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Book Review: Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus

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Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus is a historical novel that comfortably fits in the young adult category. Nonetheless this is a well researched and exciting book that adults will also enjoy.

The book begins after Nazi German troops have swept through Norway, unseating the government. Espen, a 14-year-old Norwegian boy, decides to join the resistance movement and starts by delivering illegal newspapers, graduates to courier and finally is sent to spy on the Nazis.

During the Nazi period, which lasts five years, Espen grows physically and emotionally, falls in love and loses friends. However, the life of a spy is one of constant danger and Espen makes a mistake that forces him to flee his beloved country in a dangerous trek through the mountains to Sweden.

 As with any good historical fiction, the book combines historical events with exploring through fiction the emotional impact events are likely to have on people caught up in them..

Norway was an important target for the Nazi regime, not because it was strategically important, but because of the people’s Aryan look. Hitler clearly hoped to “marry” Germany and Norway in order to produce his vision of the ultimate master race (blond hair, blue eyes and fair skin). However, many Norwegians were against everything the Nazis stood for and resisted bravely.

One interesting aspect of the book is that Ms. Preus takes pains to explore those Norwegians who supported the Nazis. These range in her text from bullies who found their place among the Nazis, to Norwegians who believed they were picking the less of two evils (being conquered by Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia), and others who simply wanted to get a few extra rations for their families.

The novel runs throughout World War II. Each chapter follows the life of four characters, Espen, his sister Ingrid, Espen’s friend Kjell, and Askel the neighborhood bully. Each year is introduced with a relevant quote, either by a Nazi or an anti-Nazi Norwegian. The quote gives the reader a sense of what to expect from the chapter ahead.

While the story is about young men in a time of great challenges, the author does not look down on her intended audience, but produced an edge-of-your-seat, well researched and documented work which has lessons relevant to today’s turbulent times.

Ms. Preus also incorporated a pronunciation guide (really, how do you pronounce Kjell?), a brief and relevant history of the era and more. I read a proof but I understand that the finished product will incorporate photos, maps and archival documents.

Buy this book in paper or electronic (Kindle) format.

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