It’s been a hot minute since I read anything by Kate Forsyth. Generally she writes more fantasy and fairytale retellings but this book is firmly in the historical fiction genre. So needless to say when it came up for review, I was intrigued because it was different than what Forsyth typically writes and she is such a wonderful writer that I knew this one would be on par with her other books!
Obviously it was an easy ‘yes’ to review but beyond just the author and genre of the book I didn’t know too much going in. I mean of course I get an officially summary of the books I review but sometimes I just say yes based on the author or cover before I really read the summary. When I sat down to start reading this one I was more or less blind. I knew it was a historical fiction piece and based on the cover I was guessing WWII (which I was correct) but beyond that I didn’t know much else.
But instantly I knew this was going to be different than the traditional WWII novel. The setting really distinguishes itself from traditional WWII books set in London, Paris, or even Germany. This book is set on the isle of Crete which instantly made me want to know more. I can’t recall a single historical fiction novel set on this small isle and it really made the novel for me!
In Crete during World War II, Alenka, a young woman who fights with the resistance against the brutal Nazi occupation, finds herself caught between her traitor of a brother and the man she loves, an undercover agent working for the Allies.
May 1941. German paratroopers launch a blitzkrieg from the air against Crete. They are met with fierce defiance, the Greeks fighting back with daggers, pitchforks, and kitchen knives. During the bloody eleven-day battle, Alenka, a young Greek woman, saves the lives of two Australian soldiers.
Jack and Teddy are childhood friends who joined up together to see the world. Both men fall in love with Alenka. They are forced to retreat with the tattered remains of the Allied forces over the towering White Mountains. Both are among the seven thousand Allied soldiers left behind in the desperate evacuation from Crete’s storm-lashed southern coast. Alenka hides Jack and Teddy at great risk to herself. Her brother Axel is a Nazi sympathiser and collaborator and spies on her movements.
As Crete suffers under the Nazi jackboot, Alenka is drawn into an intense triangle of conflicting emotions with Jack and Teddy. Their friendship suffers under the strain of months of hiding and their rivalry for her love. Together, they join the resistance and fight to free the island, but all three will find themselves tested to their limits. Alenka must choose whom to trust and whom to love and, in the end, whom to save. (summary from Goodreads)
When I think about the Nazi occupation, I tend to think of France, Poland, and Italy. I rarely think of other smaller locations and what that might have been like. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society really changed that for me when I read it. Getting to know the small island of Guernsey and their experience with the Nazi occupation was fascinating and I have since been looking for a book that has that offers that same experience and feel of a small island during the occupation. I absolutely loved that this book brought this new lens to a saturated genre of WWII books. The setting really took on a life of it’s own in this book and it was such a treat to read about an exotic location with so much rich history. I can only imagine how much research went into a book like this. If I recall, Forsyth is from Australia so to write a book like this she must have done a ton of research and likely a lot of in person research to get a true feel and vibe for the island of Crete. Hands down this one was impeccably researched and well written.
While I loved the historical details in this book, I found so much else to enjoy beyond just the history. There was a romance, a story of resistance, and some Greek mythology. I am normally not a huge Greek mythology person, but I love how the mythology was woven seamlessly into this story. I really liked the romance parts of this book. Jack and Teddy meet and fall in love with Alenka, the main character, and it was hard to NOT love all of these characters. I personally loved Jack and found his character so well written as a love interest. Alenka is also an intriguing main character and I think a lot of readers will find lots to love in her character. She is strong, tough, and just so well imagined that I cannot think of a better main character for readers to meet and enjoy!
This book was such a treat to read beginning to end! It was one of my most anticipated books of the year. While Forsyth is such a strong fantasy writer, this historical fiction book really came alive and made me excited to read more by her in this genre. It felt like a new and exciting story with enchanting details and fully developed characters and an intriguing story. If you love historical fiction this is going to be an excellent selection for you! I absolutely loved it and cannot WAIT for more books by Forsyth—–historical fiction or not! She is a very talented writer and you need to check out this book especially if fantasy isn’t really your jam you will no doubt find lots to love in this historical fiction novel!
Book Info and Rating
Publication Date: July 5, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon | Audible | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound
About the Author
Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the internationally bestselling author of 40 books for both adults and children.
Her books for adults include ‘Beauty in Thorns’, the true love story behind a famous painting of ‘Sleeping Beauty’; ‘The Beast’s Garden’, a retelling of the Grimm version of ‘Beauty & the Beast’, set in the German underground resistance to Hitler in WWII; ‘The Wild Girl’, the love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales; ‘Bitter Greens’, a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale; and the bestselling fantasy series ‘Witches of Eileanan’ Her books for children include ‘The Impossible Quest’, ‘The Gypsy Crown’, ‘The Puzzle Ring’, and ‘The Starkin Crown’
Kate has a doctorate in fairytale studies, a Masters of Creative Writing, a Bachelor of Arts in Literature, and is an accredited master storyteller.
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