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Savaged Lands by Lana Kortchik
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Savaged Lands

by Lana Kortchik

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Savaged Lands follows Natasha Smirnova during World War II. Despite Stalin's promises to protect the Ukrainian capital, Hitler is rapidly gaining power and Natasha's peaceful world is shattered. In the midst of so much pain and danger, Natasha meets Mark, a Hungarian soldier fighting against the Red Army, but their relationship will have dire consequences if they are discovered. As the war continues destroying everything she has ever known, Natasha can do nothing but hope.

This book was absolutely beautiful. The plot was heartwrenching and realistic, and the portrayal of love and loss really brought tears to my eyes. For someone who was never really a fan of historical fiction, this book is going to go down on my list as one of my favourites. Everything that happened seemed to open my eyes further into a world in the midst of war, and I thought that the love story was beautifully incorporated. The delicate balance between romance, family, and historical fiction was harmonized extremely well, and in the end, Savaged Lands was a story about all types of love.

The characters were so three-dimensional. Each and every character had good and bad aspects to them - like how real people are. It is so easy to separate people into villain and victim and generalize groups of people based on the actions of a select few, but this book talked about how important it was to remember that everything is not so black and white.
"There are Nazis and there are Germans. Big difference," replied Grandfather, his voice nothing but a hushed murmur in the shady room.

This was definitely one of my favorite moments in the book, and I can't stress how much this still applies today. The relationship between Natasha and Mark would be complicated of course, and I thought their story was so beautiful and realistic - there were people who looked down on them, and people who supported them no matter what, and all these different dynamics between characters only accentuated the struggles they had to face in order to be together during such a dark time.

The main character was extremely likable and relatable as well - one thing I really respect about Natasha is that she does not read like cliche heroines; there's none of that "heroic savior" vibe about her. What we actually get is a realistic character that is a hero only in her own book - her compassion was what made her special and allowed her to be strong, and the fact that she was so determined to live and love was what made her a hero on her own terms.

Like I've said before, this is not just a love story. There are so many other factors to take into account, and the author's beautiful writing definitely pulled me in and allowed me to feel the pain and happiness that everyone was feeling.

Overall, this is a book that I would recommend to everyone - it was such a beautiful journey, and I would definitely revisit it again. ( )
  CatherineHsu | Oct 29, 2016 |
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Book description
'Powerful and hard-hitting' Deborah Swift

September 1941, Kiev.
Life for teenage sisters Natasha and Lisa Smirnova is about to change beyond their worst fears.

Despite Stalin’s assurances to hold the Ukrainian capital at all costs, Hitler has ordered his troops into the Ukraine and for the Russians and Ukrainians living there, it heralds a terrible time of fear, hunger and peril.

All too soon, the danger of living under Nazi occupation impacts on the lives of the ordinary citizens.

The eldest Smirnov son, Stanislav, sets off to fight for the Red Army at the front.

On the brink of marriage to her fiancé Alexei, Lisa’s happiness quickly turns to despair.

Her older sister Natasha watches as their frail grandmother stands up to a Nazi and pays a hard price. But who is the mysterious soldier who steps in to rescue Natasha?

As the harsh winter of 1941 draws in, the Smirnov family watch Jewish friends dragged from their homes, never to return.

The family are further torn by war when Natasha’s father is taken away.

Distraught Natasha turns to Mark, a Hungarian who she grows quickly fond of.

The consequences of their relationship could be dire for both Natasha and Mark if they are discovered, and their future looks fragile.

Two years pass and the noise of Red Army planes is heard once again over Kiev, prompting new hope to rise up among the citizens of the city.

The Nazis look set to move out, but will the Smirnovs’ loved ones ever return to Kiev?

Natasha waits and hopes for better times to return, not knowing whether she will ever see the people she cares for again.

Savaged Lands is a novel of love and loss, which chronicles the lives of ordinary citizens of Kiev during this dark and desperate period of their history in World War 2. Its descriptions and characters portray the horrors, and ultimately the hopes, of family members looking to survive oppression and starvation.

Whilst moving and chilling in parts, it ultimately bears testimony to the strength of the people of Kiev, and to their faith that life and love could still prevail against all the odds.

'A powerful and hard-hitting novel, it tackles the themes of loyalty and compassion, and emphasizes the hard choices that need to be made in wartime.' Deborah Swift
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