Seven-year-old Shura lives with his parents, older sister and baby brother, Bobka, in Leningrad. It is 1938 and Shura is oblivious to the dangerous world in which he lives. Stalin is in power and people live in fear of being accused of being a spy. But when Shura’s father first goes missing, then his mother and baby brother, Shura goes searching for them. Their neighbours are now suspicious and refuse to help, and when a family moves in to their apartment, Shura and his sister are homeless. When Shura and his sister begin asking the whereabouts of The Raven, they are treated with mysterious hostility. In their quest to find their parents and brother, they face many dangers but are also helped by others.
This is an interesting novel showing a world far removed from my own. The fear felt by the people of Leningrad is palpable. The combination of historical fiction with magical realism works very well. This novel will be a challenge for some younger readers, while more mature readers will find it satisfying in many ways.
Many thanks to Penguin Random House for supplying this book for review.