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Night Soldiers (Night Soldiers #1)

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  6,075 Ratings  ·  556 Reviews
Bulgaria, 1934. A young man is murdered by the local fascists. His brother, Khristo Stoianev, is recruited into the NKVD, the Soviet secret intelligence service, and sent to Spain to serve in its civil war. Warned that he is about to become a victim of Stalin’s purges, Khristo flees to Paris. Night Soldiers masterfully re-creates the European world of 1934–45: the struggle ...more
Paperback, 456 pages
Published July 9th 2002 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published February 1st 1988)
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Jan 05, 2013 Austin rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
If I had opened randomly to any point in this book and read 3 pages, I would have thought it to be a 5 star book. Furst is absolutely masterful at painting a scene, creating a mood, evoking a time and place, and fleshing out incredibly varied but wholly believable characters. If this were a movie, Furst would win an academy award for cinematography in a heart beat. But to my mind, he's a lousy director. Nothing propels the story forward from one of these wonderful scenes to the next. Several ...more
Jan Rice
Aug 04, 2016 Jan Rice rated it really liked it
This book centers on the Balkans--on their rebellious sons--from the years leading up to and through the Second World War.

"We are revolutionaries because we cannot stand any man who tells us what to do. The Turk sent his tax collectors, we sent them back a piece at a time."

"The King sent special police to our town...and some fool shot them down. This fool hid in people's haylofts when the police came...but they started
Dawn (& Ron)
Dec 25, 2013 Dawn (& Ron) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical fiction, military, WWII readers
Young Khristo Stoianov's innocent life in the small town of Vidin, Bulgaria is quickly changed when his 15 year old brother is beaten to death by the town's fascist militia group. In his grief and confusion, he is quickly taken in by a communist and finds himself heading upriver to Moscow where he is deposited, alone, at a school called The Brotherhood Front (of 1934). He is tossed in with the other comrades collected from all over Europe, within weeks, the reality of his situation comes ...more
Dec 23, 2013 DoctorM rated it it was amazing
Let's be straighforward and clear, darlings: "Night Soldiers" is one of the top ten spy novels of the last century. It's easily up there with "Tinker, Tailor" and "Agents of Innocence". Crisp, hard, pitiless, historically-grounded. Get it. Read it.
Elijah Kinch Spector
Nov 19, 2015 Elijah Kinch Spector rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-thriller
[Cross-posted here, with pictures.]
It had become entirely Vidin business, Bulgarian business, Balkan business.
(p. 15)

The above references a savage beating, but even as Night Soldiers jumps from Bulgaria, to Russia, to Spain, to France, to other parts of France, to winding down the Danube toward an American epilogue, the story always retains some sense of its Balkan origin. It's in how our protagonist views and interacts with the world around him, and it means that the American reader sees a wh
Ed [Redacted]
Aug 04, 2012 Ed [Redacted] rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, spy-vs-spy, own
Brilliant WW2 era spy novel. Furst's characters are full and realistic, his dialog is crisp and believable, the plotting intricate and logical. This book was a great, sprawling, epic story of a Bulgarian, Khristo Stoianev, recruited by the NKVD(Soviet secret police and forerunner of the KGB and FSB) in the lead up to the second world war. Stoianev falls victim to one of Stalin's irrational purges during Stoianev's operations in the Spanish Civil War. He escapes to France, closely pursued by his ...more
Mar 20, 2012 Lee rated it really liked it
Alan Furst is an elegant writer. Despite jumping around Europe and flashing back and forth between several characters, the narrative never lost my interest. I believe Night Soldiers is one of the first in a series of many, excellent espionage books, written by Alan Furst, set leading up to and during the second world war. The feeling of authenticity and historical detail is fantastic. I have read a few of the later books and am now starting back at the beginning to read them in order.
Joe Stamber
Oct 16, 2016 Joe Stamber rated it it was ok
With an interesting plot and good reviews I had high hopes for Night Soldiers, but had to abandon it after persevering to almost half way. I can understand why people like it, but it dragged for me and listening to it became a chore. I've given it 2 stars rather than 1 as it was very well written and more a case of me not liking Furst's style than it being a bad book.
As a fan of John Le Carre, I have become increasingly skeptical in the face of constant comparisons made by the publishing industry between that author and anyone who writes a decent spy thriller. Le Carre is a commander of the English language; a master of subtlety and deft plotting who has an uncommon ability to imbue his characters with depth and a heroic realism. To my mind, the only author working today who can be truly compared to Le Carre is Alan Furst.

Both men are heirs to Graham Greene,
May 30, 2016 Barbara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
This story spans 1935-45 in Europe and centers on Khristo, a young Bulgarian, is recruited into the Soviet intelligence service after his younger brother is killed by fascists. Khristo is sent to Spain which is in the throes of the Spanish Civil War. Khristo is a chameleon. He is anti-fascist but not really a communist. He speaks several languages and manages to survive because no matter who he encounters and interacts with, he is not seen as a threat. It made me aware that war was raging in ...more
Sep 03, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing
And thus begins my love affair with the novels of Alan Furst. I'd never heard of him until a New York magazine profile mentioned that the divinely prescient American Heritage editor Richard Snow, whose 1991 article in the NYTBR had rescued Patrick O'Brian from near oblivion, had anointed Furst his favorite historical novelist after O'Brian's passing. My beloved Charles McCarry also weighed in and I was hooked. And boy, were they right. While I prefer the earlier, longer novels like this one, ...more
Apr 22, 2013 Kurt rated it liked it
My first Furst. Not exactly what I expected -- and that served me well at times. The background to this story of Khristo Stoianev, NKVD deserter, is fascinating. If you'd like to know more than a bit about the geography and wartime climate of southeastern Europe during WWII, I think that Alan Furst might be your guy. The complexities of who was siding with whom and why are well explained to nit-wits like me. For example, I never knew much about the Spanish Civil War -- what factors caused it, ...more
My first foray into reading this author but it won't be the last. Initially took me a while to get into but that is the only complaint that I have. Plenty of wonderful reviews already but I loved the scope of the novel, the time period depicted, the mood and the setting. Lots to savor and take your time with here.
Lewis Weinstein
Jul 01, 2009 Lewis Weinstein rated it it was amazing
Have read all of Furst's novels. Dark. Different. WWII from many different perspctives, all new to most readers.
Oct 18, 2015 AC rated it liked it
Slow start and sappy ending. Too long for the genre. Otherwise pretty good, if you like A.F.. 3.5 stars
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Nov 03, 2012 Elizabeth (Alaska) rated it it was amazing
In Bulgaria, in 1934, on a muddy street in the river town of Vidin, Khristo Stoianev saw his brother kicked to death by fascist militia.
Can the action of this opening sentence be the foundation for excellent character development? A resounding yes. What better way to describe the motivation for a young man to want to fight for the NKVD, Stalin's secret police? Yes, there is some violence in this book, but not so much that you feel bloodied yourself.

The novel is well-written combining character
Calling this book a "spy novel" is doing it a grave injustice, and it also leads to readers who expect certain elements simply not present in this work (and hence, to lowered reviews). Night Soldiers is not a "thriller" or a "mystery", and does not subscribe to the beloved elements of the these genres: a strong, well-executed plot, a fearless protagonist who succeeds against all odds, and so on. Rather, this is a nuanced historical account of life (albeit, for NKVD recruits - hence the "spy" ...more
Dani Kass
May 20, 2016 Dani Kass rated it really liked it
I’m having a very difficult time figuring out how I feel about this book. Let me start off by saying I don’t like spy novels, so this was an unlikely choice for me. But Furst is a wonderful, captivating writer who presents history so realistically that it’s hard to believe he wasn’t there. I loved the intersection of Russian and Bulgarian culture with that of Spain, France, Germany, the U.S. and so many other countries. There were parts of this novel that nothing in the world could tear me away ...more
Richard Wise
Apr 17, 2015 Richard Wise rated it it was amazing
This is, perhaps, my favorite of Alan Furst's masterpieces of WWII fiction. It traces the story of Khristo Stoianev, a Bulgarian peasant, as fate shoves him from his remote village along the Danube to a KGB training camp in Moscow to revolutionary Spain and from there to Paris.

His journey is the journey from Facism to Communism and finally to a sort of redemption. Along the way he finds himself fighting in all the major theaters of the European war and we see how it develops through his eyes.

A m
Jan 22, 2014 James rated it it was amazing
I don't know what I can possibly say about this book (or this series) beyond "Alan Furst is brilliant." Or, as an older gentleman who saw me reading this book on the subway put it, "He's something special." Indeed, and this book may be his best. The amount of detail woven so seamlessly into poetic descriptions, characters, situations, surpasses mere espionage or war or thriller and becomes something much more vital, a tapestry of hope and survival during one of the more brutal ...more
Dick Reynolds
Feb 03, 2013 Dick Reynolds rated it it was amazing
It’s 1934 in Bulgaria when a young man is murdered by local Fascists. The victim’s brother, Khristo Stoianev, is recruited into the NKVD, the Soviet’s secret intelligence service. After training in Moscow, he’s sent to Spain to serve in its civil war. About to become a victim of Stalin’s purges, Khristo flees to Paris. But he soon learns that being a Russian spy is like being in prison. [I was reminded of the lyrics from a song about the Hotel California; “You can check out anytime you like, ...more
Lance Greenfield
This book is underpinned by amazingly detailed research from which everybody can learn something. The awful European events of the nid-thirties to the mid-forties form a strong background for the main story. The geography across which the hero's life meanders is meticulously described, especially the Danube.

Baulgarian [Nikko] Khristo Stoianev is recruited into the NKVD and is the star student during his training in Russia. He is sent to help the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, but soon fin
Sep 11, 2016 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 20th-century
This is a gripping novel that is hard to put down if you are a fan of the spy/thriller genre. It will keep you awake til the wee hours, saying, "OK, just a few more pages, and then I'll put it down." Highly recommended if you want to be torn out of your doldrums and spun into a world of intrigue, conspiracies, manipulations and machinations, all with the second World War as both a prequel and a culmination.

Relying on exhaustive research, and an even more fertile imagination, Furst has created a
Jun 19, 2016 Neil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book in the 'Night Soldiers' series. It isn't exactly a spy novel, nor is it exactly an historical novel, but it is a careful blending of the two. Set in the mid 30's, as war looms over Europe, and then leading into WWII itself, by way of the Spanish Civil War. The writer wonderfully sets each scene with only a few words, and the characters are all skillfully crafted. This is a book which evokes those troubled times, it is done in such a way that the reader will feel themselves ...more
Mar 16, 2009 Eileen rated it it was amazing
The trick to reading Alan Furst's espionage novels is to have faith. You really do have to get through at least one third of the book before you have any idea what the hell is going on. Not everyone can do this but if you do, you will be well rewarded. He has great characters, very evocative settings, and plot lines that are very tight. Night Soldiers and Red Star are his first two books in a series set in Europe both before and during the second world war. He writes about the peripheral ...more
Frank Stein
Aug 23, 2016 Frank Stein rated it really liked it
I was disappointed by "Blood of Victory" by Alan Furst, but so many people told me to start at the beginning and go for the original that I gave this a try, and I'm glad I did. It's insightful and panoramic yet fast-paced, a real vision of World War II era Europe from Bulgaria to Russia to Spain to Czechoslovakia that still has a compelling plot and well-drawn characters.

As many people point out, Furst also knows his background like no other writer. He describes the training of Soviet NKVD spie
What a fantastic book.

I love the perspective of the NKVD and WWII from an Eastern European point of view. The view of Khristo's life from recruitment to dissolution to survival was fascinating. A view of these era's from this perspective is not easy to find and I look forward to reading more of this series.
Jul 15, 2012 Abby rated it really liked it
Alan Furst's terrific first novel, longer and more sweeping than his later ones and even more atmospheric and engrossing. Covers 1934-1945, from Bulgaria to Moscow to the Spanish Civil War, Paris, Prague and down the Danube, following one man caught up in complex cross-currents of espionage, counter-espionage and shifting loyalties. Wonderful historical detail and great story-telling.
May 14, 2014 Mikee rated it really liked it
This is one of the best, if not the best war/espionage books I have ever read. Maddeningly complex, it is also maddeningly good. Sucks you in, chews you up, then chews some more. I shall have to read it again one day soon.
Foster Winter
Jan 14, 2014 Foster Winter rated it it was amazing
A fantastic journey. One that once again makes one - as much as possible reading from the comfort of home and hearth - realize the pain of war. Yet still identifying the human condition.

Furst has an amazing rhythm to his prose that kept me engaged through the entire journey.
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Addicted to Alan Furst novels 13 89 Oct 18, 2014 04:05AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: Night Soldiers 1 2 Mar 21, 2012 07:12PM  
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Alan Furst is widely recognized as the current master of the historical spy novel. Born in New York, he has lived for long periods in France, especially Paris. He now lives on Long Island.

Night Soldiers novels
* Night Soldiers (1988)
* Dark Star (1991)
* The Polish Officer (1995)
* The World at Night (1996)
* Red Gold (1999)
* Kingdom of Shadows (2000)
* Blood of Victory (2003)
* Dark Voyage (2004)
* The F
More about Alan Furst...

Other Books in the Series

Night Soldiers (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • Dark Star (Night Soldiers, #2)
  • The Polish Officer (Night Soldiers, #3)
  • The World at Night (Night Soldiers, #4)
  • Red Gold (Night Soldiers, #5)
  • Kingdom of Shadows (Night Soldiers, #6)
  • Blood of Victory (Night Soldiers, #7)
  • Dark Voyage (Night Soldiers, #8)
  • The Foreign Correspondent (Night Soldiers, #9)
  • The Spies of Warsaw (Night Soldiers, #10)
  • Spies of the Balkans (Night Soldiers, #11)

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“The printing presses of the state treasuries cranked out reams of paper currency- showing wise kinds and blissful martyrs- while bankers wept and peasants starved.” 4 likes
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