Monday, April 29, 2019

Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz

Synopsis (via Goodreads): World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines.

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.


Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.


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I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Historical fiction isn't usually my thing, but I really enjoyed Among the Red Stars. The story is told from Valka's perspective, but we get most of our information from the letters she and Pasha write to one another. He shares his experiences on the front lines, and she shares what it's like fighting from the sky.

There were a lot of differences simply because Pasha was male and Valka was female. Pasha was drafted for being an able-bodied male, and Valka was refused because her body could have other uses, like popping out the next generation. She wanted to fight, and he didn't. Also, his training was short and rushed, while hers lasted longer than it should have (once she finally found a way to join the VVS). They didn't think women were as capable, and I love that they proved themselves to be just as efficient and effective in their duties (oftentimes better). 

Like I said before, I really enjoyed that most of this book was told through their correspondences. We get to see how the war changes them, their feelings for each other (not the main focus, but a nice addition to the story), and the impact death and destruction have on people during wartime. There are so many innocent lives lost during a war, friends and strangers alike, and it's something that can never be undone or forgotten.

Speaking of friends, I really liked the friendships portrayed throughout the book. Valka and the rest of her group lived and died together, so it made sense that they would form strong bonds with each other. I also liked how Pasha made friends with people he would never meet in person. They communicated messages to one another on their radios, and it was always sad when someone new starting sending them. It meant that Pasha had lost someone, even if they'd only spoken through metal boxes.

After reading the author's note, and realizing that this book was based on real people and occurrences, it made me see the story in a different light. The women mentioned in this book fought to be seen as equals, and often had to do twice as much work. They saw their friends die in the air and on the ground, and some were seen as deserters simply because they went missing in action. They could have crashed behind enemy lies, died horribly, and still been viewed as traitors to their county. It was really eye-opening for me. These women risked their lives, their very names, to protect the country they loved. It was sad to see that sometimes the country didn't love them back.

Among the Red Stars is an inspirational book for women, and shows what we can accomplish when we work together. Change is slow and arduous at times, but it can happen if we keep trying. The women in this book were heroic and made a huge difference in the war. Without their efforts, there may have had a different outcome. 

My one complaint would be Valka's lack of correspondence with her parents. She's always writing to Pasha, but it would have been nice if she'd received or written letters to her family as well. I'm not saying they should have been something visible to the reader, but at least mentioned somewhere in the story. 

Overall, Among the Red Stars captured my attention and offered an honest and realistic portrayal of the women in Aviation Group 122 (from what I've been reading about them anyways). Katz piqued my interest, and I've been doing some of my own research into their lives and what they were able to accomplish. A very interesting read!

6 comments:

  1. This sounds like a fantastic read. I love a good historical, and it's cool how this was based on real people. It's also nice how there are strong friendships, though I also wish there was more correspondence with parents. I would have expected that.

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    1. It was a fantastic read! It was a small detail, but I wish the author had mentioned Valka writing to her parents, or receiving something from them. I would think they'd be proud of her accomplishments, too. It didn't really hurt my reading experience, just stuck me as odd. If you decide to read this one, I look forward to seeing your thoughts! :)

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  2. I love historical fiction and I've heard good things about this one, so I'm definitely going to give it a go!

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    1. I hope you enjoy it! It's definitely one I'm keeping on my shelves. :)

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  3. WOW! Sounds incredible and a different view of the Russians during this part of history than I'd previously read. I love that this was done through letters too. Neat! ❤️

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    1. I really enjoyed learning about the Night Witches, and everything they accomplished. They had to fight against people within their country just to have a right to fight for their country. They wanted to defend their home, but had to overcome so many obstacles to do it.

      I also loved the letters! When Valka went awhile without receiving one, I started to get nervous with her. Especially when we hear about all the deaths and casualties. A really great read, Dani! I think you'd enjoy it. :)

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