Tall Poppies Review: ‘Daughters of the Night Sky’ Pays Homage to WWII Female Pilots

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When I sat down with this book, I knew nothing about the Night Bomber Regiment in the Red Army—a group of all-female Russian pilots that bombed Germany during WWII. I quickly found myself captivated by this band of determined women, who not only wanted to save their country from invasion and protect their sweethearts at the front, but longed to shatter the age-old expectations surrounding their sex.

Katya Ivanova is a sympathetic protagonist with a fiery spirit to match her fiery hair. Her young girl’s dream of escaping the poverty shaping her existence takes root in the airplanes that she sees flying over her mountain home. In school—and later during her intensive military training—she quickly rises in the ranks, becoming one of the best pilots around, much to the chagrin of her male counterparts. But soon, Katya falls in love, so when she is assigned to lead nocturnal bomb raids on the German army, she must decide where her true dreams lie, and weigh the price of a dangerous yet glorified position in the military.

I read this book greedily, thoroughly enjoying the tone, the details of cockpits and flight missions, and the well-constructed plot. But most of all, I relished the questions Runyan weaves throughout the narrative. Should women devote themselves to home and hearth, or follow their passions and career dreams? Is it possible to have it all—and if so, how? Questions, I suspect, that will continue to plague future generations as more and more women move into positions of power.

At times thrilling but always immersive, Daughters of the Night Sky is a fresh and fascinating take on WWII. As a fan of Runyan, I was delighted to see her prose and storytelling skills reach new heights, and I look forward to much more from this author.

The author discusses the importance of pursuing your dreams, the importance of family and friends, loyalty, trust, love, hope and faith. The author also mentions how devastating war can be, and the importance of the choices that we make.

A lively and stirring tale of the brave vanguard of women pilots fighting for Russia and, as often, for respect from their male counterparts. My heart was in my throat as our heroine, Katya, took to the skies to live her dream and risk her life. As enthralled as I was by this dive into social and military history, it was the humanity of Daughters of the Night Sky that won me over: comrades, lovers, and families swept up and torn apart by war. Runyon delivers a well-paced and heartfelt story that fans of WWII novels should not miss.

It’d have been easy to stereotype the Night Witches as a group of gung-ho feminists hell bent on defying the patriarchy, but Runyan took obvious care to illustrate diversity within the ranks. Her characters are passionate, patriotic, and driven, but they are also emotional and exhibit a variety of traditionally feminine attributes and I loved the context and authenticity that lent her fiction.

Katya enjoys a romantic relationship with Vanya over the course of the story and while the plot line is a central component of the narrative, I was pleased to see that Runyan never allowed it to define her heroine. This actually became quite important to me as the novel progressed as I feared the love story would eventually overshadow Katya’s personal ambition, but my concern was ultimately unwarranted and I found great appreciation for how Runyan used Katya’s love life to round-out and balance her character.

Daughters of the Night Sky is a dramatic, engaging, and ultimately sobering look at the price these women paid while fighting for equality on the stage of war. Added to the discomforts of life near the front were ill-fitting male uniforms, relegation to sluggish planes, and derision from male superiors. That these women stayed to prove themselves worthy, while constantly reminded that they were volunteers who could slink back home at any time, was a testament to their moxie.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aimie K. Runyan writes to celebrate history’s unsung heroines. She has written four historical novels, including the internationally bestselling Daughters of the Night Sky. Her next book, Girls on the Line, which centers around the women who served as telephone operators overseas during WWI, will release in November of 2018. She is active as an educator and speaker in the writing community and beyond. She lives in Colorado with her wonderful husband and two (usually) adorable children.

 

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Heather Webb is the nationally acclaimed author of historical novels Becoming Josephine and Rodin’s Lover, which was chosen as a Goodreads Top Pick in 2015. Up and coming, Last Christmas in Paris, an epistolary love story set during WWI will release October 3, 2017, to be followed by The Phantom’s Apprentice, a retelling of Phantom of the Opera from Christine Daaé’s point of view in February 2018. To date, Heather’s novels have sold in ten countries. She is also a professional freelance editor, foodie, and travel fiend.