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Reviewed by Lit Amri for Readers' Favorite
Death Steppe: A World War II Novel by Judy Bruce is set in the western Soviet Union during Germany’s retreat. Elena Nevskaya is a Russian widow and a black marketeer serving as a medic on the front lines. She keeps her dissident side hidden. Then there’s the disillusioned 35-year-old Lieutenant Friedrich Halder, a former German professor who’s confident that he’ll die in the war. The two accidentally meet in a dangerous encounter when Elena’s ‘Night Witches’ plane crashes. These two injured enemies have to rely on each other when they take shelter in a farmhouse.
Visually, Death Steppe would be a great film to watch. The historical setting is vibrantly described and Judy Bruce’s well-developed characters are the best I’ve read so far. They are well-fleshed out and their emotions vividly resonate from start to finish. Elena and Halder’s relationship progresses to friendship and eventually they become lovers. Unfortunately, their journey to make a new life for themselves is harrowing. Bruce nailed the pace and the plot of the story. The page turning quality of Death Steppe had me simply wanting to read on, even when I had other matters to attend to. On the whole, Bruce’s novel is just perfect for a relaxing read. I’ll keep my eye on her future works.