, is Gretchen, our leading lady. No matter which plot you read Prisoner for, Gretchen is the pivotal character, and thankfully, she is deliciously complex one at that, which is apparent from the very first chapter, in which she saves a Jewish man's life. On one side, she's an instrumental symbol for members of the NSDAP. On the other, she's a daughter looking to discover the truth surrounding her father's suddenly mysterious death. She's a young girl who has been indoctrinated by a trusted foster uncle but morphs into a burgeoning young woman confused by the suddenly mixed and ominous/creepy messages that same man is sending her, whilst fighting a growing compassion/friendship/attraction to a young Jewish reporter. Oh, and her brother is terrifying and her mother doesn't seem to care.

It's really a wonder that Gretchen has the strength of character to pursue truth and justice. She is surrounded by so much danger and she doesn't even realize it. Somehow, Gretchen manages to maintain an air of innocence without seeming (to me, at least) stupid. She just grew up trusting the wrong people and lived a lie. I think, absolutely, the best part of Prisoner is Gretchen's personal growth and maturation. She finally sees, really sees, the evidence that her beloved Uncle Dolf is a monster. It would be so easy for her at so many critical junctures to turn a blind eye, to refuse to see the truth. Instead, she willingly chooses the hard way for family, for truth, for love. I refer to when she returns to her home after Reinhard shows his character and also attempting to warn Geli. I won't lie; that is a bit stupid because at time I was like, " RUN AWAY," but it's also admirable that Gretchen is so good-hearted and persistent.

It is incredibly hard to critique many of the supporting characters because most of them are real people, and I don't want to critique a fictional portrayal of them. I will say that I feel like an idiot because I didn't realize that Eva (whose last name IS stated several times) is Eva Braun. I just never put the pieces together or I would have understood her presence much earlier. Derpity derp. But for the fictional side characters, Daniel, of course, is the best. I don't just mean the best in the book. I mean he is one of the best male characters in a ya. He has so much heart, and he's incredibly brave. I love that he keeps giving Gretchen the opportunity to surprise him and that he lets himself be surprised. He is also kind and doggedly persistent, with an extreme desire to seek the truth. Daniel is the early driving force behind the plot. Without him, there would be no story.

Reinhard is the other standout secondary. While Daniel is good, Reinhard is a freakshow. He's important and serves as both a good foil to Gretchen and an appropriate comparison to Hitler himself. I say I want more diversity in ya characters, and boooooy, does Reinhard take the awesome big brother trope, torture it, smash it to pieces, and set it on fire just to see it burn. I was seriously terrified every time Reinhard is present. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. He's a good, solid antagonist in a book where the main antagonists are an unknown murderer, a prominent historical figure, and the looming threat of the Nazi party/WWII/the holocaust. All those enemies are shadowy and somewhat epic while Reinhard is solid, present, and straight-forward. Hitler was a more slippery antagonist because it takes Gretchen such a long time to understand him as one, but from the very beginning, it was made apparent that Reinhard was going to be a huge opposing force in Gretchen's life.

As for the plot, like with the characters, it's difficult to review the historical aspect objectively. Many of the events in Prisoner are real, just viewed through the eyes of a fictional protagonist. At times, it was difficult for me to to be sympathetic about the events that shaped Gretchen's story simply because I know they are real, and the fictionalized versions aren't what I expect. However, I do appreciate the air of intrigue that Gretchen's father's murder lends the book. I was wondering if I'd like the book more if it were merely about a young German girl who falls in love with a Jewish boy, and I came to the conclusion that I would not. A simple tale of forbidden love would not be as compelling without the backdrop of mystery and danger that the murder investigation lends. Forbidden love stories are all well and good, but they are a dime a dozen. While I remain conflicted over the presence of prominent historical aspects, those elements create a very dramatic sence of urgency and lend Prisoner quite a bit of credibility in a historical context, and that leads me to appreciate their inclusion.

When it comes to negatives, there are two technical aspects of Prisoner that drove me crazy. First, there was a lot of dialogue that was not treated as such. There were people speaking and the words he said or she said, but they were placed inside paragraphs and not inside quotation marks. I know that is a conscious style choice, but I feel it was a poor one. Conversation should always be treated as such. If you say something like "Daniel told me blah blah blah," that's one thing, but if you're saying, "Daniel said," yeah, that direct quote should just be in quotes. I found this styles was often employed during Gretchen's conversations with various people while investigating her father's murder or while discussing psychoanalysis with Doctor Whitestone. The effect is a little hard to follow and does come off as info dumpish. Secondly, there was something about the German vocabulary that seemed at times inconsistent and...I don't know...insincere, maybe? I don't think that's quite the word I'm looking for, but I do feel like the proper nouns seemed occasionally tossed in for effect and credibility other than necessity.

Overall, I enjoyed Prisoner of Night and Fog. I found the story interesting and the characterization quite compelling. I do wish that it was a standalone. I'm not entirely sure where the story will go in the sequels, but I am interested enough to wish to read them. I think Prisoner serves two purposes in that it is an entertaining fictional story that contains pivotal pieces of history and it stoked in me an interest to learn more about those historical elements beyond the surface education I received in my primary school years, and for achieving both those objectives, I consider Anne Blankman's debut a success!

Praise for Prisoner of Night & Fog:
"Debut novelist Blankman’s account of life in Munich prior to Hitler’s 1933 elevation to the chancellorship is completely engrossing....Blankman creates riveting tension for her heroine and pulls readers through with an irresistible subplot featuring forbidden love." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"I'm in awed envy of the daring with which Anne Blankman plunges into her difficult and sensitive subject matter. To read Prisoner of Night and Fog is to be immersed in a breathtaking evocation of Munich in the 1930s, where life is ordinary and skin-crawling by turns, and in the painful, hopeful story of one young girl's awakening conscience. It’s terrifying and incredible to think how much of this story is true." — Elizabeth Wein, award-winning author of Code Name Verity

"Prisoner of Night and Fog seamlessly blends the fascinating, terrifying facts of Hitler's rise to power with a gripping murder mystery. Gretchen is a brave and believable protagonist, and readers will become engrossed in her struggle to uncover the truth. I can't wait for the sequel." — Michelle Cooper, award-winning author of the Montmaray Journal series

"Prisoner of Night and Fog is a nail-biting visit to Adolf Hitler's inner circle in the early days of the Nazi party's rise to power. Gretchen Müller's reluctant transformation from star-struck protege to clear-eyed "race traitor" is poignant and believable, while the echoing tramp of jackboots grows louder and louder through the streets of old Munich." — Jennifer Armstrong, coauthor of In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer (with Irene Gut Opdyke)

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About the Author:

Anne Blankman may have been meant to be a writer because her parents named her for Anne of Green Gables. She grew up in an old house with gables (gray, unfortunately) in upstate New York. When she wasn't writing or reading, she was rowing on the crew team, taking ballet lessons, fencing and swimming. She graduated from Union College with degrees in English and history, which comes in handy when she writes historical fiction.

After earning a master's degree in information science, Anne began working as a youth services librarian. Currently, she lives in southeastern Virginia with her family. When she's not writing young adult fiction, she's playing with her daughter, training for races with her husband, working at her amazing library branch, learning to knit (badly), and reading.

Anne Blankman is the author of PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG, the first in a three-book deal slated for publication in spring 2014 from Balzer + Bray | HarperCollins. She is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.
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The FFBC has one ARC of Prisoner of Night and Fog to giveaway to one lucky reader! This giveaway is open to US residents only.

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1 comment:

  1. I absolutely cannot wait for this book. Ive wanted it since it since i saw it on goodreads first reads giveaways. Im so glad its being buzzed about.