Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke (Anne Blankman)

Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke (Anne Blankman)Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #2
Published by Balzer + Bray on 21-04-2015
Genres: Historical, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon
Goodreads

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?

Plot: ★★★
Characters:
★★★
Readability:
★★★★

The story

17 months after barely escaping from Germany, Daniel gets a teleraph that his cousin has been badly beaten.  Unable to sit in England and do nothing, he finds himself rushing back to Germany.  When Gretchen finds out that Daniel has been accused of murder, she follows him to Germany to try and find him, in the hopes that they can prove his innocence.  But 1930s Berlin isn’t safe for either of them now, and danger lurks on every corner.

While I really adored Prisoner of Night and Fog, I felt like it had reached quite a satisfying end, and so I had very mixed feelings going into Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke.  I ultimately enjoyed it, but for me, it definitely didn’t live up to the first book. It took me quite a long time to get drawn into the story, although the second half had the gripping tension I expected from the first book.

The characters

 

Gretchen and Daniel remain together, but their relationship is certainly not perfect, as we find out early on. I loved the fact that they still had difficulties to work out, but I felt like the ‘awkwardness between them’ was repeated a lot throughout the book with neither trying to address it, which got tiresome.  Having said that, I still liked both Gretchen and Daniel as characters, and although we don’t see a lot of them, I also really liked the Whitestones.

final thoughts

My reservations of Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke are perhaps down to the fact that it felt a little less believable than the first book. In Prisoner of Night and Fog, we fundamentally had a mystery, and a coming-of-age story where the young Gretchen begins to see that maybe what she’s been taught just isn’t true. We had a tense portrayal of a man who is both a father figure to Gretchen and also the infamous Adolf Hitler, a story dripping with tension and fear, lightened by the growing romance between Gretchen and Daniel. In Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke, in comparison, we had a plot that felt interesting, but at times unbelievable – I felt like in Prisoner of Night and Fog, they were playing with fire by getting together certainly, but they were facing, at that point, Uncle Dolf, more than Adolf Hitler. In Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke, Hitler has had 17 months to contemplate Gretchen’s treachery, and I felt that at this point, Gretchen and Daniel would have to be fools to think anyone Gretchen used to know, apart from very possibly Eva, would remain on their side.

 

Buy it? For me, unless you’re bothered about having the matching set, this is probably a borrow. (Though the cover is gorgeous so it might be worth it for the matching set!)
In a nutshell: An enjoyable story and worth a read, but just didn’t love up to the brilliant first book for me.

Other Reviews of Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke: The Daily Prophecy | Love is not a triangle | Great Imaginations

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Prisoner of Night and Fog (Anne Blankman)

Prisoner of Night and Fog (Anne Blankman)Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #1
Published by Headline Book Publishing on 22-04-2014
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads

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.

Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Readability: ★★★★★

I was really anxious about starting Prisoner of Night and Fog because I’m still working my way out of a reading slump caused, in part, by reading The Book Thief at a time when I wasn’t feeling it.  While I’ve loved a few historical fiction novels (most notably Conn Iggulden’s Conqueror series) I’m not a huge fan of the genre, and so I was worried Prisoner of Night and Fog would send me spiralling back down into my slump.  To be honest though, I think it’s helped boost me back out!  Prisoner of Night and Fog hooked me from the very first page, and I couldn’t put it down – something that hasn’t happened with a book in weeks!

 

The storyGretchen Muller lives in 1930s Munich, the daughter of a martyr who died to save her Uncle Dolf – Adolf Hitler.  She worships her Uncle Dolf, the charismatic man with the voice like chocolate, the man who always looks out for her and the one adult she knows she can trust.  When a Jewish reporter seeks her out, telling her that her father was in fact murdered, Gretchen is still shaken up from watching a brutal beating of a Jew, and just about unsure enough to listen to what he has to say.  From that moment on, Gretchen begins to see things in a different light and to wonder about the views of a man she has always loved and followed.

Now first of all, I have to say I’m not a huge history buff, and I don’t speak a word of German, so in terms of technical accuracy, I couldn’t comment.  What I can say is that I loved the characters and the plot, and the writing took a story that could have been dark and depressing to twisted but gripping.

There are a lot of different threads to this book, but it never felt cluttered.  Obviously, the story follows Adolf Hitler, and Gretchen’s slow doubt of his manifesto.  As well as that, there’s a budding romance, the mystery surrounding the death of Gretchen’s father and the difficult relationships Gretchen faces at home. The threads flowed seamlessly throughout the book, and there was no one thread that dominated – I was curious about them all!  My only complaint about Prisoner of Night and Fog was that I felt the resolution of Gretchen’s father’s death was a bit anti-climactic.

 

The characters
There’s quite a cast of characters, and they aren’t all likeable but they are all fascinating. Gretchen Muller, our protagonist, is a feisty young girl who has been through her father’s death and a difficult home life but is fundamentally a survivor. Daniel Cohen is the dedicated young Jewish journalist, determined to root out the truth. As well as those two, we also have Gretchen’s mother, her cruel elder brother, her best friend Eva and Hitler’s niece Geli. The characters are a mixture of real historical figures and fictional, but the two blend together seamlessly.

Blankman’s portrayal of Hitler is brilliantly done. Although you know the reality, the beginning of the book manages to portray him as Uncle Dolf, the charming, devoted family friend Gretchen loves. As Gretchen slowly begins to question him, more and more of his other side is revealed, and the way his portrayal changes is fascinating. Although in this case we’re reading about a character who thinks of moving away from Hitler, the slow gradual way this is done makes it easy to imagine in reverse.

 

final thoughtsPrisoner of Night and Fog is not exactly a beach read – although the writing makes it very easy to caught up, the story is still fundamentally dark and creepy. A sense of fear, mystery, and urgency permeate the writing, and had me flicking through quickly, desperate to reach the end. Although I raced through it on first read, I can imagine re-reading it more slowly, really savouring the story and looking more carefully for key moments.

Buy it? This is one worth buying for me.
In a nutshell: A fantastically atmospheric, desperately gripping debut.

Other Reviews of Prisoner of Night and Fog: Dark Faerie Tales | Inspiring Insomnia | Book Blog Bake

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