ARC Review: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

Conspiracy of Blood and SmokePublisher: Balzer + Bray

Release Date: April 21,2015

Genre: YA, Historical fiction

Source: Digital e-ARC from Edelweiss

This is a second installment in this series. If you didn’t read Prisoner of Night and Fog, you need to turn around, read it, and come back. There will be spoilers here, but only from the first book, not from this one! I really, really loved this. Plus, it came at a perfect time since I’m about to do a unit about the Holocaust with my 7th graders. They’ll be reading The Devil’s Arithmetic as their novel and I’m super excited. Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

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 in England, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel, 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. 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, 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?

1. The writing was intense and beautiful and magical.

Anne Blankman’s first installment of this series was her debut novel (I’m pretty sure) and it was amazing! I have this strange fascination with the Holocaust and Adolf Hitler. These books are set in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. Not only do you see a lot of the politics involved in this, but you see it from Gretchen’s point of view, as Hitler’s pet. Well, in the case of this book, Hitler’s former pet. Every other chapter I was all sweaty and excited. So much happened! I felt like I really had hopped into Gretchen’s time. I shared her pain and her stress. Blankman is an incredible wordsmith.

2. You see more of Daniel, which I loved!

The love between Daniel and Gretchen is an odd love. Gretchen is supposed to hate him, since he’s a Jew, and she was brought up thinking that Jews were a disease in Germany. In the first book, Daniel helped Gretchen discover that her father didn’t die a hero protecting Hitler – Hitler had killed her father for knowing he was diagnosed as a psychopath. This sends Gretchen out of the country to Oxford with Alfred, who is more of a father to her than even her own father. She and Daniel are on the run and Daniel is more prevalent in this book. He shows how brave and kind and caring he is all the while trying to wrestle with his own demons. This book centers around a (historically accurate) murder, which is then pegged on Daniel. They are set on clearing Daniel’s name, so they go back to Berlin. The idiots! I was definitely happy with more Daniel in my life.

3. The author’s note is so, so awesome! I love knowing which facts she blended with fiction!

You have to read the author’s note in the case of both of these books. It’s so cool to see what inspired the fiction that is based in fact. For example, the character Daniel supposedly murdered – Monika Junge – is fake, but the actual murder is based on a real, unsolved murder! How freaking awesome is that?! I have always been a sucker for historical fiction, especially from this era in time (hello, Code Name Verity, anyone?). I love sucking up as much information as I can. Blankman had to have done painstaking research to get all of this right. It is highly impressive to see how well she blended facts and fiction together to make this crazy awesome book.

4. Gretchen is occasionally annoying.

I always forget how YOUNG Gretchen is! When we first meet up with her again in the first chapter, she has just turned 18. I always forget how young she is only because of the way she speaks and the situations she’s been through. Her whole escape and childhood interaction with Hitler is more than any young person could bear, really. She’s fallen from grace with one of the most powerful people in Germany when before, she had absolute protection because of “Uncle Dolf.” Now, she’s in a new country, trying to build a new life, but his ghost is haunting her dreams and her every thought – try as she might to expel him from her brain. You have to commend her courage for running from him after she uncovered the truth, instead of just pretending she didn’t know anything to save her own hide. We find out a lot more about her father in this book, but I won’t tell you my opinions; I want you to have your own opinions! Gretchen goes through a huge transformation in this novel. She is more determined than ever to bring Hitler down, to save Daniel, and to make a life for herself without fear. Whenever she made horrifically stupid decisions, I would roll my eyes and think, ‘ugh! Only a child would be so stupid!’ But then I have to remember: she IS a child! She’s an amazing lead and even though she annoys me sometimes, I still adore her for the challenges she faces and subsequently overcomes. Bravo, Gretchen!

OVERALL: 5 STARS!!! I would give this book infinity stars, to be completely honest. The amount of research and perfect blending of fact and fiction continue to astound me, even after reading this. If you love historical fiction, or just fascinated by Adolf Hitler, this series is definitely for you! This releases on April 21, 2015 so go forth and preorder!

Click to preorder!

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