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ARC review | “Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke” by Anne Blankman

Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne BlankmanTitle: “Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke”
Author: Anne Blankman
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #2
Publisher: Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Historical, Romance
Format: eARC via Edelweiss
Length: 406 pages
Rating: 

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?

FTC Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Anne Blankman blew me away with her debut novel, “Prisoner of Night and Fog.” History has never been my favorite subject, but I found myself eagerly sifting through my memory of AP European History trying to figure out what was going to happen next. The writing was impeccable, the setting was meticulously described, the characters were complex and the romance was sweet, true and forbidden. (You can read my review of “Prisoner of Night and Fog” on my old blog.)

Naturally, my expectations for “Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke” were higher than the Berlin Wall, Berliner Fernsehturm and the TBR stack on my nightstand. So while I’m sad to say that “Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke” didn’t stun me the way I’d hoped it would, I’m not entirely surprised of that fact. Still, “Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke” has everything I loved from “Prisoner of Night and Fog.”

Still in love: characters and romance

Gretchen and Daniel are not the same characters they were when I first fell in love with their story, but their continued growth in “Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke” is nothing short of amazing.

Gretchen is definitely no longer Hitler’s naive little pet. To say that Hitler’s betrayal and the brutal truth about her father’s death weigh heavily on Gretchen would be an understatement. She’s hurt and angry and the only thing that could make her hate him more is trying to take Daniel away from her. Of course, that’s exactly what he wants to do next.

We get to see a hardened, more bitter version of her in “Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke.” She even gets some blood on her hands. That, to me, is the most jarring moment in the book. It’s the moment when it becomes impossible to think that Gretchen is still just a regular teenage girl, much less a damsel in distress.

Daniel, on the other hand, shows his vulnerable side in this book. He resents the fact that he’s gone from investigative reporting to the society pages. He continually struggles with the fact that, with his crippled arm, he physically can not protect himself and the people he loves. He’s still the passionate, brave reporter we met — and fell in love with — in the first book, but, for once, we see that he’s not a perfect hero. And that makes him all the more amazing.

There’s something deliciously captivating about forbidden romance. And Gretchen and Daniel’s slow-burn romance in “Prisoner of Night and Fog” was a perfect example of one.

“You and I are impossible.” she said.

“No.” Gently, he brushed the hair back from her face. “We are what’s real and true.”

—Anne Blankman, “Prisoner of Night and Fog”

I really enjoyed seeing how comfortable they’ve become with each other at the beginning of the book. After everything they’ve been through, they deserve simple romance. I was a bit frustrated by the fact that the rift between them in this book is caused not by Hitler and the dangers they face but instead perfectly pedestrian problems, like living together in Oxford where Daniel feels miserable without his family, his friends and his job. On one hand, I felt that the obstacles in their relationship make them seem more like a real life couple. But on the other hand, I felt like those same obstacles slowed the storyline.

Still, it’s undeniable that Gretchen and Daniel are meant to be.

“I don’t want to live without you,” he said. “Life is so short and so precious, and I don’t want to waste another second of it wondering how you feel about me or what’s going to become of us. I love you. If anything happened to you, the world would stop for me. I would want it to stop because I can’t go on without you.”

—Anne Blankman, “Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke”

Plot, pace and spectacular world-building, OH MY!

The book started off a bit slowly. I’d fallen in love with the first book, and I was impatient for the plot to pick up. I didn’t want to ease into the story; I wanted to dive right in.

Once the story did pick up (about a third of the way through), I couldn’t put it down. Between the German crime rings, guns and running away from S.S. men, the action never ceased. By the end of the book, I was gripping my Kobo so hard, my fingers were white.

The action and climbing suspense are made even more incredible by the sense of realism given by the attention to detail in every event, person and setting. I swear Anne Blankman knows more about the rise of Hitler and his regime than my textbooks.

Anne Blankman is a master of seamlessly blending historical fact, mystery elements and narrative brilliance into one incredible story. Her work is a prime example of what historical fiction should be: well researched, imaginative and exciting.


Bottom Line

 

“Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke” isn’t perfect, and it didn’t quite meet the expectations I had after the utter perfection of the first book, but it’s still fantastic.

Anne Blankman balances fact and fiction with uncanny precision, adding heart-pounding action, character development and romance to the mix. The conclusion to the duology satisfies me and leaves me wanting more at the same time. I’m sad to see the end of Gretchen and Daniel’s story, but they deserve their happy ending — well, as happy an ending as possible with the looming WWII.

I don’t know what Anne has planned next, but I want it now!

The Unprinted Protagonist

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