Review: Among the Red Stars

***Disclaimer: A copy of Among the Red Stars was provided in exchange for a free honest review. All opinions are my own.***


Among the Red Stars Review

By: Rae



“Our cause is just. The enemy shall be defeated. Victory will be ours.”

– Gwen C. Katz, Among the Red Stars

It is World War II. People are dying. A draft is active. Nothing is safe.

Main character Valka is determined to prove herself and protect her homeland of Russia. Filled with dreams of glory, with hope to become a hero, and desiring freedom, she aims for the sky. And yet what is war? What is real? What is disaster? What does it mean to fight for something corrupted yet to yourself beautiful?

As I began reading Among the Red Stars, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about Valka. The quote though above – “Our cause is just…” – ideally sums up her character from the start. Chapters are full of determination, of wonder, of naivety that we all experience through Valka’s eyes. I couldn’t help but wonder if she’d grow or be lost in the illusion of a war-like fairy tale that she had weaved for herself and that others influenced from her fellow flight sisters, to her cousin, to Pasha, her childhood friend. But then the reality sets in. War is not pretty. War is not just to fight but to survive.

“It’s a good as a law of the universe for her: People who leave never come back.”

– Gwen C. Katz, Among the Red Stars

The transition of the book, taking into consideration certain parts that felt sluggish, is summed up by a quote that taunted me from the beginning after Pasha leaves to join the front. The quote foreshadows the loss of loved ones, of one’s self, as the war drags on. The deaths are so quick and yet linger with little memories and reminders.

While the plot feeds little hints throughout of devastation, of hope, of a glory that everyone in their own way is trying to achieve. It was the letters that teased me the most throughout Among the Red Stars. They were haunting, they packed an emotional punch, and the provided a POV that readers wouldn’t have gotten unless the actual POV was split between characters. Do they provide enough? Perhaps. Do they provide too much? Perhaps. Did Pasha grow more than Valka? Again, perhaps.

At points I felt a disconnect, more so early on when the letters were first introduced. However, the entire novel gave off this feeling of illusion and disconnect, it is after all about a war that unless actually experienced can only be viewed with an outsider’s view. I felt weighted by emotion, cheated by the people who went missing and their fates left to the imagination, cheated by the end where Valka seems almost unreachable when she returns home, and yet it is what made this so real, so true – even as a work of fiction.

In the end,  I could only sit reflecting on the disconnection’s ability to provide a certain accessibility to see inside something raw, ugly, and yet put to words emotions everyone experiences in different scenarios. We grow. We feel love and we feel hate. We fight for what we believe in.

I give Among the Red Stars 4/5 stars. It was well written and powerful with emotion.

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