Open Fire

Written by Amber Lough
Review by J. Lynn Else

Sometimes all it takes is one woman.

1917. After word of her brother’s desertion reaches Katya’s ear, she joins Maria Bochkareva’s Battalion of Death—an all-female regiment meant to shame the deserting male troops and those refusing to fight back into the war effort. Katya has already been abandoned as a child by her mother, and her father has served at the front for years. With her brother’s disappearance, she’s never felt more alone. As she trains to become a soldier, Katya learns how important her battalion is for the war effort, for Russia, and for herself. She’ll need all her training and courage when her platoon stands across the trenches from the German army, for they show her no quarter.

Open Fire is a fairly quick read but completely absorbing. Katya’s journey from a factory worker loading grenades to a soldier in the heat of battle is mesmerizing. It’s hard to imagine the obstacles and ostracizing these women faced, which came from both the male troops and the Bolsheviks who wanted Russia to disengage from the war. This is a harrowing time in Russia, and Katya struggles to find her place in it all. Competing political outlooks are explored using intriguing perspectives. Battle scenes are not overly graphic yet are able to capture the emotion and intensity of the moment. Katya’s story is one of resilience and empowerment. I was left wanting to learn more of these courageous trailblazers. Lough does an outstanding job telling an emotionally rich and impactful story inspired by these near-forgotten heroes. Highly recommended.