Full disclosure: we are friends who are represented by the same agent, and I got this review copy from passing it around among our agentsibs.
I am entirely sure that I would love this book anyway, even if I’d never heard of Claire Eliza Bartlett before, because it is so full of things I love. The setting is a fantasy world version of WWII-era Russia, which is something I don’t see nearly enough of–and then to make things even better, Claire draws on the real history of the Night Witches to create a group of girl witches–pilots, navigators, and engineers using this setting’s magic to fly missions against the enemy.
Revna is the daughter of a supposed traitor to the Union, a man whose main crime is stealing waste scraps of “living metal” to fashion prosthetic legs for Revna herself. Linné is the general’s daughter, spending years hiding in a regular regiment as a boy until she gets caught, dedicated to the Union. They find themselves in very different precarious situations within their very different worldviews, that lead to the same flight training, the same missions, the same perils.
It’s as good as it sounds. It’s better. It’s full of varied and complicated relationships with a morally compromised homeland under siege. Friendships form in all permutations in a war zone: the shallow ones, the easy ones that find their own depth, the treacherous ones, the difficult ones that almost don’t happen at all. Trust, friendship, and making your way through a situation with no clear answers are the heart of this book, and I love it.