Books & Literature

Book Review: The Crimson Thread, by Kate Forsyth

HISTORICAL FICTION: Set in Crete during World War II, Alenka, a young woman who fights with the resistance against the brutal Nazi occupation finds herself caught between her traitor of a brother and the man she loves, an undercover agent working for the Allies.

A unique and powerful blending of Greek myth and World War Two-era historical fiction.
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Kate Forsyth is Australia’s gift to the world of historical fiction and fantasy. In The Crimson Thread, the award-winning author has retold the age-old tale of the Minotaur in the Labyrinth against a backdrop of Crete—the original setting for the myth—during the Second World War. The story follows Alenka, a woman who works with the local resistance fighters as they battle the Nazi occupation of their island. Tensions rise when she falls in love with an undercover agent working for the Allies, whom she must hide from her Nazi-sympathizer brother.

Historical fiction set during the Second World War will always have a place in modern publishing, but the best of these stories feature fresh angles. Forsyth employs a unique perspective by using the Minotaur myth to inspire her tale, as well as using Greece as the setting for her novel. In fiction, Greek perspectives during World War Two aren’t nearly as common as those set in countries more central to the conflict, so the premise of this story was immediately enthralling.  

The writing is atmospheric and immersive from the beginning. Though the plot is strong, the best part about this book is the way it transports the reader to Alenka’s world. Through Forsyth’s descriptions of food, sights and smells, and the inclusion of Greek words, it’s difficult not to be pulled into the story and feel as if you, the reader, are experiencing the events right by Alenka’s side.

The Crimson Thread features a decent cast of characters and it was easy to imagine them all, using the author’s descriptions of their looks and behaviour. There are some characters that are extremely unlikeable, which is actually a good thing. Characters like Alenka’s brother Axel help the reader to become emotionally invested, and this is always preferable to meh characters. Of course, with her protective, forgiving nature, and hands-on arc, Alenka is a particularly good protagonist.

The romance element will likely attract readers to this story and provides scenes that are a refreshing change of pace amongst the action. Though Alenka’s romantic plotline has its moments, the outcome of the love triangle was predictable for me and thus didn’t pack quite as much of a punch as it could have. Still, the relationship between Alenka, Jack, and Teddy would doubtless be engrossing to those who savour romantic storylines in historical fiction.

Overall, The Crimson Thread is extremely well-researched and offers a fresh perspective that those drawn to  stories set in this era will devour.

Reviewed by Vanessa Elle
Instagram: @vanessaellewrites

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: July 2022
RRP: $32.99

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