The latest rousing adventure from Dietrich (The Barbed Crown, 2013, etc.) shows antihero Ethan Gage, his exotic wife and a...

THE THREE EMPERORS

An American adventurer and his Egyptian wife join the search for a fabled object.

Ethan Gage was once a spy for the British and the French but is now loyal only to his family. After barely escaping the 1805 battle of Trafalgar, he searches for his wife, Astiza, and their son, Harry, who are working their way from France to Prague on the trail of the mythical Brazen Head, an automaton that foretells the future. Arriving in Venice, Ethan tries to raise money for his search by gambling. He runs afoul of Baron Wolfgang Richter, a card sharp who cheats him out of his money. Ethan steals it back, barely escaping the Baron and his minions as he flees to Vienna. Unfortunately, he arrives just as Napoleon’s troops take over the city. Napoleon, who knows Ethan’s plausible patter well, uses the American's skills to keep the enemy negotiating a truce, giving himself time to gather his troops and put them in the best tactical positions. Hoping to sneak off and continue his search, Ethan steals a uniform in order to lose himself among the troops, but his plan fails, and he ends up fighting in the battle of Austerlitz. Shot in the back by an anti-Semitic French trooper he ran afoul of by defending Gideon Dray, a Jewish soldier, he is saved by Gideon and his peddler father, who take him to Prague's ghetto, where he continues to seek clues to his family’s whereabouts. In the meantime, Astiza and Harry have also arrived in Prague and been granted permission to study at the university by Primus Fulcanelli, a Latin scholar who turns out to be Ethan’s nemesis Baron Richter, head of a secret society seeking the Brazen Head.

The latest rousing adventure from Dietrich (The Barbed Crown, 2013, etc.) shows antihero Ethan Gage, his exotic wife and a varied cast of characters grappling with an especially tumultuous historical period.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-219410-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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