“It was pointless trying to find evil in a face. So often, evil sat invisible behind perfectly ordinary features.”
*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and HarperCollins UK in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***
I kept seeing glowing reviews about The Huntress ever since it was published earlier this year, so I was over the moon when my request for an ARC was actually approved. WWII historical fiction is one of my absolute favorite subgenres, so it is easy to say that between the glowing reviews and the bonus of a favorite genre I had extremely high expectations for this story. It’s the first time I read one of Kate Quinn‘s books (I have The Alice Network high on my TBR though), and I was definitely blown away by what I found. My expectations were more than met and I have found a new favorite story as well as author. Say hello to one of my 2019 top reads!
With its 560 pages, there is so much going on in The Huntress that I’m having a hard time figuring out where to start with my review. For lack of better ideas, I’ve decided to keep it simple and start with the historical setting. Due to the complexity of this story, we have three different storylines, POVs and thus three different historical settings to discuss… The one I found most striking was Nina’s POV, as we don’t often see a focus on the Russian side of the war, let alone learn more about female Russian pilots and everything related to their role in the war. We see Nina evolve as she grows up in inhospitable Siberia and wants to follow her dream to conquer the sky… The descriptions of the different places in Russia are simply fantastic, and the same goes for the incorporation of historical facts about the female pilot division and everything that relates to the Night Witches, the bombings and other things happening during the war. And I have to say that Nina’s POV alone already made me want to hand out the full 5 stars for this story.
To contrast this rather intense storyline, we have the milder POV set in postwar Boston with Jordan in the lead. This is a story of a young woman with a passion for photography, dreaming about a seemingly unreachable exciting life but instead being pushed to tie the knot with her boyfriend and take over her father’s business in the future. This storyline is also focused on family and has that whole ‘possibly evil’ stepmother vibe… It was really interesting to see both this storyline and Jordan’s character evolve over time and slowly merge with the third POV: Ian. Ian Graham is a British war correspondent who is determined to hunt down as many Nazi members as possible after the war with the help of his colleague Tony. Their journey starts in Austria as they decide to track down the infamous ‘huntress’, and here comes Nina in play as well as the only witness who saw the woman and survived.
At this point in the story we don’t know about Nina’s past yet, and it was fascinating to see how all different storylines slowly evolve as the hunt continues and brings them to different places and closer to the final so-called reckoning. I especially liked how we only learned about Nina’s past in small doses, absorbing those final details just before the story reaches its climax. The three different storylines and POVs are woven together in the most expert way and basically give you three different high quality stories to follow all wrapped together into one brilliant masterpiece. I’m not lying when I say that this is without doubt one of the best WWII inspired historical fiction stories I’ve read to this date, and I’m not taking those words lightly… The Huntress left me lost for words.
I don’t want to talk too much about the plot as I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but what I can say is that between the complex and rich plot, the writing, the different characters, historical references and settings, there is a lot to love in The Huntress. While the pace might be slower in points, the story also has moments of speed (especially in Nina’s POV) and you will have to prepare yourself for a healthy dose of surprises in the plot. The writing is simply beautiful and draws you right in, and I loved the use of foreign words here and there. The character development is also sublime, and I loved how the different storylines slowly came together until the full picture is finally revealed as you fit the last piece of the puzzle. Most of the characters are so easy to like as well, partly because of their flaws and realistic development, partly because of their charms. Especially Nina stood out for me (I loved her bluntness), but it was great to follow Ian and Jordan as well. Even the ‘huntress’ was a fascinating and well developed character, though of course she can never be called likeable.
As you might have guessed, there is a lot to love in The Huntress and I can highly highly recommend it to anyone who loves WWII historical fiction as much as I do. Between an unique, complex and rich plot, beautiful writing, fascinating characters, detailed descriptions that really make the historical settings come alive and a healthy dose of secrets and surprises, you will find yourself having a hard time picking what exactly your favorite element of this story is.