Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Wein (The Empty Kingdom) serves up a riveting and often brutal tale of WWII action and espionage with a powerful friendship at its core. Captured Scottish spy Queenie has agreed to tell her tale-and reveal any confidential information she knows-in exchange for relief from being tortured by Nazis. Her story, which alternates between her early friendship with a pilot named Maddie and her recent sufferings in prison, works both as a story of cross-class friendship (from an upper-crust family, Queenie realizes that she would likely never have met Maddie under other circumstances) and as a harrowing spy story (Queenie's captor, von Loewe, is humanized without losing his menace). Queenie's deliberately rambling and unreliable narration keeps the story engaging, and there are enough action sequences and well-delivered twists (including a gut-wrenching climax and late revelations that will have readers returning to reread the first half of the book) to please readers of all stripes. Wein balances the horrors of war against genuine heroics, delivering a well-researched and expertly crafted adventure. Ages 14-up. Agent: Ginger Clark, Curtis Brown. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up-Wein's award-winning novel (Hyperion, 2012) is a brilliant story of two young women during World War II who are brought together to support the British RAF. Though from opposite stations in life, Maddie and Queenie (Verity) are both brash, confident, and beautiful, and their friendship is heartfelt. The story unfolds gracefully through written confessions of one of the women who was captured by Nazis after their plane went down in France. The friends are separated after this tragedy, and they (and listeners) are left to wonder if both of them have survived. The prisoner's testimony is crafted to confess the truth, while misleading her Nazi interrogators. At times details about airplanes, mechanics, incendiaries, and such leave listeners feeling woefully inadequate. Graphic accounts of torture and death are put forth in explicit detail. Wein is a master at recounting both horrible events and the emotional subtleties which define the lives of these two heroines. Narration by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell is superb, especially with Scottish, British, French, German, and English so beautifully spoken. An excellent choice for thoughtful, mature listeners.-Robin Levin, U.S. Holocaust Museum Teacher/Fellow (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* If you pick up this book, it will be some time before you put your dog-eared, tear-stained copy back down. Wein succeeds on three fronts: historical verisimilitude, gut-wrenching mystery, and a first-person voice of such confidence and flair that the protagonist might become a classic character if only we knew what to call her. Alternately dubbed Queenie, Eva, Katharina, Verity, or Julie depending on which double-agent operation she's involved in, she pens her tale as a confession while strapped to a chair and recovering from the latest round of Gestapo torture. The Nazis want the codes that Julie memorized as a wireless operator before crash-landing in France, and she supplies them, but along the way also tells of her fierce friendship with Maddie, a British pilot whose quiet gumption was every bit as impressive as Julie's brash fearlessness. Though delivered at knifepoint, Julie's narrative is peppered with dark humor and minor acts of defiance, and the tension that builds up between both past and present story lines is practically unbearable. A surprise change of perspective hammers home the devastating final third of the book, which reveals that Julie was even more courageous than we believed. Both crushingly sad and hugely inspirational, this plausible, unsentimental novel will thoroughly move even the most cynical of readers.--Kraus, Daniel Copyright 2010 Booklist
Horn Book Review
Weins exceptional -- downright sizzling -- abilities as a writer of historical adventure fiction are spectacularly evident in this taut, captivating story of two young women, spy and pilot, during World War II. Wein gives us the story in two consecutive parts -- the first an account by Queenie (a.k.a. Lady Julia Beaufort-Stuart), a spy captured by the SS during a mission in Nazi-occupied France. Queenie has bargained with Hauptsturmfhrer von Linden to write what she knows about the British war effort in order to postpone her inevitable execution. Sounding like a cross between Swallows and Amazonss Nancy Blackett and Mata Hari, she alternately succumbs to, cheeks, and charms her captors (and readers) as she duly writes her report and, mostly, tells the story of her best friend Maddie, the pilot who dropped her over France, then crashed. Spoiler: unbeknownst to Queenie, Maddie survived the crash; part two is Maddies "accident report" and account of her efforts to save Queenie. Wein gives us multiple doubletakes and surprises as she ratchets up the tension in Maddies story, revealing Queenies joyously clever duplicity and the indefatigable courage of both women. This novel positively soars, in part no doubt because the descriptions of flying derive from Weins own experience as a pilot. But its outstanding in all its features -- its warm, ebullient characterization; its engagement with historical facts; its ingenious plot and dramatic suspense; and its intelligent, vivid writing. deirdre f. baker (c) Copyright 2012. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II. In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information--"everything I can remember about the British War Effort"--in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place. A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 up)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.