Book Review: The Enigma Game

Elizabeth Wein

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

published: 14th May 2020
spoilers? no


From the internationally acclaimed bestselling author of Code Name Verity comes a thrilling story of wartime secrets, intrigue and wild courage.

Windyedge Airfield, Scotland. World War II.

When her mother is killed in the Blitz, and her father’s ship goes down, Louisa Adair feels she has lost everything. The country she has called home since her family left Jamaica is not a friendly place for an orphaned girl with brown skin, and she badly needs money and a roof over her head.

Finally she finds work looking after an old lady at a pub near an airfield in Scotland. There she meets Ellen, a driver for the RAF, and Jamie, a pilot – two other young people just as exhausted by the toll the war has taken on their loved ones, and just as desperate for a way to fight back.

Then the impossible happens. A German defector lands at the airfield carrying a precious package, and Louisa, Jamie and Ellen find themselves hiding a codebreaking machine that could alter the course of the war. But there are powerful people hunting for the machine, and soon Louisa and her friends are playing a deadly game that threatens everything they hold dear.

A thrilling story of wartime secrets, international intrigue and wild courage from the award-winning author of Code Name Verity, with three young heroes you’ll never forget.

But I didn’t – if I was going to die in an air battle, I wanted to see it.

Galley provided by publisher

CWs: period typical racism (throughout) & homophobia (briefly)

Chronologically, The Enigma Game is set following The Pearl Thief and preceding Code Name Verity (despite being the fourth-written book of the series). As such, you’re in this slightly odd position of knowing what is going to happen to certain characters, while being aware that this is their future.

The Enigma Game follows three POVs: Jamie Beaufort-Stuart (Julie’s brother), Ellen McEwen (from The Pearl Thief), and Louisa Adair (a new character) as they work in and around the airbase at Windyedge. One evening, a German defector flies in to drop off a package and everything changes.

Elizabeth Wein writes excellent historical fiction with characters you can easily love, whether it’s the first time you’re reading them or the nth, and this book is no different. It’s one of those that you don’t know has grown on you until you’re tearing up in the final act. I think, in the grand scheme of things, it ranks a little lower than Code Name Verity and The Pearl Thief on my list, but it’s a good novel nonetheless.

It’s also one of those slightly slower burn historical novels, but with enough action and character development to keep you more than interested throughout. You want to read about these characters for the sake of reading about them, and you worry that they won’t all make it through the book (thanks for the trust issues, Elizabeth Wein).

I think the one thing that I didn’t like about this book was that it didn’t acknowledge Julie and Ellen’s having been girlfriends at one point. I know, this seems a little like nitpicking, sure, but to have, in your previous book, established that both are sapphic, then to just…not mention it for 400+ pages, when one of them is also a POV character? I don’t like it, to be frank. I spent the whole book waiting for Ellen/Julie scraps I never got.

But even so, this was a good book, and a good continuation of the series.

(Though, Ms Wein, if you could cut the Beaufort-Stuarts a break now, that’d be nice.)

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