10:30 am EST, February 2, 2017

‘Silver Stars’ book review: A harrowing story of duty and sacrifice

Silver Stars, the second novel in Michael Grant’s Soldier Girl series, is an empowering yet heartbreaking novel that will stick with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

About ‘Silver Stars’

The summer of 1943, World War II. With heavy memories of combat, Frangie, Rainy, Rio and the rest of the American army are moving on to their next target: the Italian island of Sicily.

The women won’t conquer Italy alone. They are not heroes for fighting alongside their brothers—they are soldiers. But Frangie, Rainy, Rio, and the millions of brave females fighting for their country have become a symbol in the fight for equality. They will brave terrible conditions in an endless siege; they will fight to find themselves on the front lines of WWII; and they will come face-to-face with the brutality of war until they win or die.

Related: Front Lines book review: A must-read WWII alternate history

'Silver Stars' by Michael Grant

‘Silver Stars’ review

Front Lines was one of the best books of 2016 and Silver Stars, the second novel in Michael Grant’s Soldier Girl series, is hands-down one of the best books of 2017 (and the year has barely gotten started).

The real strength of Silver Stars is the way it adds depth to pretty much everyone and everything introduced in Front Lines. The characters, already having been established in the first novel, are given room to really grow and develop, especially the three main leads. Rainy, Rio, and Frangie start the book as young women who have survived a few of the horrors of war, but they quickly become women hardened to their positions and their fates. They all make difficult sacrifices in the name of duty. Their evolutions are fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time, but it’s clear that their circumstances wouldn’t have allowed them to grow in any other way. We’re also taken on deeper dives into the characters and their thoughts, which only endears the reader to them even more.

While Rio (the combat soldier) was the stand-out in Front Lines (and still gets the majority of the attention and character moments in Silver Stars), it’s Rainy (the intelligent analyst-turned-spy) who’s the true stand-out in this novel. Though her story never seems as pressing or dangerous as the other two, there’s a turning point in the last third of the novel that really tests Rainy’s limits and shows what she’s made of. Then there’s the aftermath of the climax of her story that’s almost too hard to read sometimes. While Front Lines was Rio’s book, Silver Stars is really Rainy’s book.

Unfortunately, my only real complaint about Silver Stars (which is super tiny) is there’s not enough of Frangie, the African-American combat medic (which was the same complaint I had about Front Lines). Though she’s involved in the action quite a bit more this time around and has a few great character moments, it still feels like there should be more of her. But, considering how Front Lines was Rio’s book and Silver Stars was Rainy’s, I’m hopeful that the third installment will feature big character moments for Frangie and be her book.

Silver Stars

If Front Lines seems really visceral and hard to read at times, then Silver Stars is absolutely brutal. Unlike the previous novel, there are no training sequences or periods in Silver Stars. The stakes are higher, the battles are longer, the fighting situations are poorer, and the deaths are more frequent. The three main characters are fully immersed in the army life, doing their duty for their country alongside their brothers (and sisters) in arms.

I’ll be honest when I say that this book is sometimes difficult to read because of the visceral descriptions and terrible situations, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it to read and come closer to understanding just how truly awful war is. I’m grateful to Michael Grant, the author, for not pulling punches or glossing over the atrocities. Yes, it can be hard to read, but it’s important and it’s worth it.

Though Front Lines is a fantastic novel, its sequel Silver Stars is even better. It takes all of the best qualities and aspects of its predecessor and builds on them, making for an even more engaging and harrowing read. Silver Stars is just such a masterfully crafted story that it’s easy to forget you’re reading an alternate history. The end will definitely leave you waiting in anticipation for (while also dreading) the third novel in the series. I cannot praise this novel enough and I can’t wait to go back and re-read it. It’s just that good.

Silver Stars by Michael Grant is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local independent bookstore. Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” list!

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