Building a generation is like building a wall—one good well-made brick at a time, one good well-made child at a time. Enough good bricks, you have a good wall. Enough good children, you have a generation that won’t start a world-enveloping war.The Huntress, Kate Quinn
This is three different stories all wrapped up in one. This is the story of Jordan McBride, an aspiring photographer from Boston whose dreams of being an investigative journalist lead her to be overly suspicious of her new step-mother. This is the story of Ian Graham, Tony Rodomovsky, and Nina Markova whose search for a Nazi killer known as the Huntress find them circling the globe on a whim. This is the history of Nina Markova, a “night witch” from Russia who wants nothing more than to soar above the world while moving as far west as she can. The intricacies of this story lie in the connections between these three stories. While there are many stories about what takes place during WWII and how it impacted different ethnic groups, specifically the Japanese and Jewish. This story drew me in because I haven’t read much about Nazi hunters or about American sentiments after the war. Maybe this is a gap in my own education, but I found that this was an interesting look into a side of the aftereffects of such a large scale war in countries Especially in the focus on Nina’s own story during the war, I found that I was captivated by the detail that Quinn used to describe the life of a female war pilot. This all being said, as with any novel, there are high points and low points. In the case of The Huntress the highs outweigh the lows.
Quinn makes it very obvious who Jordan’s new step-mother is from the beginning. The chapters alternate between Jordan’s point of view and Ian’s point of view and in doing this, the audience sees that the similarities between the huntress and Jordan’s new step-mother are uncanny. She also makes it very clear that Jordan is going to be the one to discover it and inserts a rift in the relationship between Jordan’s dad and her step-mother in order to further the story. It’s very subtle while reading, but very obvious in hindsight. The reader also knows two contrasting personas of the huntress. They see the kind step-mother that Anna McBride is and they hear the often recounted stories of cold-hearted women that murdered Ian’s brother and tried to kill Nina. This contrast builds suspense in a beautiful way because the reader is always on edge whenever Jordan is alone with her step-mother.
Nina, as a character, is a very powerful commentary on the effects of war. If you look at what she has survived in order to be where she is standing now, you would understand the aloofness of her character. Initially, I thought that recounting Nina’s story concurrent with Ian and Jordan’s was confusing and seemed to take away from the story. But, as all three stories managed to reach the same high tension point at the same time, I found that Nina’s story was meant to be a missing piece in the search for the huntress. Nina was the key all along (in more ways than just to further the plot).
The one criticism that I have for this story is the time spent developing love affairs. I’m a stickler for a great love story as much as the next person, especially in this context. But, when pages and chapters are dedicated to a character that Nina never sees again and doesn’t end up with, I almost wonder how much this adds to her character development and the plot itself. Especially, if in the end it’s contradicted greatly by the character’s own actions. I love Nina and she contains a strength that’s beautifully written, but I think I could’ve gone without the countless chapters of her fawning over her pilot.
The ending was epically satisfying. I found myself rooting for Ian, Tony, and Nina as they chased the huntress across Massachusetts, only to find her just out of reach. Quinn does a fantastic job of building tension throughout the novel. As a villain, the huntress is cold, cunning, and completely at odds with the reader’s experience with her. It brings up a question about forgiveness and how much the past affects the present. The last thing I want to say about this novel is that Kate Quinn did a marvelous job with all her research and that the author’s note at the end is worth the read just to know more about the historical basis of the story. I would highly recommend picking up this book and giving it a read.