Poland, 1944. After the Soviet liberation of Lwów from Germany, the city remains a battleground between resistance fighters and insurgent armies, its loyalties torn between Poland and Ukraine.
Seventeen-year-old Tolya Korolenko is half Ukrainian, half Polish, and he joined the Soviet Red Army to keep himself alive and fed. When he not-quite-accidentally shoots his unit’s political officer in the street, he’s rescued by a squad of Ukrainian freedom fighters. They might have saved him, but Tolya doesn’t trust them. He especially doesn’t trust Solovey, the squad’s war-scarred young leader, who has plenty of secrets of his own.
Then a betrayal sends them both on the run. And in a city where loyalty comes second to self-preservation, a traitor can be an enemy or a savior—or sometimes both.
Thank you so much to Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) and NetGalley for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Historical fiction is not normally a genre that I would pick up. Don’t get wrong history was my favorite subject in school, but whenever I would pick up a work of fiction based on history the dates, places, and historical events became jumbled in my head.
Everyone remembers reading about World War II in school, but it was always hard to imagine the actual people fighting in the war. The lessons always made that part of history feel so far away. But Traitor puts you right next to these young men and women as they fight for their lives and for whichever side they are on, even the characters don’t know sometimes. The Polish Resistance, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), the Soviet secret police (NKVD), and the German special forces units (Nachtigallen) all fight against each other at one time or another and there seem to be traitors everywhere. The main characters never seem to have a moment’s rest and I did not tire of this story at all while reading it. There are also two different timelines and it just adds to the story even more as details are revealed in the later timeline that explain things that happened in the earlier timeline and vice versa.
Aleksey and Tolya became very real as I neared the end of their stories. I could honestly read about them forever. Both Tolya and Aleksey constantly battled internal struggles, while having to watch their backs against enemies and their own people. I really felt for them as they made their way through their individual battles and it saddened me when it seemed that they were never going to catch a break. People around them were dying and they never knew when they were going to be safe again. They both just really tugged at my heart strings.
McCrina does a fabulous job of putting you right there with the characters. You never truly know where each character’s loyalty lies no matter how many times chapters you read in this story. Each time a new character is introduced I scream internally because I’m wondering if they are going to betray my beloved Aleksey and Tolya or not. McCrina knows just how to keep you on your toes and keep you guessing as the story progresses. She also ended the story on a heartbreaking note that kept me wanting to know more. The author also handles multiple timelines seamlessly. The details that she leaves in each of the timelines are just jaw-dropping and it excited me when I was able to piece together what happened between the two timelines. I am not sure if there is going to be a sequel to this phenomenal book, but if there is, I am all here for it. However, if that is all the story that we are going to get about Tolya and Aleksey, then I am perfectly happy that I got to experience their story in the first place.
Meet the Author
Amanda McCrina was home schooled through high school and graduated from the University of West Georgia with a BA in history and political science. For three years, she taught high school English and government at an international school in Madrid, Spain, and is now a bookseller in Franklin, Tennessee. She is represented by Jennie Kendrick at Red Fox Literary.