Title: The Diamond Eye
Author: Kate Quinn
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: March 29th, 2022 (William Morrow)
Synopsis: In 1937 in the snowbound city of Kiev (now known as Kyiv), wry and bookish history student Mila Pavlichenko organizes her life around her library job and her young son – but Hitler’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia sends her on a different path. Given a rifle and sent to join the fight, Mila must forge herself from studious girl to deadly sniper – a lethal hunter of Nazis known as Lady Death. When news of her three hundredth kill makes her a national heroine, Mila finds herself torn from the bloody battlefields of the eastern front and sent to America on a goodwill tour.
Still reeling from war wounds and devastated by loss, Mila finds herself isolated and lonely in the glittering world of Washington, DC – until an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and an even more unexpected connection with a silent fellow sniper offer the possibility of happiness. But when an old enemy from Mila’s past joins forces with a deadly new foe lurking in the shadows, Lady Death finds herself battling her own demons and enemy bullets in the deadliest duel of her life.
Based on a true story, The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel of heroism born of desperation, of a mother who became a soldier, of a woman who found her place in the world and changed the course of history forever.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko is a history student in Kiev, but Hitler’s invasion motivates her to join the war effort and she goes to the front as a sniper. As her tally continues to increase, she gains the moniker of Lady Death and her 300th kill makes her famous across Russia. Sent on a goodwill tour as an ambassador to America in order to persuade them to enter the war, Mila is still reeling from the losses she has experienced. It is a more difficult task than she expected as she meets with skeptics who are certain she is a PR gimmick by the Russians and don’t believe a woman could be a sniper, not to mention the rude and intrusive press. However, she finds an unexpected ally in First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and forges a close friendship. Meanwhile, another sniper lurks in the shadows, following the tour and waiting for an opportunity to take down their mark, President Roosevelt, and frame Mila for it, and as an old enemy joins forces with them, Mila must figure out how to foil the plot before it’s too late.
I’ve been a huge fan of Kate Quinn’s books ever since I first started reading them back in 2015. This book nearly slipped my notice, much to my surprise, but I’m so glad I did find it. No matter how many WWII novels I read, each one has something new, and this, narrated from the perspective of Russian sniper and showing that side of the war, was definitely something I hadn’t read before. The Diamond Eye was a page turning read, and it was such an immersive narrative that I could visualize the scenes as they were described.
The story alternated between two timelines, the first following Mila enlisting in the army and her time as a sniper on the front, showing how she came to be known as Lady Death, and the second as she arrives in America with the Russian delegation for the goodwill tour. It was an interesting contrast to other dual timeline stories I’ve read because we already know how one timeline ends and it is the second one that has all the mystery and tension. The past timeline was so interesting, particularly the descriptions of how much work it takes to become a sniper and how skill it takes to perfect the shots. Given the current climate, this was a hard one to read, and to be honest, if it wasn’t by Kate Quinn, I would have probably set it aside for later. Mila’s transformation from student to sniper was a fascinating one to follow and it was so well portrayed.
The only downside I saw with this book was that it was rather long, and I frequently lost focus, especially when it got a little too technical at times. However, it was still an engaging read apart from little things here and there, and the action scenes kept me at the edge of my seat. I would highly recommend this book and I can hardly wait for this author’s next novel! I’m interested to see what time period it will be set in, and though I’ve enjoyed her WWII novels, I’m kind of hoping she might return to an older setting as with the Empress of Rome series.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!