About the Book
Author: Anne Blankman
Publication Date: April 21st 2015 by Balzer + Bray
Blurb: The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives with a kindly English family, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel Cohen, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.
But then, Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside-down. And when she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped-and return to her homeland.
Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture and recognition, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time-or will Hitler discover them first?
When I read Prisoner of Night and Fog last year I thoroughly enjoyed it and began to look forward to the time when I would be able to read the sequel, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. However, as the reviews of the book started to come out, I grew apprehensive because some reviewers were saying that the sequel fell short of the prequel. And yet, as I flipped through the pages of the book, I realized that there was no need for my fear. I was absolutely astounded by Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke, and in my opinion, it topped Prisoner of Night and Fog.
One aspect of this book that stood out to me, and that is indeed a mark of Anne Blankman’s work, was the stunning worldbuilding. It is clear that Anne Blankman has done her research as the depth of the historical details included truly adds to the story. I was captivated by the accuracy with which Anne Blankman described the setting and I even learned more about Germany during the World Wars. For example, the Ringverein played a huge part in the story. I had not heard of the Ringverein before, but these men who committed petty crimes for the sake of their survival and yet held a strict code of conduct with an emphasis on loyalty and were against the Nazis, struck my interest while still adding to the story.
Another aspect of the story I enjoyed was reading about the main character, Gretchen-even if she was a bit whiny in the beginning of the story. Gretchen is a strong female heroine and her most prominent trait is her bravery. Throughout the story, she was completely devoted to her cause, which was fighting against the power of the Nazis, and proving her Daniel innocent of murder. She let nothing stop her from taking action and throwing herself into terrifying situations in order to gather the clues that would allow her to help Daniel prove himself innocent. Besides that, she is an intelligent heroine whose intellect allowed her to muddle out the sparse clues she was able to collect. I particularly loved seeing her ability to take the psychological tricks that Hitler taught her and use them against him. Finally, Gretchen is absolutely loyal to Daniel and with her exceptional bravery, will always sacrifice herself for him, just as he would do for her.
Speaking of Daniel, yes, romance is actually a huge part of this book. I wasn’t expecting that, but it really didn’t bother me that much like romance often does. I felt that there was a reason for the romance to be included as it explained many of the dire choices that both Daniel and Gretchen made to sacrifice themselves for the other. It was pretty clean, too, with the exception of some kisses. However, what really rubbed me the wrong way with this romance subplot was the way Gretchen kept on thinking about how they were drifting apart in the middle of the story. First of all, the drifting apart didn’t make very much sense to me. The trouble in their relationship sprang up and disappeared too…abruptly. Second of all, when Daniel drifted apart from her, Gretchen kept on repeating her thoughts about the new distance between them, using almost the exact same wording every time. It drove me just a teensy bit crazy. Still, the rest of the book was fabulous.
Possibly my favorite part of this book was the actual murder mystery. I did not expect that it would take up such a large part of the book, but it did, and it was a fabulous decision on the part of Anne Blankman. Near the beginning of this book, Daniel, a reporter hated by the Nazis, is accused of a murder he did not commit. Together, Gretchen and Daniel must journey throughout Germany to find clues that will help Daniel figure out who really killed Fraulein Junge so that he can clear his name. However, they are opposed by the National Socialists, who are racing against them to make sure that they don’t find out the truth behind the murder. I was constantly on edge throughout the story because I knew that at any moment, while Gretchen and Daniel were in a dangerous place searching for clues, the National Socialists could spring on them. Additionally, the murder mystery collides with an arson mystery at the Reichstag, creating even more tension. While the plot dragged at first, after a few chapters, my heart rate literally sped up, and I was pretty much in fear throughout the whole rest of the book. I also posted a ton of caps lock status updates on Goodreads because I was so nervous about how everything would play out. Gosh, it was one heck of a (fabulous) whirlwind.
Finally, the ending was bittersweet. It left me both with sadness and with hope for a better future for the two characters. My only question is “Will there be a third book?”. Because I kind of need it right now.
Have you read Prisoner of Night and Fog or Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke? What did you think of them? What books have you read that have lots of great worldbuilding? What’s the most suspenseful book you’ve ever read?