Review: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne BlankmanConspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #2
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 21, 2015
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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four-stars

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 with a kindly English family, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel Cohen, 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. And 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 and recognition, 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?

Anne Blankman’s debut novel, Prisoner of Night and Fog, is perfection. I loved every single bit of it to pieces: the darkness, the terror, the psychology, the history, and the romance. The characters, the plot, the writing, and the setting were all on point. My expectations for Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke were absurdly high, so it’s not surprising that it fell short, if only slightly. Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke lacks the charisma of Prisoner of Night and Fog, but it’s still brilliant, well-written, and deliciously scary.

Set two years after Prisoner of Night and Fog, Gretchen and Daniel are living in Oxford. Gretchen’s found a loving, supportive family at last with the Whitestones. Daniel, however, hates it there, because he’s stuck working the society beat. On top of that, he doesn’t know any Jewish people, and he lacks that connection he’s had all his life. Unlike Gretchen, he was leaving behind friends and family, people he still loved and trusted. For her, it was pure escape, but he feels like he’s wasting away without really journalism to sink his teeth into.

In Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke, Gretchen and Daniel really have to evaluate their relationship. They fell in love in Prisoner of Night and Fog, and it was very sweet. Now, though, they’re past the honeymoon phase of the relationship and they’re no longer in danger all of the time. It’s not daring and intense. She’s all he’s got now, and it’s not enough. What I like about this is that, though the circumstances of their lives are so out of the ordinary, their relationship problems are very much realistic and their own. Their relationship was obviously forbidden by the Nazis, but the biggest issues they’re dealing with in Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke don’t have anything to do with external censure.

As anyone could predict, Daniel and Gretchen end up heading back to Germany. He hears that one of his cousins had been attacked, and off he goes to Germany. Gretchen follows to save his ass, which has been charged for a murder it did not commit (well, not just his ass—his whole person). It’s cool that the girl’s going to protect the guy, but such a bad idea. Once in Germany, shit hits the fan. They once again set out to investigate, hoping to stop the Nationalist Socialist party’s rise to power by proving that they framed Daniel. History tells us that they will have quite the struggle doing so.

Like Prisoner of Night and Fog, the writing and action is strong. This series gets so dark, as dark as it has to in order to capture the time period. Daniel’s crippled from the events of the first book, for fiction’s sake. Blankman shows the brutality openly. Plot-wise, my favorite part of Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke is when Gretchen and Daniel get caught up with German mobsters and prostitutes, who turn out to be way more honorable than the government. It’s also pretty cool that there’s a Nazi who still tries to help Gretchen. Things are never completely black and white or easy to pin down, and I love that View Spoiler »

Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke is, almost entirely, a great novel. However, I can’t get past the fact that it’s also somewhat pointless. A lot happens, don’t get me wrong. The book’s action-packed and full of historical intrigue. The thing is that Gretchen and Daniel had managed to escape to England together; they had new identities and safe lives. There’s no reason for them to go back to Germany; even without the hindsight of a reader, they knew that their lives would likely be forfeit if they went back while Hitler was still in power. Sure, Daniel’s family member had been attacked, but it’s not like he’s an expert surgeon, the only one who can help the guy. Like his family would want him to die coming to say his last respects or sit at his family member’s bedside. No. It’s a ridiculous, trumped up excuse to get them back into Germany. It just feels like the extra book was tacked on, since they could have had trouble getting out and just still been there.

Despite the fact that I don’t think Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke quite lived up to its predecessor, it’s still amazing. Even with those reservations, I would read ten more books about Gretchen, because they’re fabulous.

Favorite Quote:

“We can’t fill all the holes in each other’s lives. That’s too much to expect from one person. Love isn’t enough. There needs to be more—friends, a satisfying job, school, family. In England, all I have is you.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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