April 28, 2015

The Witch of Stalingrad


Author: Justine Saracen

Genre: Historical / Romance

Published by: Bold Strokes Books

March, 2015; 296 pages

ISBN: 9781626393301, Softcover

ISBN: 9781626393745e, eBook


Two people, on separate trajectories, are about to intersect in the midst of World War II as The Witch of Stalingrad opens. As the Germans decimate the Russians in their own land and the Soviet military and its equipment are in near shambles, the only thing that gives them a glimmer of hope is the regiment of women aviators the Germans dub “Night Witches. These women fly planes that no one in their right minds would take into battle, but they are the only ones available to them and they want nothing more than to serve and to fly. One pilot in this regiment is Lilya Drachenko, part ace and all daredevil.


Photojournalist Alex Preston is another kind of ace. Her talent is in wielding a camera. Working for a prominent New York magazine, she’s surprised by her assignment to Russia. Alex and her family have ties to Russia that she’d rather not advertise, so when her proposal to go to the Pacific on the heels of the Pearl Harbor bombing is shot down, she finds herself heading toward the place of her birth on a freighter convoy, filled with justifiable concern. The journey is treacherous. The ships must navigate dangerous waters and icy cold weather and waves that threaten to overwhelm the ship. They also hope to escape the threat of German attack before reaching their destination.


When Alex reaches her journey's end, she holes up in a Moscow hotel inhabited by other journalists, and eventually she finds her way to Major Marina Raskova’s newly formed regiment of women pilots. Recognizing a good human interest story, Alex hunkers down with these women as they hassle the Germans night after night, buzzing their installations and bombing their encampments. The Germans dread the harassment of “Night Witches” and these brave pilots do their best to live up to their supernatural name. In Marina Raskova’s camp, Alex meets Lilya Drachenko and begins an odyssey woven through with intrigue, valor, and espionage, all the while questioning the pull of desire growing between them. In camps that afford little privacy, they know they cannot act on their attraction, without risking serious consequences if they are caught. However, these two keep can’t seem to keep their magnetic attraction at bay, finding each other time after time as the women move camp or are reassigned to other units.


Saracen’s passion for this story is apparent, spilling out onto page after page of dazzling prose. The characters are expertly portrayed and imbued with heart and soul. The horrors of war, while expertly drawn, contain sensitivity to the reader who may not appreciate an abundance of graphic description. The story itself is well plotted and moves along on a steady trajectory, ebbing and flowing, drawing the reader deeper into the tale, introducing unique and complex characters with which the reader can identify.


The Witch of Stalingrad is an exciting tale based firmly in historical substance. This roller coaster ride will thrill, entertain, giving refreshing new insights into some great women of World War II. This matchless story is typical of what Saracen does best and she’s at her finest here.

Anna Furtado
is a book reviewer and author. Her published novels are available from Bella Books and on Amazon and at other bookstores online, as well as at other independent bookstores. To find out more about Anna and her writing, please click here

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Books on Fire by Anna Furtado

Copyright 2015