Nadya’s War by C.S. Taylor tells a different side of World War II. A side that doesn’t often get a light shined upon it. A side that deserves to be told.
About ‘Nadya’s War’ by C.S. Taylor
Nadezdah “Little Boar” Buzina, a young pilot with the Red Army’s 586th all-female fighter regiment, dreams of becoming an ace. Those dreams shatter when a dogfight leaves her severely burned and the sole survivor from her flight.
For the latter half of 1942, she struggles against crack Luftwaffe pilots, a vengeful political commissar, and a new addiction to morphine, all the while questioning her worth and purpose in a world beyond her control. It’s not until the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad that she finds her unlikely answers, and they only come after she’s saved her mortal enemy’s life and fallen in love with the one who nearly kills her.
‘Nadya’s War’ review
It’s no secret that I’m a huge World War II historical fiction fan. I’d say that out of all the books I read every year, at least 25% of them are WWII-centric. That being said, I’ve never read a book quite like C.S. Taylor’s Nadya’s War.
While other books set during that time usually focus on the American or British experience, Nadya’s War shows the war from another, lesser known aspect of the war: the lives of female Russian fighter pilots. Like many, I had no idea that there were women among the ranks of Russian fighter pilots or even that there were separate female air force units. It’s crazy to think that bomb girls in the United States and Canada are more well-known than these brave women.
Before reading Nadya’s War, I also never realized that Russian forces were fighting the war on multiple fronts; not only did they have to worry about the Axis Powers, but they also had to worry about the prying eyes and judgments of their own people. Even one wrong decision or movement could mark them as a traitor to their country and be punishable by death. In this novel Nadya is in danger every time she takes to the skies, but she’s perhaps in more danger the longer she stays on the ground.
In fact, while I was worried for her safety and the safety of her friends whenever they’d engage the German Luftwaffe, I was far more stressed about her well-being when she was on the ground. Between being the constant (sometimes sole) survivor of battles and her budding, yet illegal, romantic relationship, this book kept me on edge constantly. For a novel that has scenes of WWII battle brutality, it’s both fascinating and impressive that scenes and sequences that take place on the Russian base are far more tense.
C.S. Taylor’s expertly crafted tension is made possible by the novel’s rich and vibrant characters. The deaths of characters who are introduced soon before their demise have almost as much of an emotional impact as the demises of those who play a larger part. (And, trust me, since this is a war novel, there are quite a few deaths that occur and some will hit you right where it hurts the most.)
That being said, the central characters are especially well-conceived and nuanced. Nadya herself is a flawed young woman who makes mistakes, but usually for good reasons. And she knows when to take responsibility for her actions and does everything she can for her friends. It’s very easy to relate to her and step into her shoes because she isn’t the perfect soldier. Nadya just does the best she can with what she’s given. That’s all really any of them can do.
The other central characters, including Nadya’s wingwoman and mechanic friend, are similarly well-rounded and fallible. They both support and challenge Nadya on a daily basis, but in a way that isn’t “typical” girl drama or cattiness. And the superior who is constantly looking for reasons to put Nadya in jail (or worse) isn’t just your typical mustachioed villain. His reasons for coming after Nadya aren’t entirely unfounded (even if they are a bit extreme at times). While WWII is what brings these characters together in the first place, it’s not constantly at the center of their interactions. These relationships are what make this novel as compelling as it is.
Nadya’s War is a really fantastic novel for those who love character-centric novels and have an interest in not-often-told stories of WWII. If you’re anything like me, you’ll start searching for more information about the Soviet Air Forces’ Night Witches and other stories of kick-ass women during WWII right after you finish reading Nadya’s War. It’s a captivating novel from start to finish that you won’t be able to stop thinking about.