‘Don’t trust your eyes…’
Oh my. That cover…!
Welcome to the freezing, harsh landscape of Siberia. Here we find a forced labour camp filled with prisoners arrested in the purges of the ‘Great Leader’, Joseph Stalin, and home to 12 year old Lina and her mother, Katya.
There are thousands in the camp – whole families – many arrested on minor charges. The vast majority are required to work in the mine. Lina however, who was born in the camp and has known no other way of life, has inherited her grandfather’s talent for gardening and as such, is allowed to work in the greenhouse under the strict gaze of Commandant Zima. Zima is preparing for the Officer’s Banquet in a week’s time and is hoping that the vegetables Lina grows will win him prestige amongst the officers. The word around the camp is that Zima is Lina’s father, which is why he gives her preferential treatment. Lina isn’t so sure…
At the very beginning of the book, we learn about an escape plan involving Lina, her mother, Vadim – a 16 year old prisoner who ‘already has the tattoos of the criminal underworld’, Alexei – described as ‘Vadim’s muscle – twice (his) age and double his size’ and old Gleb. An unlikely group to be working together but all selected for the individual skills they can bring to the attempt. At the last minute, Lina’s best friend – Bogdan Buyan – the only other person of her age in the camp – tags along. His parents are political prisoners in another camp. His father is a map maker and Bogdan brings along draft maps of Leningrad and Moscow; as such, he is allowed to stay.
Katya is known throughout the camp as playing ‘a ruthless game of poker’ and she sets up a game with the officers to serve as a distraction on the night of the escape. Before she leaves, Katya gives Lina a beaded necklace of her grandfather’s and tells Lina to make her way to her grandmother in Moscow – she was away when her husband, Katya and her son were arrested and is therefore still free. We learn that she has great power…
It isn’t long before they run into problems on the outside and Lina and Bogdan end up on their own. This is only the start of their problems as they are captured again – this time by the Sorceress, Svetlana, also known as ‘Man Hunter’ and her invisible wolves – humans who have been captured and wolfbound to serve her forever. How will they escape this time…?
’NEVER TELL CHILDREN ABOUT THINGS THEY CANNOT SEE…’
I devoured this book. I loved it from the beginning, but when the magical elements were introduced I couldn’t put it down. Children (and adults) will love accompanying Lina and Bogdan on their adventure!
Page count: 384
Age group: 9-12+
I would like to thank both Net Galley and Candlewick Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.