Book Review: Words on Fire

by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Audra lives in Lithuania in 1893, under the rule of Russian Cossacks, who are determined to stripe Lithuania of what makes it Lithuanian. Audra avoids the soldiers by staying at home with her mother, even though she wishes to go with her father on his trips as a magician. Her parents’ refusal to let Audra go with her father and the secret conversations they have lead Audra to wonder if her parents are involved in something illegal.

But before Audra’s parents can tell her the secret, Cossack soldiers invade their farm. Audra’s parents are caught, while Audra narrowly escapes with a secret package, given to her by her mother before she was arrested. What is in it that her parents were willing to be arrested for?

When she reaches safety, Audra opens the mysterious package. And inside is a book.

At first, Audra is furious and fails to see how a mere book was so important to her parents. But as she get involved with a ring of Lithuanian book smugglers, she realizes the power of the written word, and how it could help save Lithuania.


How much do you know about Lithuanian history? If you are like me, not much. So when I learned that one of my favorite authors was releasing a historical fiction about book smuggling in Lithuania, I was eager to read it. Reading the book, I loved getting a peek into the history and culture of this tiny Baltic country.

I liked how Audra wasn’t a perfect book smuggler. She gets into problems a number of times, which makes the story and her being only twelve years old more believable. However, the transition from Audra’s indifference to protection of books felt a tad rushed.

The side characters in the book were great, each adding a dimension to why the Lithuanians were smuggling books. While the overall reason of smuggling books was to preserve Lithuanian culture, each of the characters has their own reasons as well.

Cautions: light, non-graphic violence

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