Genre: Fiction, Literary/Alternative History/Jewish
“Eastern Europe, August 1942. The Khazar kaganate, an isolated nation of Turkic warrior Jews, lies between the Pontus Euxinus (the Black Sea) and the Khazar Sea (the Caspian). It also happens to lie between a belligerent nation to the west that the Khazars call Germania—and a city the rest of the world calls Stalingrad.
After years of Jewish refugees streaming across the border from Europa, fleeing the war, Germania launches its siege of Khazaria. Only Esther, the daughter of the nation’s chief policy adviser, sees the ominous implications of Germania’s disregard for Jewish lives. Only she realizes that this isn’t just another war but an existential threat. After witnessing the enemy warplanes’ first foray into sovereign Khazar territory, Esther knows she must fight for her country. But as the elder daughter in a traditional home, her urgent question is how.
Before daybreak one fateful morning, she embarks on a perilous journey across the open steppe. She seeks a fabled village of Kabbalists who may hold the key to her destiny: their rumored ability to change her into a man so that she may convince her entire nation to join in the fight for its very existence against an enemy like none Khazaria has ever faced before.”
This book definitely leans more towards those with a strong love for feminism and historical fiction.While Esther’s strong sense of preservation for her culture is something to be admired, the fact that she actually wants to change her gender completely in order to protect it (her culture) sends the wrong message. She definitely is a strong character, and as a warrior she is phenomenal. Esther learns a lot about who she truly is and about her place in the world as a women. She is driven by those who have told her all her life, that she can’t do something because (as a women) it’s not her role to take on.
Barton’s writing style is certainly different than what I’m used to reading. Granted I’ve never really picked up any books that weren’t YA affiliated. She did a wonderful job creating such an immersive, alternative world. I can’t imagine how much research she had to go through for this story. Although this book had it’s moments, the overall feel was a little droll. I became a little bored and sometimes even confused. There were several Jewish words and idioms that (not being Jewish) I didn’t understand or relate to. There could have at least been a glossary in the back! Just a small one. (When I read I don’t want to waste time looking up definitions and origins.) On top of that there just seemed to be too much going on. This book had elements of Judaism, steampunk, werewolves and war! Oh and I read the word mafia a few times. Also a little bit of magic/mysticism. Also……..golems.
What on earth was the author trying to create here? It’s almost as though she got really excited and couldn’t choose one direction, so she just chose them all.
At the end of the day I’d have to give the book 2 out of 5 candies. I just couldn’t get into it. I felt detached from the whole story. While I liked Esther’s character I just didn’t feel a connection. Which is a shame because I think this book had the potential to be amazing. Also I was extremely excited when I received this in the mail. Simply couldn’t wait to get into it! I still recommend it. To anyone who likes historical fiction, great adventures of war, heroism and just something different. What didn’t work out for me may work out for some of you. I mean just read that synopsis, that alone is what drew me to this book. So give it a go and decide for yourself 🙂 I may re-read this later with a refreshed mind.
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review and my honest opinion.
This is my first 2 candy review! I’m kind of having a moment right now…..