Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog

Author: Anne Blankman
Publication Date: April 22 2014
Pages: 401
Source: Library ebook

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.

I've been on a fantasy kick recently, and felt like, as there is a limited supply of fantasy reads in the world, I needed to wean myself off this genre. I thought Prisoner of Night and Fog, a book heavily recommended by the co-blogger, Mari, could be the book for me.

I have a terrible confession: I was not particularly interested in this novel. I can't exactly say why-- maybe I wanted some more superpowers?-- and this is not Blankman's fault. I was simply not very invested in the story. This makes this tough to review, so I'll try to focus on smaller aspects of the novel and my impressions of those rather than the whole.

First of all, I was surprised at the kind of investigation Gretchen conducts. It was not what I was expecting, and to be very honest, it's not something I have much interest in. It was something new during Gretchen's time period, and it's something I have studied in perhaps one of the most boring classes I have ever taken (which, incidentally, could have affected my appreciation of the story). This investigation leads to a twist that I was a little surprised was the twist, because I didn't think this merited this kind of response. The actions felt disproportionate. Similarly, I liked the way Gretchen developed as she investigated. The fact that she was interested in certain subjects like healing others made her a well-fleshed out character. I could understand her investigation.

I think in general, I really liked Gretchen. She was an extremely well-written character with a past, a life outside of the story, and hopes and fears. I could picture Gretchen clearly as a friend, and she had a very specific voice and personality. Regardless of my apathy towards the story, I truly did root for Gretchen and I loved watching the ways she developed. She's different from many YA characters in the sense that she's soft. She's genuinely caring and sweet, and no one realizes just how brave she is, except for Daniel.

Blankman's description of Daniel and Gretchen gets better as the story progresses. Reading about Daniel's gorgeous eyes and his intensity, his desire to seek out the truth and his kindness, was adorable. Daniel also has a story and it's fun reading about him from Gretchen's perspective. I would like to know more about Daniel and I think perhaps there will be more about him in the sequel. In any case, I really liked him and thought he was a great match for Gretchen.

The most intriguing aspects of the story were the historical bits. Some events like the putsch were written about in detail. The setting is the in-between era as the National Socialists are gaining power. Gretchen, in the story, has access to Hitler and their relationship was obviously fascinating. I thought Gretchen, as the National Socialist golden girl, was interesting to follow because Blankman tried to show  how someone could be enthralled by Hitler, despite the horrible things he was saying. She explored this through making Gretchen a sort of niece to Hitler, one he enjoyed immensely. They interacted and I thought these scenes were very well done.

Mari told me that she liked Prisoner of Night and Fog because of its historical accuracy. I can't say much about that because I have not researched this period extensively, but based on reading the acknowledgements and author's note, I am impressed with the level of detail put into Prisoner of Night and Fog. The way the story was weaved into real history, with most of the characters being real people, is impressive. I don't feel like either the historical aspects or the story suffered from this intertwining, and credit goes to Blankman for this.

The last really interesting bit for me was the subtle feminism of Gretchen's story. Women have had it tough, and a strong substory was Gretchen, and the other girls' treatment in Germany in general, and within the Nationalist Socialist ideology. Gretchen faced a lot of injustice due to her sex, and she reacted against it. There were some scenes that were tough to read about because of lack of support Gretchen received. It's a tough life for Gretchen and I'm glad she had Daniel, someone that truly saw her strength. I'm also really happy that Blankman explored this in such detail.

In general, I thought Prisoner of Night and Fog was very well-written with a lot of excellent themes and development. A lot of thought was clearly put into the story, and that translated into some very compelling scenes. This wasn't the engrossing read I may have come looking for, but I would say it's among the better historicals and a series I probably will continue.



What do you think?