Title: Rose Under Fire
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Series: Code Name Verity #2
Genre: YA, Historical
While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?
Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.
There’s a reason why despite reading this novel in July, I’m only now posting the review. I had such a strong emotional response that I needed time to fully process my thoughts.
It would be wrong to call this book a sequel to Code Name Verity, which is why this review will contain no spoilers for either. Even though a few familiar faces reappear (and I got very emotional about that too), this book is more of a companion, focusing on a brand new character appropriately named Rose.
This book is harrowing in a way that is very different from Code Name Verity. While the latter is very moment-to-moment and filled with action, Rose Under Fire’s intensity is more emotional in nature. The danger is not as imminent due to the setting, so the characters’ struggles are more internal. It lacks the twists and turns, prioritizing character growth and historical accuracy. And it manages to be even darker because of that. This is probably the reason why I can’t give it the five stars I gave to its predecessor.
Despite that, I would say that the form works better here. There is some excellent writing in the novel. Rose is a poet, after all, and her poems never feel out of place within the narrative. They provide insight that would be otherwise lost in the prose and they don’t halt the plot. Similarly, the diary style was a really effective choice to convey Rose’s emotional states. It gives the novel a sense of immediacy that it would otherwise lack.
Wein proves again that she is excellent and writing characters. Her characterizations are vivid and distinct. All the hardships these characters go through are made more intense and hard to read about precisely because the characters are very well drawn. I know that just like the characters in from the first book, Rose and her friends will stay with me for a while.
Once again, Wein tackles World War II in a fresh way by focussing on women. Wein is very respectful to the actual history of Ravensbrück, even though the main characters are all fictional. I won’t spoil how, but the notes toward the end turned me into a sobbing mess. The images are haunting both because of the basis on real events and the way in which Wein presents them, which is exactly what I look for in historical fiction. This is tale of friendship, resilience, and recovery as seen through a diverse group of women and I wish there were more books like this one.