This book was received in exchange for an honest review. We were not compensated for our opinion of this title.
Genres: Romance, Suspense, Thriller, Young Adult
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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?
Gosh, what a fantastic second book! I don’t think I can get enough of Anne Blankman’s writing. It is just stupendous.
WARNING: Some minor spoilers from the first book.
Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke picks up approximately one year after the end of Prisoner of Night and Fog ends. At the end of the first novel, Gretchen and Daniel are running for their lives to the safe haven that was offered previously. I think at last she is finding the missing pieces of the puzzle she calls her life. Daniel is living nearby, working as a reporter, although I think he struggles with the idea of peaceful life where he isn’t standing up for a cause, or taking the battle flag in indignation.
I liked Daniel, but sometimes I found him insufferable. I wanted to say, “Hey butthole, you got the girl, you are safe, so BE happy with that!” But he wasn’t really happy, and I just couldn’t blame him for that. How can you be happy knowing there might be an eventual massacre of your people? How can you be happy waiting for the axe to drop?
Gretchen embraces her new normal. In fact, she’s unknowingly looked for it her whole life, because now that her eyes are wide open, she sees all the things that were wrong in her previous life and she is not interested in going back.
Unfortunately, they both have to go back. I’m not sure how to go about this review without spoilers, so the rest will be rather vague. Both of them struggled very much upon returning to Hitler’s Germany. Things had changed, and of course it was for the worse. It’s one thing to know what will happen and yet another to watch how it has unfolded. Since we know what happens in Germany pre-WWII, you can kind of guess what it’s like in the story.
Blankman continues to write Hitler in a very reachable fashion. In my history lessons, I was taught that he was responsible for the rise of the Nazi regime, and that he was cold and calculating. But in Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke, we are privy to the stories surrounding his childhood, and how he became such a soulless person. They say that people are not born with hate in their hearts; they instead learn it. Reading how Hitler became HITLER was deeply moving and appalling at the same time. It sheds a new, pitying light on him as an individual.
Gretchen, of course, learns about this. She draws some parallels to her own family, and is deeply disenfranchised with them all. And that is what makes her such a wonderful character: she can be brought up in a household that promotes hate and bigotry, and yet rise above her raising. She is graced with a gift of compassion, one that rears its head the first time in Prisoner of Night and Fog when she saves Daniel from a beating by her own brother.
I held my breath through most of the novel, while they ran through the Nazi-occupied Berlin, dealing with mafia-esque rings and political uprisings. I prayed for their survival and evasion of the National Socialists who combed the streets. I fervently wished Blankman would rewrite our history, but I know better than that. And the integrity of the story would be lost without all of that violent history.
Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke is a tense, breath-taking novel. As the reader, I was waiting for the other shoe to fall, because I know the history of WWII and it’s hard to watch these characters relive it. I am eagerly – and also with trepidation – awaiting book three.