Traitor is one of those books where I feel like thematically I liked it, but there was something that never clicked with me. Throughout Traitor, the whole idea of loyalty and betrayal are tested, but it’s told in two POV with some time jumps. Keep reading this book review to find out what I liked, and didn’t.
Poland, 1944. After the Soviet liberation of Lwów from Germany, the city remains a battleground between resistance fighters and insurgent armies, its loyalties torn between Poland and Ukraine. Seventeen-year-old Tolya Korolenko is half Ukrainian, half Polish, and he joined the Soviet Red Army to keep himself alive and fed. When he not-quite-accidentally shoots his unit’s political officer in the street, he’s rescued by a squad of Ukrainian freedom fighters. They might have saved him, but Tolya doesn’t trust them. He especially doesn’t trust Solovey, the squad’s war-scarred young leader, who has plenty of secrets of his own.
Then a betrayal sends them both on the run. And in a city where loyalty comes second to self-preservation, a traitor can be an enemy or a savior—or sometimes both.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Traitor is a historical fiction novel is about towns that change occupation like the season. It’s a book that examines truth and loyalty like the truly subjective concept they are. It always matters who is the one asking, who is the one who was able to (re)write history. To decide who are the traitors, the rebels, and the loyal ones. It’s also a book that examines the grey spaces between obedience and rebellion. In collaboration, survival, and sacrifice.
But what really lost me was the structure of the book. I mentioned it’s dual POV, which normally wouldn’t be a problem, except there’s both a time jump between each POV AND the two characters end up interacting. From a writing perspective, I appreciate being able to witness the ways these actions changed the main character, while also witnessing the actions first hand. However, this was incredibly confusing at the beginning and I didn’t really even fully sort it out until around 50% through.
And it never really fully captivated me. It’s one of those cases where I was really into the themes, but I was missing this emotional and character connection to keep me hooked. Traitor is incredibly action packed and it also asks us how, when red is blue one day and green the next, we can define ourselves. How do we make sense of home? Of family? I guess that’s why I’m having so much trouble with this review. Overall, if you like books about WW2, and from a unique angle, then definitely check Traitor out! For me, for some reason, we just couldn’t click.