Review of Commissar by BookViral

Award: 5 Stars

A bitter, bloody tour de force

A superb mix of well-researched historical fact and pure fiction, “Commissar” proves a smart and entertaining historical thriller with all the hallmarks of a bestseller. A novel that’s entirely aware of its genre’s conventions and transcends them as it surpasses the simplistic moralities that inform far too many genre offerings, to take the high, morally haunting ground.

A bitter, bloody tour de force Chernov unflinchingly explores the random horror, grisly spectacle and the ugliness of war and ideology with a narrative that has an intoxicating, classic feel about it and instantly submerges its readers in the period.

Underpinned by meticulous historical recreation that is frighteningly real its light on sentimentality but high on human drama with one of “Commissar’s” greatest strengths being Chernov’s extraordinary characterization that reaches from lead characters Anna Sokolova and William Arden  (both tantalizingly believable and involving) right down to the smallest supporting roles with adrenalized emotions and vividly conveyed imagery,

Saying things about war that are as complex and difficult as any essayist could possibly express, Chernov does this with broad, powerful descriptions, violence, profanity and action that beautifully articulates the uniqueness of camaraderie experienced by those who wholly believe in that for which they fight and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

On this level “Commissar” looks at Civil War Russia in 1918 with unflinching honesty. Exploring the fear and pain of Chernov’s main characters in addition to the fortitude and bravery in his extended cast in a war where the fallen and survivors are often separated by nothing more than the thin wedge of luck as he puts his readers right in the moment at every stage.

Wrenchingly emotive, deftly written and tremendously powerful “Commissar” is an unreservedly recommended 5-star read.

[read review here]

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