Title: The Enigma Game
Series: Code Name Verity #4
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Published: November 3rd, 2020 (Little, Brown BYR)
Synopsis: A German soldier risks his life to drop off the sought-after Enigma Machine to British Intelligence, hiding it in a pub in a small town in northeast Scotland, and unwittingly bringing together four very different people who decide to keep it to themselves. Louisa Adair, a young teen girl hired to look after the pub owner’s elderly, German-born aunt, Jane Warner, finds it but doesn’t report it. Flight-Lieutenant Jamie Beaufort-Stuart intercepts a signal but can’t figure it out. Ellen McEwen, volunteer at the local airfield, acts as the go-between and messenger, after Louisa involves Jane in translating. The planes under Jamie’s command seem charmed, as Jamie knows where exactly to go, while other squadrons suffer, and the four are loathe to give up the machine, even after Elisabeth Lind from British Intelligence arrives, even after the Germans start bombing the tiny town…
Thank you to the publisher, Penguin Random House Canada, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
When a German pilot drops off an Enigma Machine in a small Scottish town, it brings together four very unlikely people: the local pub owner’s elderly German aunt Jane Warner, the half-Jamaican teen Louisa Adair who has been hired to take care of her, Ellen McEwen, a volunteer and driver for the local airfield, and Flight Lieutenant James Beaufort-Stuart. Louisa, who discovers it, doesn’t report it, instead putting it to use translating the coded messages that Jamie Stuart’s squadron is picking up on their flights. Jamie and his fliers soon have a huge advantage, the intercepted messages not only keeping them out of harm’s way, but also providing intelligence of upcoming attacks that they can foil. But how long can they keep the machine a secret? When the German bombers turn their attention to their small town, the group is still reluctant to give up this machine that provides them with such a large advantage, even when it appears that the Germans may suspect what they may have in their possession.
The Code Name Verity series has been on my radar for a very long time, and it’s funny that when I finally got around to it, I’ve started with the latest and last book. It sounds like some characters may have appeared in previous books, but this story itself is a standalone and I didn’t have any trouble understanding it at all. I’ve heard about Enigma machines before, and this was as interesting a read as I hoped it would be. The use of coding systems and ciphers during the war was really well explained and fascinating to learn about. I love the author’s writing style which just has a way of pulling you into the story, getting you completely invested in the characters’ fates. The setting of wartime Scotland also felt very authentic and atmospheric, and it is very clear how much research must have gone into this book.
Each WWII book I’ve read this year has taken me through a story of the war from a new front, and this book was no exception. The Enigma Game gives us a glimpse into both how life was for civilians at the time, and also what it was like to be in the thick of things. While such quick shifts in perspective has the potential to be a little confusing, I found it quite easy to follow and it kept the story engaging. The historical notes at the end were interesting to read and a wonderful addition to this book.
All three of our main characters were very well written, and I particularly enjoyed Jamie’s POVs, where most of the action was occurring. Louisa’s story on the other hand, provides a great perspective of what the war was like for people at home, and having experienced significant personal losses, she is desperate to help the war effort in any way she can. The camaraderie that develops between Louisa and Jane was also really lovely to see.
The Enigma Game was not as emotional as some others I’ve come across this year, but it is certainly a thought-provoking and insightful read. It’s not all about war time, or the dangerous flights that fighter pilots undertake or even deciphering exciting messages. It has the mood of a thriller, an adventure in some sense, but when you look beyond that, at its core, it is about people, who are in some way or the other, outsiders, coming together and finding a place where they fit in a society that is less than welcoming of them.
It may feel at times that the narration is slow, but that only lets the tension build up for the finale. The climax of this book is one that will hit you really hard, and it makes it all the more evident how much character development has been happening in the background, and not only for the main characters. This book has only made me want to read the others in this series even more and I’m hoping to get to those by the end of this year. The Enigma Game was a great read and I would highly recommend it for historical fiction fans.
The Enigma Game releases on November 3rd, 2020.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
All quotes in this review were taken from an advance reader’s edition and may differ from the final version of the book.