Inspired by the Night Witches, real WWII Soviet fighter pilots, Bartlett’s electrifying feminist fantasy debut uses keenly wrought characters, harrowing action sequences, and creative yet economical worldbuilding to explore misogynistic military culture and the human cost of war. Revna Roshena’s father is serving life in prison for stealing military scrap to fashion her prosthetic legs, so when a Union officer witnesses the 17-year-old practicing banned magic known as the Weave in the middle of an enemy attack, she fears she’ll meet a similar fate. Instead, the Union proposes a deal: if she’ll use her magical abilities to fly planes made of sentient metal for an experimental all-female regiment, they’ll forgive her crimes and provide for her family. Revna bonds with all her fellow recruits except Linné Zolonov, a general’s daughter caught posing as a boy to join the military. Linné initially disdains her fellow soldiers’ femininity and inexperience, and regards Revna as a liability. Then the two are sent into battle as navigator and pilot, forcing both to reexamine her own prejudices regarding strength and ability, loyalty, and patriotism. Revna and Linné’s relationship evolves via an alternating third-person narrative, compounding the depth and heft of an already sophisticated plot. The stirring conclusion inspires hope for a sequel. Ages 14–up. Agent: Kurestin Armada, P.S. Literary. (Apr.)
An Amazon Best Book of the Month for April 2019
* "The richly textured world, painted in snow and fire, filled with disparate, diverse people who all want to win the war, is background to a powerful, slow burning story that develops Linné and Revna's reluctant friendship, their growing understanding of the world, and their emerging identities as soldiers who may not entirely trust the country they are willing to die for. Undercurrents of religion, hypocrisy, betrayal, and honor roil beneath the alternating third-person perspectives.... A fierce and compelling breakout debut that should not be missed.
"Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* "Bartlett's electrifying feminist fantasy debut uses keenly wrought characters, harrowing action sequences, and creative yet economical worldbuilding to explore misogynistic military culture and the human cost of war."Publishers Weekly, starred review
* "Rich characterizations and an enemy that, while it looms in the background, never feels quite as threatening as the country the girls are fighting for complete a story set against the bright, brutal backdrop of war. A breathless series starter from a new voice to watch."Booklist, starred review
* "Full of sharply realized characterizations, intriguing magical elements, and twisty plots."
School Library Journal, starred review
"An empowering story about the power of female friendships that questions the blind loyalty associated with patriotism and provides insight into the role that women have actively played in battle."BCCB
"Has the feel and imagery of a World War II novel, but in a world run on magic... This novel is about beating the odds, female empowerment, and female relationships. It's a strong novel and I loved it all."Lauren Nopenz Fairley, Curious Iguana (Frederick, MD)
"Throughly enjoyable. Linne and Revna deal with complicated issues of family, country, loyalty, and trust and how those intermingle... Their conflicting relationship, stemming in large part from their different backgrounds, drives the story as they both work for the success of the women aviators in a world with fascinating living metal planes."Gwendolyn Baltera, Buttonwood Books & Toys (Cohasset, MA)
"A fantastic story of fierce female friendships, flying, and finding your place...The world doesn't have enough stories about girls who need each other to surviveand this fills that void amazingly."Amanda Quain, One More Page Books (Arlington, VA)
"Set in a world torn apart by war...how they get out and what they learn about each other is the main point."School Library Connection
Gr 9 Up—This action-packed Russian-inspired fantasy features two strong-willed but very different teenagers recruited to join a squadron of female aviators conducting night bombing raids against their country's enemy, the Elda. Their country, The Union of the North, is energized by Spark magic and aligned by Weave magic. Even though doing Weave magic is illegal, it's practiced in secret. Traitor's daughter Revna, 17, is a struggling machine factory worker, with living metal prosthetic legs. When the Elda bomb her city, Revna uses the Weave to save a member of the feared Skarov (espionage agents with shape-shifting abilities) from getting killed and is caught. Instead of jail, Revna is invited to join an all-female aviator regiment. Bronze-skinned Linné, also 17, joins, too, after her disguise as a boy fighting in the Union army is discovered and she's dismissed. Along with 11 other young women, they train to use their Weave and Spark to combat Elda's firepower. Revna and Linné dislike each other on sight but are stuck as flying partners. Linné knows Revna's a good pilot but thinks her disability makes her a liability. Dangerous missions force them to commit morally untenable acts, while they also endure the derision of male pilots and officers who don't think they belong. VERDICT For fans of Leigh Bardugo's "Shadow and Bone" series, Gennifer Albin's Crewel, or Kathryn Lasky's Night Witches, who like complex, multivolume feminist fantasies, full of sharply realized characterizations, intriguing magical elements, and twisty plots.—Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton
Flight, friendship, and feminism collide in this fantasy that draws heavy inspiration from the Soviet female bomber pilots of World War II known as the Night Witches.
In this USSR-influenced world, war seems eternal. Every Union resource is dedicated to the war; women use their spark magic to power the technology that shapes living metal into war machines while men and boys die on the front. Linné, the daughter of a general who dressed as a boy to join the war, and Revna, the disabled daughter of a convicted traitor, are each angry at a world that doesn't have a place they belong, which brings them both to an experimental women's flight regiment. The richly textured world, painted in snow and fire, filled with disparate, diverse people who all want to win the war, is background to a powerful, slow burning story that develops Linné and Revna's reluctant friendship, their growing understanding of the world, and their emerging identities as soldiers who may not entirely trust the country they are willing to die for. Undercurrents of religion, hypocrisy, betrayal, and honor roil beneath the alternating third-person perspectives; hints of possible romances and likely bigger battles to come seem to promise a sequel or two. Linné is bronze-skinned and Revna is pale; descriptions assume a white default.
A fierce and compelling breakout debut that should not be missed. (author's note) (Fantasy. 13-adult)