For some reason, this year I have heard about a couple of books that came out or are coming out, about the Night Witches of WWII. I hadn’t read any of the books but I was interested in the subject matter and historical take on these brave women.
I wanted to pick up one of the, what I like to call, Night Witches books but I just didn’t think of it when I was at the bookstore or my library. Then one day in late November I got an email pitching this book featuring the Night Witches that was more of a YA book and I practically pounced on the request!
From a historical stand point, I think anything about the Russian Night Witches, is incredibly important and interesting, but my reading year was coming to a close and I didn’t really want to read anything overly taxing and long, so when I saw that this book was geared toward a more YA audience, I was eager to review it.
World War II has erupted in Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She’s a pilot—and a good one—so she eagerly joins an all-female bomber regiment.
Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German targets is something else entirely. The raids are dangerous, but as Valka watches her fellow pilots putting everything on the line in the face of treachery, she learns the true meaning of bravery.
As the war intensifies, though, and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.
Inspired by the true story of a famous all-female Russian bomber regiment, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, of learning to fight for yourself, and of the perils of a world at war (summary from Goodreads).
So right off the bat, I loved this book. The author has a wonderful prose and writes exceptionally well. While this book is labeled YA, it’s not a simple read—it has substance and history that is interesting and relevant for many readers of all ages. I saw that one reviewer said that adults will love this book because the author tackles hard and difficult issues with honesty, and I absolutely agree with this. This book had some hard, very real issues that the main character had to address and come through but the author makes sure that her heroine rises to each challenge which makes her stand out and mature beyond her years and I completely agree that as an adult reader, I enjoyed this book.
At first, Valka our heroine, is a little young and naive but as the story moves along, Valka is tested over and over again and we see this shift in her character that is exciting to watch. While there is some romance in this book, it’s not the focus of the story which I loved. I’m all for romance but the subject matter begs the readers full attention and I thought that the author did a wonderful job letting that shine. I worked in a high school for twelve years and I feel a book like this with a main character who is interesting and unique, is a book that so many girls these days need to read. It’s important that young girls have positive, strong, feminist role models even if they are fictionalized.
I loved reading about the training and missions these women endured and on that alone this would have been a five star read, but add in all of the other plot lines, then this book became one of my favorite reads of the year. This is my first experience with YA historical fiction/thriller—-especially set in this time period, but I am loving it and eager to read more.
As a historian myself, I like my historical fiction to be authentic and well researched, and I certainly felt that we got that with this book. It’s clear that the author loves the hell out of her subject matter and researched it extensively. I am excited to read more by this author—-this is her debut novel and what a debut it is! This is an author worth watching!
One final note—that cover is pretty awesome. I love the cover art so much, it is interesting and eye catching all at the same time. If I saw it in a bookstore I would instantly grab it for the cover alone.
Book: Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz
- Review copy provided by: Publisher/Author in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own
- Recommendation: 5 out of 5
- Genre: YA, historical fiction, suspense, WWII
- Memorable lines/quotes