Walker Books US
Published April 14, 2020
After escaping a Soviet prison camp, Lina is pursued by a powerful witch and her shadow wolves in a riveting debut that imbues frozen wilderness with fairy-tale magic.
All that twelve-year-old Lina knows of the world is the Stalinist labor camp where she was born, a place of hunger, cruelty, and deprivation. After a daring escape into the frigid Siberian wilds with her best friend, Bogdan, Lina vows to reach Moscow and find her long-lost grandmother, whom she hopes will help her return to the camp to rescue her mother.
But out in the dark forests and haunted tundras, Lina and Bogdan catch the eye of a vengeful witch, a refugee of oppressive new laws about magic, who commands an army of shadow wolves. She seems drawn to some mysterious power within Lina herself.
Pursued by the witch and in fear of recapture, Lina will need every ounce of courage she has — and a whisper of her own magic — if she and Bogdan are to survive the journey and bring hope to a dark place. An enthralling debut that weaves Russian fairy tales through fast-paced adventure.
I found NEVERTELL to be a really imaginative story and really liked the way it sat between fantasy and history. The history is rather broad– the story takes place during a time when Stalin ruled Russia and imprisoned anyone who spoke against him or talked of magic and fairy tales. The story centers more on magical elements and the difference between using magic to help versus harm.
Lina’s character is determined and kind. She never gives up, and she resolves to save everyone she cares about, even if it looks impossible. I loved that Bogdan makes the journey with her. I thought their friendship made the story much warmer and sweeter.
Natalya’s story broke my heart. I get why that happened, but it just really ached to think of what happened to her and the life she left behind. I loved the alliance between her and Lina, though.
All in all, I thought NEVERTELL was a really good story, though a dark one with some very gray characters. I think perhaps readers who enjoyed NIGHTINGALE’S NEST by Nikki Lofton will enjoy this story.
Recommended for Ages 10 to 12.
All characters are Russian.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
See the SPOILER section at the end of the post.
Characters possess magic and the ability to curse/transform others.
References to cruel treatment of prisoners in the camp. Situations of peril. Lina and Bogdan face men who wish to murder them as well as threats from invisible wolf-like creatures and a powerful witch.
Note: I received a free copy of NEVERTELL in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog.
Late in the story, Lina confronts her mother about her father, the commandant at the prison camp. She asks her mother if she loved him, and her mother answers that she did.
It’s hard to know if she’s giving a child’s answer because it’s Lina who’s asking, but the relationship (a prisoner/prison guard romance) is problematic because of consent issues.