Traitor: A Review

“We’ve all got our own little wars.”

Traitor by Amanda McCrinaIn 1944 Poland WWII may be nearing its end, but the troubles are just beginning for some of the country’s long suffering residents. In the wake of Lwów’s liberation from Germany, the city–like the rest of Poland–is torn between loyalists to either Poland or Ukraine as their years long power struggle continues and threatens to tear the country apart.

Seventeen-year-old Tolya Korolenko is half-Ukrainian, half-Polish and wanted by neither side. Hungry and alone, he has become a sniper in the Soviet Red Army to try to survive. It’s a good plan until he shoots his unit’s political officer in a dark alley. Tolya knows what happens to traitors. He knows what to expect.

What surprises him is his unlikely rescue by Ukrainian freedom fighters. In Poland everyone is fighting their own little wars and soon Tolya finds himself dragged into Solovey’s. Helping the man who rescued him probably won’t save Tolya’s life. But it might buy him some time.

In a city where self-preservation and loyalty can’t always mean the same thing, Tolya and Solovey are both rocked by betrayals that will change everything in Traitor (2020) by Amanda McCrina.

Find it on Bookshop.

The story follows two storylines: Tolya’s as it unfolds in 1944 and Aleksey’s years earlier in 1941. How you feel about the story may depend on how quickly you begin piecing together the connections between these two timelines.

Contrasting the beginning and end of World War II, Traitor explores the things that remain the same as characters are driven to desperate choices both for survival and revenge. Tense prose and cliffhanging chapter endings make this novel a fast read although alternating parts between Tolya and Aleksey often cuts much the tension and–given the fact that Aleksey’s story is essentially a flashback–lends a certain inevitability to what should be suspenseful plot points.

Traitor effectively uses restricted perspective in both narratives to limit what the characters and readers know leading to reveals that sometimes expected and sometimes not. Unfortunately, it also keeps both of the novel’s main characters at a remove from readers making it hard to feel entirely invested in either narrative.

Traitor is a well-researched and suspenseful look at a rarely examined piece of history. Readers who enjoy their history with a large dose of suspense and an unflinching look at the violence of war will find the most to appreciate here.

Possible Pairings: Tamar by Mal Peet, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

August 2020 Reading Tracker

Books I Read:

  1. The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison
  2. Wayward Witch by Zoraida Cordova
  3. 1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change
  4. Traitor by Amanda McCrina
  5. The Nemesis by S. J. Kincaid (kindle)
  6. Macbeth by William Shakespeare (audio)
  7. Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez
  8. Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by adrienne marie brown
  9. The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix
  10. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (reread)
  11. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (reread)
  12. The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (reread)
  13. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (reread)
  14. Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner (reread)
  15. Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson
  16. Richard II by William Shakespeare (audio)

Books I Had Planned to Read:

Books Bought:

  1. Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar (August Owlcrate)
  2. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (Owlcrate edition because why not)
  3. Owlcrate Addie LaRue
  4. Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner

ARCs Received:

  1. The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey (requested)
  2. Into the Heartless Wood by Joanne Ruth Meyer (requested)

You can also see what I read in July.