Book Review: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke
By: Anne Blankman
Published By: Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Page Count: 416
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Historical Fiction
It has been over a year since Gretchen and Daniel fled Germany to escape Hitler's wrath. He will never stand for his former favorite to give her heart to a Jew. In order to stay alive, they pair have risked everything to get safely to England. Life in England has been wonderful for Gretchen. She has started to move past the scars of her childhood and has found a loving family that supports her dreams of becoming a doctor who focuses on psychoanalysis. Daniel, on the other hand, is has not adjusted as well. He hasn't been able to find a job covering real news and must make ends meet by writing the society column. He longs for Germany and his old job.
Everything seems to be going well for the pair until Daniel's cousin is brutally attacked. Daniel cannot stand idly by in England while the Nazis take out their anger on his family. He decides he must return to Munich to discover who attacked his cousin. He leaves without warning, a letter his only goodbye to Gretchen. She instantly goes out of her mind with fear and grief. Daniel will surely be killed if Hitler finds him within the German borders. A telegram stating that Daniel is wanted for murder in Berlin sends Gretchen back into the clutches of Hitler and his forces. She must find Daniel and help him prove his innocence before both of their lives are snuffed out like the wick of a candle.
In addition, I love the romance. Gretchen and Daniel are the ultimate star crossed lovers. They fight against so many obstacles to be together. Their feelings are so intense its as if the story has a heartbeat. You can feel their devotion to one another; it fuels their courage and tenacity. There are also moments when it makes you pause for a moment in a swoon. For example, Daniel states, "I choose you, Gretchen. Every time, I'll choose you" (Kindle Location 1508). The conviction in Daniel's love for Gretchen - and vice versa - is the stuff that we all dream about when we think of the concept of soul mates. I love watching these two battle against all odds to be together. I'm attracted to stories that have characters from differing backgrounds find ways to place their hearts on common ground. Love is what makes the world a better place.
This novel has the same intensity as the first and the stakes are just as high. I felt like I hit the ground running in the first chapter and my heart pounded until the last sentence had been read. This is not one of those dry, dull historical fiction novels. I was on the edge of my seat, biting my lip for the majority of this read. I love that Blackman teaches me about history with compelling characters and intense action. I was firmly entrenched with Gretchen and Daniel throughout every moment.
I also loved getting to see more of Germany in this novel. The first novel is largely set in Munich, but this one focuses more on Berlin. Again, this is all prior to WWII and focuses on Hitler's rise to power. In this novel, Hitler is still Chancellor of Germany, but there is a plan in motion to give him full control of the government. This adds an element of tension in the plot, but largely plays out in the background. The major plot point of this one revolves around the murder that Daniel has been accused of and his attempts to clear his name. The investigation into who really killed Monika Junge will lead Daniel and Gretchen into the world of underground crime in Berlin and put them directly in the path of Hitler's men.
Blankman has once again delivered a compelling and exciting view into 1930's Germany. This is by far one of the best YA historical fiction series I have read; the amount of research and historical detail is superb. Blankman has solidified her position on my favorite authors list with this one. I love that we get the perspective of a German who is against Hitler's policies and the perspective of a German Jew. It allows the reader to fully immerse themselves in the historical experience and see it from multiple perspectives. It saddens me that the writing was on the wall as far as Hitler was concerned, but still the world delayed in taking action, allowing him to move forward with his plans. It always makes me wonder how history would have been different if people knew then what we know now.
One Last Gripe: Gretchen was a bit whiny at times.
Favorite Thing About This Book: The historical details
First Sentence: The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone bicycled down the country lane.
Favorite Character: Daniel
Least Favorite Character: Goring
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?