I really hesitated to post this review. I read this book several months ago, before it was published, with a Reader’s Advance copy. As a fan of Kate Quinn I couldn’t wait to read it and, typical of Quinn’s other titles, I couldn’t put it down. Since then, the world has changed dramatically and, while this book takes place in 1941 during World War II, the locations and circumstances are eerily, heartbreakingly similar to the current situation in Ukraine. Please read with caution.
All Mila Pavlichenko wants to do with her life is study, work as an archivist and raise her son. Unfortunately, history intervenes and she is forced into a role she never wanted when Germany invades her homeland in World War II in The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn.
While war had been simmering for months, Germany’s invasion into the Soviet Union is sudden and brutal. Mila’s careful and ordered life is thrown into chaos and she volunteers for the army almost immediately. Having been part of a shooting club while in school, she already knows how to shoot. Her sharp eye and steady hand soon advance her to sniper and she is soon recognized as one of the best. Mila is tough, determined and nearly fearless making daring forays into enemy territory to hit the enemy at it’s weakest points.
Her job is also incredibly dangerous. More than once Mila is shot as the Germans learn how to locate and eliminate the snipers that harass their troops. The Germans refer to her as Lady Death, a lethal hunter of Nazis. She also suffers the loss of fellow soldiers, many of whom she has relied on to watch her back and provide back-up. Yet the war grinds on, bloody and unforgiving.
When Mila records her three hundredth kill she is declared a national heroine and the Soviet government pulls her from the battlefields and sends her on a goodwill tour of America. Still suffering from serious wounds and devastated by loss, Mila is leery of and isolated from the glittering world of Washington, DC, so shockingly different from the battlefields. She strikes up an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt – who seems to understand that Mila is worn down by grief behind the facade of the perfect Soviet soldier – and is then thrust into a deadly duel with another sniper.
As with Kate Quinn’s other titles (The Alice Network, The Huntress and The Rose Code), The Diamond Eye is based on a true story about an incredibly strong-willed woman who sets aside her own personal comfort to defend and protect. It is sharp and fast-moving and frequently devastating, a reflection of the sacrifice shown in the book.
The reason I had so many doubts about posting the review is that it takes place in Ukraine (although Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union during World War II) and much of the action takes place in Kyiv and Odessa. It is different governments and different enemies, but here is Ukraine in 2022, fighting again for their homeland and suffering devastating losses. It is difficult to read now, but it is also a reminder of how history repeats itself and how freedom and democracy are never a sure thing, but must be defended always.