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The Spy with the Red Balloon

(The Balloonmakers #2)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  693 ratings  ·  123 reviews
Siblings Ilse and Wolf hide a deep secret in their blood: with it, they can work magic. And the government just found out.Blackmailed into service during World War II, Ilse lends her magic to America’s newest weapon, the atom bomb, while Wolf goes behind enemy lines to sabotage Germany’s nuclear program. It’s a dangerous mission, but if Hitler were to create the bomb first ...more
Hardcover, 362 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by AW Teen
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Davina You don't really need to read the first book to understand what is happening :) …moreYou don't really need to read the first book to understand what is happening :) (less)

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 ·  693 ratings  ·  123 reviews

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Amy Leigh
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book just as much as the first in this series! They read in a way that if you read them out of order you would be okay but I don't recommend missing either book. The way the author intertwines magic and history into a ya fantasy novel is brilliant.

Ilse and Wolf are siblings with a special type of magic that comes from their blood. This is World War II and they are both tricked into using their magic for the war. Wolf is a spy working on the Germans to try to keep Nazi Germ
Katherine Locke
Dec 12, 2016 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: i-wrote-this
UPDATE: 9/24/17
IT HAS A TITLE! The Spy with the Red Balloon will arrive Fall 2018 (if everything stays on track...). Please enjoy my Queer Jewish Kids Punch Nazis While Doing Science and Sabotaging Hitler book.

Previous review:
To be fair, I haven't finished writing this book yet. But I wanted to leave a review in case people had questions when The Girl with the Red Balloon #1 ARCs started to appear in the new year:

1. This is not a sequel. It takes place about 45 years BEFORE the first book and h
Lulu (the library leopard)
New review: now that I've read this, I'd DEFINITELY say It deserves five stars. What do I do now that I've finished such an amazing, complex, suspenseful historical fantasy?! Full review here.

old review: i see you, random person who decided to give this book a one star review even though it's a sequel to a book that isn't even OUT
Sep 22, 2018 added it
Shelves: 2018-releases
I just can't get over how quickly and deeply I fell for these characters. As in the first book, some of the science and magic stuff went over my head, but I really didn't care. The writing is just so gorgeous, the characters so special, and the stakes so high I read this in a state of panic that was partly deserved but so well worth it. ...more
Abi (The Knights Who Say Book)
My feelings about this book are intense and therefore completely indescribable, so this is going to be an utterly useless review.

Like, it has flaws? I definitely thought at times that the writing could just be overall better, and that it was too slow, and that it was somehow just not giving me enough even though I loved every concept in it. You know when you like a book but are at the same time completely exasperated by it? I think this book needed to give us more about Ilse's friends and how th
Other Rachel
"Get in, losers," she called out. "We're blowing up Nazis."


In a companion story to The Girl with the Red Balloon, the stakes are high as America joins the second World War. The government is tracking people with magic abilities, drafting them for the fight. Ilse and Wolf Klein are caught in the middle of practicing and are separated to do their necessary part in ensuring America’s survival. Combative Ilse is sent to lead a group in the Manhattan Project where a spy threatens to spill their se
Olivia (Stories For Coffee)
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
A wonderful historical fiction novel that has a hint of magic in it.
Kate Welsh
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Spies! World War II! Math and science and magic all intertwined! Big difficult philosophical questions! Historical fiction including characters of diverse races and religions and sexualities! Complicated sibling and friendship and romantic dynamics! SO MANY THINGS I LOVE ALL TOGETHER.

UPDATED 10/2: Read my blog post about the book and interview with author Katherine Locke right here!
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This exceeded all of my expectations, and then some. I'm going to be recommending this at every opportunity. ...more
Emme Huffman
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful companion to The Girl with the Red Balloon. I love Ilse and Wolf so much. Ilse is unapologetically smart and resourceful. Wolf is very protective of the people he loves. Their relationship with each other works so well. They recognize each other's strengths and play off of that, even when they are apart.

The Spy with the Red Balloon felt, at times like a prequel. I don't want to say too much so that I don't spoil anything, but it sets up a lot of what we see in The Girl with
This was a bit of a slow start for me, but I loved Wolfe and Ilse from page 1. As it went on, it became more and more addicting and I was desperate to get to each chapter and make sure everyone was okay. Also this was SO queer, which was wonderful.
Apr 22, 2019 marked it as dnf
Shelves: aspec
eh I'm not feeling it. I doubt I'll pick this one up again, so it's on the dnf shelf for now. ...more
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Please Note: I received an advance copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Reading The Girl With The Red Balloon last year, I was struck by how the author, Katherine Locke created both an historical novel, and an imaginative fantasy novel. Her newest book, The Spy With The Red Balloon, takes place in the same universe of magic, but with a different historical setting and characters. Once again, I am blown away
Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight


Wow, this book is good. It's a companion to  The Girl with the Red Balloon , and it's absolutely just as strong as its predecessor. Which is a hard feat, because I loved its predecessor, so. The only minor qualm I had was that a few things were a bit predictable- but honestly, it didn't really dampen the impact of the story, so whatever. So let's go ahead and talk about the
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves
By far one of THE best books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It was thrilling, suspenseful, heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once. I won't lie, I was scared as hell the entire way through, but each character and each part of this book have left an imprint on my heart and I am so glad I was able to read it. I can't even imagine the research that went into this book.

I don't even know what else to say. It's a book that, once it's finished, leaves you a little speechless. Thank you for
Sinead Anja (Huntress of Diverse Books)
I received a copy of The Spy with the Red Balloon from Netgalley. I had heard a lot of good things about the first book in this companion series The Girl with the Red Balloon, which I have unfortunately not had the time to read yet. They are both historical fiction novels set at the time of World War II, that have magic in it, and Jewish main characters.

This book is #ownvoices for Jewish representation.

Check out my book blog for more book reviews and other bookish posts!


While reading this, I k
A rare non-ARC review, here we go.

After reading THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON, which had the absolute audacity to give me Feelings, I went into this companion book (not a sequel, not really a prequel) with high hopes and the author delivered.

THE SPY WITH THE RED BALLOON follows two queer Jewish teenagers with magic in their blood (literally) who come to the attention of the United States Army during World War II. Wolf ends up on a secret mission on the ground in Germany, while Ilse, a brilliant
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fighting Nazis with blood magic! Gay teens in the 40s! The Manhatten project but with magic! Small! Changes! Make! History!

This book made me cry quite a lot. It's in WW2, obviously people are going to die and bad things are going to happen, but also little bits of hope! I need to go read The Girl with the Red Balloon now.
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh my god. review to come but WOW
Note to self: don't read the sequel first. ...more
I just... am completely and utterly in love. That is all.
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love this series way too much.

Featured in World War II Wednesday on Intellectual Recreation.

Last year I read Katherine Locke's The Girl With the Red Balloon, and it made me really curious to learn more about the magical balloonists of the past. Well, I got my wish. In The Spy with the Red Balloon, Ms. Locke takes us back about 45 years to World War II.

The story stars siblings Ilse and Wolf. They are recruited to help the war effort with their magic. Wolf is sent overseas as a spy, and Ilse become part of the Manhattan p
ahhhh this was so good. I love Ilse and Wolf so so much

I'm coming to realize historical fantasies are one of my favorite genres. I love how magic and weave between true historical events (the research it must have taken!!!) I read these out of order so will 100% be reading the girl with the red balloon whenever I can get my hands on it.

You should read this book because:

- queer jewish siblings fighting nazis (!!!!)
- very cool magic system based in blood + science
- demi rep!
- balloons! with magic!
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was just as good as it's companion novel, The Girl With The Red Balloon. I loved how realistic this book was and how it made the magic seem possible. The writing style was brilliant and I can' t wait to read more by Ms. Locke. The characters were also very well written and I loved them with all of my heart. The plot was very intense and I was kept on the edge of my seat the whole book. ...more
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this even more than the other Balloonmakers book in the duology (which I loved an awful lot). Queer Jewish magicians in WW2 and one of them is a science genius yes yes yes y e s ♥️♥️♥️

PS: For my fellow DoE nerds, half of the novel takes place at Oak Ridge, TN, and now that I've finished the book, I ain't even mad they didn't go to New Mexico. It worked out!
Rachel Goldstein
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was so excited to read this book because I adored The Girl with the Red Balloon; and this prequel is rich in history, magic, troubling grey areas, and beautiful language in the same way. The unique thing that I love most about it is the sibling relationship between Wolf and Ilse--their closeness and their clashes and similarities and perceived inadequacies and deep understanding and constant sniping. It's a relationship that gets you invested right away. And as comforting and familiar as it in ...more
Ben Truong
The Spy with the Red Balloon is the second book in The Balloonmakers series and written by Katherine Locke. It is centers on sixteen year-old Ilse Klein and her older brother, Wolf Klein, two Jewish, German-American youths living in 1943. They have a closely guarded secret: there is magic in their blood – literally. When they write scientific equations with their blood – magical things can happen.

When Isle Klein accidentally sets fire to a kite using her magic and it is witnessed by a government
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Katherine Locke lives and writes in a small town outside Philadelphia, where she’s ruled by her feline overlords and her addiction to chai lattes. She writes about that which she cannot do: ballet, magic, and time travel. She secretly believes all stories are fairytales in disguise. Her YA debut, THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON, arrives September 2017 from Albert Whitman & Comapny.

Other books in the series

The Balloonmakers (2 books)
  • The Girl with the Red Balloon (The Balloonmakers, #1)

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