A dramatic page-turner that captures the devastating toll of war and the impact of women's struggles and solidarity, through the lens of a little-known slice of history.
In 1917, Russia is losing the war with Germany, soldiers are deserting in droves, and food shortages on the home front are pushing people to the brink of revolution. Seventeen-year-old Katya is politically conflicted, but she wants Russia to win the war. Working at a munitions factory seems like the most she can do to serve her country--until the government begins recruiting an all-female army battalion. Inspired, Katya enlists. Training with other brave women, she finds camaraderie and a deep sense of purpose. But when the women's battalion heads to the front, Katya has to confront the horrifying realities of war. Faced with heartbreak and disillusionment, she must reevaluate her commitment and decide where she stands.
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About the Author
Amber Lough grew up traveling around the world as the daughter of a Naval Officer and a drama teacher. When she was ten, she dreamed of being Indiana Jones, so she poured over archaeology books and tried to learn as many languages as she could. As a teen, she took AFROTC classes in school and joined the rifle drill team, both of which continued into college despite the obvious nerd factor. In fact,
Amber never cared if people called her a nerd, because nerds are cool. For added effect, Amber double-majored in Russian and International Studies. After college, Amber became a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and continued on to Intelligence training. A few years later, she wound up an active participant in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where she learned that war can be both terrifying and boring but is never truly enjoyable. Nor should it be. It was in Iraq where Amber realized life is too short to waste doing something she wasn't passionate about.
Amber now lives in Germany with her astrophysicist husband and their two kids. They have two rambunctious cats, an allotment garden, too many Legos, and not enough books.
"In 1917, Maria Bochkareva commanded the Women's Battalion of Death, a unit in the Russian army that fought against invading Germany. In Amber Lough's novel Open Fire, this episode in women's military history is the piercing backdrop.
"Seventeen-year-old Katya is a munitions factory worker. Her father is loyal to the tsar, and her brother is reluctant to revisit the front. Katya's friends are a mix of socialist sympathizers and women who want their deprivations to end.
"After witnessing the February Russian Revolution and learning about Bochkareva, Katya is resolved to help her country. Within the coiled, multisectioned story, she transforms from a young woman who dreams of studying chemistry into a platoon leader in the trenches.
"Laced with a story about St. Olga that unfolds in fable-like fragments, Katya's story is one of troubled loyalties and friendship, belief in duty and brutality. Economical descriptions of the minutiae of war infuse scenes with tense immediacy. Amid the bloodshed, the book is elegant with honed images. From a gold-leafed icon to a hat pin, peonies to ceramic latticework, spare instances of a civilized life bring the darkness into sharper relief.
"Depicting women warriors in a balanced way that acknowledges their rarity while keeping them human, the women's backstories and dreams are incorporated into the novel. Katya's distant relationship with her father is renewed because of her valor; their complicated love comes into relief. Meanwhile, her alliance with a former classmate (also a Bolshevik) highlights that their shared hope matters more than ideology.
"Depicting pain in a realistic way and conveying ambivalence about whether single battles advance wars, Open Fire is a lively, passionate novel set in a pressurized time, in which a strong-minded girl displays inspiring commitment."--starred, Foreword Reviews
"A country on the brink of revolution; a girl caught between ideologies. Petrograd, Russia, 1917: As the war against Germany rages on, Katya does her bit for the war effort by working at a munitions factory alongside her best friend, Masha. With her father away at the front, Katya quit university to work and support her brother, Maxim, an ailing soldier with a gambling habit. Meanwhile, food shortages create room for new, revolutionary ideals to gain traction as she contemplates contrasts between the czar and the common people. During a women's march, Katya reconnects with fellow student Sergei and gets embroiled with the Bolsheviks. Caught between her father's loyalties to the czar, Sergei's Bolshevism, and the reality of war, Katya eventually enlists in the historic all-female 1st Russian Women's Battalion of Death, led by the infamous Maria Bochkareva. Taking place over a five-month period, this empowering story sees Katya go through highs and lows at home and at the front, speeding through grueling training to bond with and lead the inspiring women in her unit. Lough (The Blind Wish, 2015, etc.) offers a fascinating, if too fleeting, look into a complex political moment, following a young woman as she carves her own way and proves her worth in a hostile, divided world. All characters are white. A compelling feminist snapshot of a country--and a girl--at a revolutionary crossroads."--Kirkus Reviews-- (1/1/2020 12:00:00 AM)
"In 1917, 17-year-old Katya knows the challenges of living in Petrograd: regular protests, food shortages, and the loss of life while the war with Germany continues. She does her best to contribute by working in a munitions factory, but when her brother Maxim deserts from the army, Katya enlists with the all-female army battalion. The challenges and rewards of training, her conflicting feelings about war and revolution, and her friendship with a socialist writer combine to make Katya consider the realities and nuances of life in Russia in 1917, while also simply trying to survive. Lough moves into historical fiction with ease as the book blends actual events from 1917 Russia into the narrative. The rapid changes of the period--the fall of the Tsar, the provisional government, the rise of the Bolsheviks, and the war--are comprehensive but not overwhelming for readers. The plot is fast-paced, without losing the history and context of the period. Katya and the supporting characters are well developed and conflicting beliefs about the war and the revolution are explored from multiple perspectives. This is a great option for readers who enjoyed Sherri L. Smith's Flygirl, Elizabeth Wein's 'Code Name Verity' series, or Kathryn Lasky's Night Witches. VERDICT A lesser-explored time period is given a compelling and interesting narrative through well-developed characters. Give to readers who enjoy historical fiction and strong female characters."--School Library Journal-- (1/1/2020 12:00:00 AM)
"Amber Lough's volatile mix of gunpowder, strength of spirit, and violence conjures a past so casually detailed it's as if the author lived through it herself. This fierce, loving narrative breathes life into the flames of the Russian Revolution and the muddy, bloody horror of a women's shock battalion storming the trenches of World War I. Katya is a heroine to ache for, and her story is a stunning, vibrant glimpse of a rare moment in women's history."--Elizabeth Wein, author of Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, and The Pearl Thief-- (11/7/2019 12:00:00 AM)