Green Giants is my feature where I share some of my favourite books by Irish Authors. I’m passionate about Irish Authors, there is a great and exciting mix of books to choose from, hopefully you will find something new to try. Today, it’s a children’s/young adult historical fiction set in Russia.
City of Fate by Nicola Pierce
Published by O'Brien Press, Limited on 17 Feb 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Source: Received from Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Imagine your home is bombed one Sunday afternoon by a horde of enemy planes. Imagine your family has gone and you are left behind. This is the fate of five-year-old Peter and two teenagers Yuri and Tanya.
Imagine being ordered to leave school to fight the terrifying Nazis in WWII. Imagine you are right in the middle of a battle; it’s you or them – you have no choice. This is the fate of Vlad and his three classmates.
The battlefield is the city of Stalingrad, the pride of Russia. Germany’s Adolf Hitler wants the city badly, but Josef Stalin refuses to let go. Nobody has managed to stop the triumphant Nazi invasion across Europe. It all depends on one city – Stalingrad – her citizens, her soldiers and her children.
Sometimes children’s fiction can be entertaining. Sometimes it can be thrilling and gripping. Sometimes it can be thought provoking and challenging. Sometimes it can be realistic and educational. And sometimes (but rarely), it can be all these things together. City of Fate is one of those books.
First Line of City of Fate:
“It was 23 August 1942, about four o’clock on a typical Sunday afternoon.”
My Thoughts on City of Fate:
This book is aimed at children from 10 upwards and as an adult I thoroughly enjoyed it also. It is set in Russia during World War II and does an excellent job in portraying the futility and brutality of war.
The characters are ordinary children and teens shoved into horrific circumstances and forced to be extraordinary. Even if you don’t know much about the Russian setting, it is built up nicely for you and you are thrust head first into the action along with the very first bomb. The language used is dark and threatening and it envelopes you in the terror that must have stuck in the hearts of all.
Some characters are more likeable than others but it all heightens the knowledge that war affects everyone. The brave, the weak, the bullies; all are tested and survival becomes the key focus. Yuri (age 14) and Peter (age 5) are left without family and without homes and together they attempt to live, eat and sleep hour by hour, day after awful day. Yuri is often hit with uncomfortable truths and has to learn to cope with the unthinkable without any adult to help him make sense of it.
“babies are too small to die in war.”
If only that were true.
Vlad, Leo, Misha and Anton (age 16) go to school only to find out that they have to report for duty that very night and are now soldiers. The loose friendships between them become a bond and give them a sense of home when they are far from home. Through their inexperience; you get a sense of how jumbled and confusing this war was. You also see how acts of patriotism can be acts of cruelty depending on which side of the fence you are on.
I think this book is very powerful and would make a great discussion book if you read it with a pre teen. And I would recommend doing just that as the book is dark at times and I think the themes should be explored and explained. I love that the book is so realistic and doesn’t gloss over the details but again I want to emphasise if a younger child is reading that you should chew it over with them.
The book is also a hopeful one and at times when the language and actions are at their darkest; you get a reminder that life goes on and there is always hope. Music and nature is used to great effect to portray this hope and adds a sense of longevity and endurance to the story.
Overall; I’m hugely impressed with this one. I loved how historically accurate it is but I also really loved all the themes running through it. It isn’t a light read but it is a worthwhile one. The epilogue felt a little out of place for me as it felt like we left the book and the author was speaking directly to us. I didn’t hate it but it didn’t work as well as the rest of the book for me.
|Did I feel it?|
Who should read City of Fate?
I’d highly recommend this book to fans of historical fiction whether you are a child (over 10), a teenager or an adult. Especially if you like books that focus on younger characters but don’t gloss over the details. It’s a stark reminder of darker times.
Thanks to The O’Brien Press for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.