With war looming dangerously close, Ilse's school days soon turn to lessons of survival. In the harshness of winter, her family must join the largest exodus in human history to survive. As battle lines are drawn and East Prussia's borders vanish beneath them, they leave their farm and all they know behind for an uncertain future. But Ilse also has Janusz, her family's young Polish laborer, by her side. As they flee from the Soviet army, his enchanting folktales keep her mind off the cold, the hunger, and the horrors unfolding around them. He tells her of a besieged kingdom in the Baltic Sea from which spill the amber tears of a heartbroken queen. Neither of them realizes his stories will prove crucial and prophetic.
[R]eaders will quickly bond with the families and secondary characters, as Segovia, author of the acclaimed The Murmur of Bees (2019), makes each individual memorable. The variety of background stories and voices allows for greater understanding of shared experiences and creates deeper emotional engagement ... Based on actual events and expertly translated to retain the author’s nuanced dialogue and inner reflections, Segovia’s novel provides the domestic perspective of those caught in conflicts they have no power to change. Book groups and individual readers will find plenty to appreciate and discuss.
Segovia excels in depicting preschoolers’ worlds of sensation and emotion ... Sofia Segovia uses interior monologue, an excellent technique for showing readers what goes on in characters’ hearts and minds. Sometimes, though, the time shifts in a character’s thoughts make the story hard to follow. In some sections it takes careful reading to distinguish between the recent past and the less recent past. Segovia could have put the wartime parts of the story in the present and the older characters’ memories in the past, but perhaps use of the present would have spoiled the story’s 'once upon a time' quality. Throughout the novel, Segovia piques the reader’s interest with 'flashes forward' to Ilse’s and Arno’s post-war lives. It is reassuring to know that they have a future while we are turning the pages to see how they get there. Overall, Tears of Amber is an engaging historical novel which enlightens readers while entertaining them.