Book Review: Firebird by Elizabeth Wein

Firebird, E Wein

Source: Goodreads

So I’m back! And I’m reading again! To ease myself into the new year and the three (THREE?!?) reading challenges I’m attempting, I went with a new novella from one of my favourite authors, Elizabeth Wein. I’m a bit of a WW2…kick? Lately? I really enjoyed this book. I also left my review on Goodreads, and feel free to add me there! Keep reading for my review and please don’t forget to leave a comment with your thoughts on the book or recommending any other similar books/authors! 

Elizabeth Wein is a brilliant author, very atmospheric. I’ve read one of her novels (Code Name Verity) and it’s one of my favourite books. Firebird is a short novella, under 100 pages, and in those pages Wein packs quite the punch. The main character, Nastia, is the daughter of rebels and freedom fighters, and she is a flight instructor at an aerodrome as Russia entered World War Two. As the German armies advance and raze Russian towns to the ground on their way to the cities, Nastia faces a terrifying, exhilarating race to learn to pilot a fighter plane under the famous, beloved female pilot, Marina Raskova. Although Nastia is not a real person, Marina Raskova is. She is one of the most famous Soviet pilots and formed three regiments of women to fight in World War Two. The most famous of these regiments is the Night Witches, who get a mention although Nastia is in one of the other regiments. Similarly, the Romanov family were real people, the family of Tsar Nicholas II who were all executed. Tsar Nicholas II was the last Tsar of Russia. Their story is also pivotal in the book. Wein does a beautiful job of weaving together real history with her beautifully created characters.

The book is short and very easy to read. The format is specifically aimed at children who struggle to read or have dyslexia. The story was exciting, and considering it is just a novella and doesn’t have too much room to work with, it does a great job of building the tension and character relationships. The book is full of strong, inspiring female characters and, as with Wein’s other books, it draws attention to the remarkable women who fought alongside their male counterparts to defend their country at a time when those men didn’t believe women were capable of offering anything to the war effort. Marina Raskova was a brilliant woman, and used her considerable influence over Stalin to allow her regiments to be formed, and to train, lead and fight alongside over 800,000 similarly brave, brilliant women. Firebird, although short, gave me a real appetite for learning more about women during World War Two. I’d recommend it to teens/pre-teens with an interest in history, or an interest in strong women who actually existed, or to anyone or wants a short adventure and struggles to read.

Re reading challenges, this book ticks off a category from each challenge! I’m using it to tick off number 9 on Read Harder (‘A book published prior to Jan. 1, 2019 with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads’), number 9 on Reading Women (‘A novella’), and number 40 on Popsugar (‘Your favourite prompt from a past Popsugar Reading Challenge’ – I chose ‘A novel set during wartime’ from the 2017 challenge).


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