Fiction, Historical, Young Adult

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

Fourth Book Published in the Verity series

Code Name Verity will forever and always be one of my all time favorite books. Whenever Elizabeth Wein has released a new book in the series (none of which follows the other directly but all are related) I immediately want to read it. And while none has thus far captured the unique magic and spirit of Verity, I was very excited to return to the skies and the RAF airfields of Scotland in The Enigma Game.

Synopsis

From the publisher marketing:
Fifteen-year-old Louisa Adair must team up with two friends to crack a German code — and put herself straight into the enemy’s crosshairs — in this nail-biting historical novel set during World War II.
The hair stood up at the back of my neck. Those letters meant something. And with the cipher machine, I’d worked it out myself.
1940. Facing a seemingly endless war, fifteen-year-old Louisa Adair wants to fight back, make a difference, do something-anything to escape the Blitz and the ghosts of her parents, who were killed by enemy action. But when she accepts a position caring for an elderly German woman in the small village of Windyedge, Scotland, it hardly seems like a meaningful contribution. Still, the war feels closer than ever in Windyedge, where Ellen McEwen, a volunteer driver with the Royal Air Force, and Jamie Beaufort-Stuart, a flight leader for the 648 Squadron, are facing a barrage of unbreakable code and enemy attacks they can’t anticipate.
Their paths converge when a German pilot lands in Windyedge under mysterious circumstances and plants a key that leads Louisa to an unparalleled discovery: an Enigma machine that translates German code. Louisa, Ellen, and Jamie must work together to unravel a puzzle that could turn the tide of the war? but doing so will put them directly in the cross-hairs of the enemy.
Featuring beloved characters from Code Name Verity and The Pearl Thief, as well as a remarkable new voice, this brilliant, breathlessly plotted novel by award-winning author Elizabeth Wein is a must-read.

Review

I was so excited for this book to arrive as an advance reader copy at the store and I quickly read it in the hopes of being done before it’s original release date back in May. And then, like so many other spring titles, it was postponed until the fall due to Covid. A smart person would have written this review back in April when she actually read the book, not two days before it’s release in November. I’m not always a smart person, so I will do my best.

Louisa is a great new addition to the Verity world, as is the older woman in her care, a delightfully spritely grandmotherly woman with an important role to play in this book. Chronologically, for those who are interested, this is second book in the Verity series:

  • The Pearl Thief (first chronologically, third published)
  • The Enigma Game (fourth published, second chronologically)
  • Code Name Verity (first published, third chronologically)
  • Rose Under Fire (second published, fourth chronologically)

I include this here, because as Elizabeth Wein’s characters frequently visit in her other books, knowing where you are chronologically is always helpful, and therefore less surprising and unsettling, when unexpected visitors arrive, as they do in The Engima Game. But they’re still surprising and, without giving away any series spoilers for those who haven’t read any of the books thus far, there will be tears and anguish on your part as a reader.

While I overall enjoyed the story, told in alternating perspectives between Louisa, Ellen, and Jamie, there was a great deal that I found lacking. First, the suspension of belief required to image that a German pilot would leave an enigma machine in the care of a young caretaker is a bit more preposterous than I was willing to accept. Second, there is little tension in any of the air battles – they just happen. And then characters are gone, and while I’m sure this is how a real life air battle was, it’s something that could have been a great addition to the narrative, but instead winds up falling flat.

My high hopes and excited anticipation waned somewhat quickly, unfortunately, and I found myself rushing through certain parts to get to the characters I cared about more. If you’re a diehard fan of the Verity series, it’s a nice read for nostalgia. But if you haven’t yet read any of the books, I would suggest reading Code Name Verity first, and then deciding from there if you want to stick with the story. A part of me wishes I’d just read Verity and then left well enough alone.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through BookShop or your local independent, in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon. Click the image below to add the book to your Goodreads TBR!

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