The Silent Unseen: A Novel of World War II

Written by Amanda McCrina
Review by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Making her way back to her Polish village in 1944 after years of forced labor under the Nazis, 16-year-old Maria hides from Soviet troops in an abandoned hayloft, where she witnesses them shoot a prisoner and in return, she kills all but one soldier. The wounded prisoner is Kostya, a courier for a Ukrainian nationalist group who has endured the violent bullying of both his cousin, a commander, and his cousin’s rival within the group. Not knowing that the wounded teenager is Ukrainian and the sworn enemy of the Poles, she rescues him and shortly afterward meets up with her older brother, Tomek, who she’d believed to be dead but is a London-trained secret resistance operator known as a “silent unseen” for the Polish Home Army. Tomek believes he can use Kostya to gain leverage with the Ukrainian resistance against the Soviets, but when he disappears on a mission to connect with Kostya’s cousin, Maria and Kostya, who have become attracted to each other, journey together through a war zone to find him.

In this companion to her acclaimed Traitor, McCrina makes complex histories and alliances accessible to readers of middle-school age and up. With fast-paced action and vivid description to satisfy fans of war novels, and psychological intrigue to engage readers of spy fiction, this novel will appeal to a broad audience. This is a smart book with characters readers will root for, not only Maria and Kostya (and their unlikely romance) but also Tomek and other resistance fighters and allies who manage to hold onto their humanity in the face of extreme cruelty and violence. Observers of today’s conflicts involving Russia and the sovereign countries of the former Soviet Empire will appreciate this novel’s exploration of the roots of those conflicts.