The Silent Unseen / Amanda McCrina / Book Review


Poland, summer 1944: Maria has finally escaped after years of hard labor in a Nazi camp. Those years changed her, and they changed her home, too. Nothing is as she left it. Her parents have been killed in the fight between the Polish resistance and the Ukrainian nationalists. Her home has been burned to the ground. Her brother is gone, and she knows he must be dead, too... Until she finds out he's not.

Tomek is now the leader of the local resistance, fighting a war that seems like it will never end. He's not just fighting for Poland, either. He's backed by Western nations, a special operative known as the "Silent Unseen." He'll do anything to bring his people the peace they deserve.

And then there's Kostya. Kostya is just running for his life, a nationalist deserter. His only hope is to make it back to his mother and sister before the Ukranian nationalists punish them on his behalf. He doesn't mean to get caught up with the resistance, but the only way home is right through resistance territory. And Kostya is more than willing to risk his life for his family.



I didn't think I was going to like this one. I requested an advance copy purely to diversify my upcoming reviews. There isn't a lot of YA historical fiction that comes out each year. And I was surprised--so pleasantly surprised--to read this voice-y narrative that explores an unknown-to-me piece of history, history that is especially relevant to current global conflicts. It is more relevant at the time of this review's publication, even, than it was when I read the book initially.


Concurrent History Though the YA historical fiction market is relatively sparse, the historical fiction market in general is saturated with World War II stories. I mean, we've got to talk about it. Those who forget history are doomed, and all that jazz. But after awhile, there's only so much more that can be said. I'll admit, I was a little disappointed when my eARC got approved and I re-read the description. I thought, More WW2? But this book was a delight, because it was about WW2 but also not about WW2. WW2 is the backdrop, the bigger picture behind this story, but the heart of this novel is a much more localized, much more human-scale conflict, right on the border of Poland and the Ukraine, with a heavy Soviet presence. And I mean, if that isn't relevant... WW2 sets up the conflict, but it's a different piece of (concurrent) history that this book brings to light. I love that.

Dual Narrative A two-sided story deserves to have both sides showcased. This book hops between these two necessary perspectives. The narrative voices for Kostya and Maria are unique and different, and they help to illuminate what might otherwise be difficult for an outsider to understand: ethnic differences that are part of a character, part of a culture and of socialization, that are hard to see from the outside. The fact that we get both Maria and Kostya's perspectives really illuminates the struggle, the prejudice, and ultimately the willingness to overcome and readjust.

Proactive Protagonists I just really love characters who actually do something, especially female characters in historical novels. Characters with passion and bite are great. Both characters here are willing to do what they need to in order to get what they want, while also not being overly rash or reckless. They understand the danger and the constraints of their current situations, but they are still willing, as necessary, to act.


Especially at the beginning, as I was just getting into the story, it was a little confusing who stood where in this three-sided conflict (the third side being the invading Soviets). Especially from Kostya's perspective--Kostya, who knows so much more than Maria and feels the itching of betrayal and backstabbing right away--I wasn't sure who was betraying who to whom and why this betrayal was happening. Things sorted themselves out as the narrative went on, but the beginning was a little rough, especially because this bit of history isn't as well known as some other aspects of WW2. Confusing Sides

See the question mark. Feel the question mark. Because this critique is a question. There is... kind of a plot. But this plot isn't overarching or cohesive. More than anything, this is a character study, an experiment in worldbuilding and bringing new history to light. Those looking for plot-heavy, plot-driven stories might not enjoy this read. I still enjoyed it, even if it was a bit meandering. Plotless?

This is more a critique of the title than anything else, but I know some readers get hot when the title or the back blurb don't match the story itself. And here, any such heat is at least a little warranted. The titular "Silent Unseen" is hardly in this book. He hardly plays a part in it, even as a motivating background character. I didn't mind. I enjoyed the characters we had at the forefront too much to mind. But the title is still misleading. Unseen Unseen



Those who want a bit of reality cast on the gloom of George Orwell's 1984 should check out this newly-Soviet state. Those who appreciated the ironies of Joseph Heller's Catch-22 will enjoy the heartbreaking circles of this war tale.

1984 CATCH-22

Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Date: April 5, 2022
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


  1. not a big fan of historical fiction

  2. I am a big fan of historical fiction! Too bad it is silent and unseen.


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