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Kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst
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Kingdom of Shadows (2000)

by Alan Furst

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Night Soldiers (6)

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
A strong 3 1/2 stars. A different kind of pace for Furst in this one. A more cerebral, nonchalant hero. Nicolas is quite a different hero than what Furst has usually. This is an aristocrat, an Hungarian count, that is caught in the spying game almost by boredom and family loyalty at first. Gets terribly frighten and then well.. becomes a reluctant hero. The style is subdue, all in shades of grey. Different from The Polish Officer, different from Blood of Victory or even the more intellectual hero of Spies of Warsaw. It's a enjoyable change of pace. ( )
  writerlibrarian | Apr 7, 2013 |
Atmospheric, moody, tension filled. All of these could describe the body of work by Alan Furst. This book is much like the others by this author in this respect. What sets this one apart is that the author chose to write about places in Eastern Europe that are somewhat obscure for an American audience. The countries that comprised the center of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire are a geography and a history about which American's in general are ignorant. To top it off, the idea that countries other than France, Britain, and Russia, had much to loose in another major war is outside of the realm of normal World War II literature. This book does much to correct these misconceptions and helps to fill in the gaping hole in fictional literature about these places. Europe in the first part of the twentieth century was a hotbed of intrigue and cataclysm with millions of people caught up in the whirlpool and tides of history and war. The book also sets the record straight about the people of the times. They knew that war was coming and either tried to stop it or to make things work out the best they could for their country. Patriotism is not exclusively American or even Western European. This book sheds light on corners of Europe about which little is known. Even if the writing wasn't tight and the mood and atmosphere of the settings not brought to life so well, I would recommend this book, just for the history about obscure places in Europe. ( )
2 vote benitastrnad | Mar 8, 2012 |
A Hungarian exile who fought in WWI is living in Paris. This story takes place in the crucial period just before the start of WWII, when Hitler is expanding into Austria, Checkoslovakia and Poland. He is sent on missions into Easter Europe by his uncle, also in Paris, trying to maneuver things to stop Hitler.
There is no one, overarching story. He goes on a series of trips to accomplish the tasks his uncle gives him, often without full knowledge of what will happen next as a result of his efforts. But, the book is an excellent portrayal of the mood and feel of the time. ( )
  BillPilgrim | Apr 5, 2011 |
I kept going back and forth on this one. I ended up liking it, but it was a bit of a slog at times. It takes place as the outset of WWII, as European countries were trying to figure out where they would align, and what chances they could take in facing the storms of fascism and Nazism. Morath, a very likable Hungarian living in Paris, takes on various "intrigues" at the behest of his uncle -- moving refugees across borders, buying freedom for others. Meanwhile, high society life as it would never again exist, is the context in which he usually moves. I liked Furst's ability to present the stubborn optimism, without denial, of people in the face of inevitable impending war. ( )
  EBT1002 | Mar 19, 2011 |
This was my first Alan Furst book. I enjoyed it a good deal; enough to read more. I liked the atmosphere and the fact that it was thrilling without being horribly violent. ( )
  dherself | Jan 31, 2011 |
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Furst, Alanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bortolussi, Stefanosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
Excerpt from the beginning of Chapter 1:
"On the tenth of March 1938, the night train from Budapest pulled into the Gare du Nord a little after four in the morning. There were storms in the Ruhr Valley and down through Picardy and the sides of the wagon-lits glistened with rain. In the station at Vienna, a brick had been thrown at the window of a first-class compartment, leaving a frosted star in the glass. And later that day there'd been difficulties at the frontiers for some of the passengers, so in the end the train was late getting into Paris.

Nicholas Morath, traveling on a Hungarian diplomatic passport, hurried down the platform and headed for the taxi rank outside the station. The first driver in line watched him for a moment, then briskly folded his Paris-Midi and sat up straight behind the wheel. Morath tossed his bag on the floor in the back and climbed in after it. "L'avenue Bourdonnais," he said. "Number eight."

Foreign, the driver thought. Aristocrat. He started his cab and sped along the quai toward the Seventh Arrondissement. Morath cranked the window down and let the sharp city air blow in his face.

8, avenue de la Bourdonnais. A cold, haut bourgeois fortress of biscuit-colored stone block, flanked by the legations of small countries. Clearly, the people who lived there were people who could live anywhere, which was why they lived there. Morath opened the gate with a big key, walked across the courtyard, used a second key for the building entry. "Bonsoir, S'l'ne," he said. The black Belgian shepherd belonged to the concierge and guarded the door at night. A shadow in the darkness, she came to his hand for a pat, then sighed as she stretched back out on the tile. Sýlýne, he thought, goddess of the moon.

Cara's apartment was the top floor. He let himself in. His footsteps echoed on the parquet in the long hallway. The bedroom door was open, by the glow of a streetlamp he could see a bottle of champagne and two glasses on the dressing table, a candle on the rosewood chest had burned down to a puddle of golden wax.

"Nicky?"

"Yes."

"What time is it?"

"Four-thirty."

"Your wire said midnight." She sat up, kicked free of the quilts. She had fallen asleep in her lovemaking costume, what she called her "petite chemisette," silky and black and very short, a dainty filigree of lace on top. She leaned forward and pulled it over her head, there was a red line across her breast where she'd slept on the seam.

She shook her hair back and smiled at him. "Well?" When he didn't respond she said, "We are going to have champagne, arenýt we?"

Oh no. But he didn't say it. She was twenty-six, he was forty-four. He retrieved the champagne from the dressing table, held the cork, and twisted the bottle slowly until the air hissed out. He filled a glass, gave it to her, poured one for himself."
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375758267, Paperback)

Penzler Pick, January 2001: The thrillers of Alan Furst usually take place in the dark days preceding World War II, but while the main participants in that war are of course portrayed, Britain, France, Germany, and the United States do not usually star in Furst's novels. He prefers instead to focus his stories on the citizens of those countries whose allegiances and roles in that particular theater of operations are much more contradictory and conflicted.

Kingdom of Shadows is set in Paris during 1938 and 1939. It is unclear at that time what the fate of Hungary will be if Hitler has his way, but a small group of expatriates would like to insure that events turn out in their country's favor. Nicholas Morath is an Hungarian aristocrat who fought bravely in the Great War. He is now part owner of an advertising agency in Paris, while his uncle, Count Janos Polanyi, is a minor diplomat stationed in Paris. Polanyi calls on Nicholas to take part in missions against the Hungarian Fascists: carrying letters or bringing individuals back across the border in the course of his business trips.

As Nicholas's dinner parties, business deals, and dalliances with his mistress start to take a back seat to the escalating crisis in Europe, his tasks become more complicated, dangerous, and bewildering to him. He knows far less than the reader, who understands that his actions will have far-reaching consequences even beyond the fate of Hungary. Nicholas just does what he can without the luxury of historic hindsight.

Furst has fashioned here an elegant gem that vividly portrays the city of Paris during the last peaceful days of 1938 and the menace of Hitler's ambitions in the Sudetenland and beyond. Nicholas Morath is a charismatic and sympathetic figure who will come to understand, as the war progresses, the consequences, both good and bad, of his smallest actions during that turbulent time. --Otto Penzler

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:38 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Paris, 1938. As Europe edges toward war, Nicholas Morath arrives in Paris on the night express from Budapest. Morath, urbane and handsome at forty-four, a lieutenant of the Hungarian cavalry in the First World War, spends his days as the owner of a small advertising agency and his nights in the bohemian circles of his Argentine mistress. Looming over this elegant existence, however, is the shadow of Adolf Hitler. Morath has been recruited by his uncle, Count Janos Polanyi, for a secret mission of the utmost importance. Polanyi is a diplomat at the Hungarian legation in Paris; desperate to stop his country's drift into alliance with Nazi Germany, he lives in a shadow world and trades in conspiracy." "It is Morath who does Polanyi's clandestine work, moving between the beach cafes of Juan-les-Pins and the forests of Ruthenia, from Czech fortresses in the Sudetenland to the private gardens of declasse royalty in Budapest. Hungary is a small nation caught between two great powers: to avoid being drawn into the coming conflagration will require desperate ingenuity. As the failure of appeasement becomes grimly apparent, Hitler marches into Prague and threatens Poland, and Morath is drawn deeper and deeper into danger, as quiet favors become secret missions, until ultimately he is risking his life behind enemy lines for the very future of a free Europe."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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