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Night Soldiers

(Night Soldiers #1)

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  7,538 ratings  ·  701 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 June 23rd 1988)
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Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
If Graham Greene and Eric Ambler had a bastard child, that child would be Alan Furst.

For those of you that thought the period of European history between 1930 – 1945 (give or take a couple of weeks) hadn’t been mined for enough literary tale weaving, well, think again. Furst has written enough books about this era to choke John le Carre.

I’m not sure about the rest of the series, but his one’s a corker.

What’s the book about?

Simply put: Spy stuff.

The protagonist, Khristo, a Bulgarian national, ge
Nov 25, 2012 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 tim ...more
Jul 12, 2007 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.
Jan Rice
May 04, 2016 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)
Feb 06, 2012 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 crashin ...more
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spy-thriller
This rather long novel took some reading as it seemed at times rather dense, it required a bit of determination on my behalf not to keep leaving it in favour of other faster paced novels ! This is my first novel by Alan Furst, and he is clearly a clever writer who creates very atmospheric moods albeit a bit "wordy" however good the writing is I needed time for this and it took a while to really get into it ! A good spy novel and enjoyable read.
Moonlight Reader
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How did I miss this series? Beginning in a small Bulgarian town in 1934, Furst follows Khristo Stoinev for the next 12 years or so, through the Spanish Civil War, Paris, and Bessarabia, an area of what is now Moldova. Along the way, Khristo is a trained spy for the NKVD. He is sent to Spain as part of his spy work, and becomes the subject of one of Stalin's irrational purges, flees and spends the rest of WWII trying to stay alive.

The book begins with a scene in Khristo's hometown, where his brot
Ed [Redacted]
Jul 17, 2012 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
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,
Dec 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Furst -- A Better Novelist Than Historian

I enjoy Alan Furst's novels. As many reviewers have stated (here and in the press), Furst is a master at depicting Eastern Europe in the interwar years. His strength is atmosphere. He paints a picture in words of the precariousness of life. As you read, you can FEEL yourself in Paris or Moscow or Madrid. You can SEE the characters, the cafes, and the seedy hotels. You can SMELL the Gauloises and TASTE the pastis.
Furst's plots, however, are weaker -- with
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
May 23, 2016 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 Eur ...more
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" lab ...more
Mar 03, 2012 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.
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 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 15, 2012 rated it liked it
This is the second of Alan Furst's Night Soldiers series that I've read; the first being Spies of the Balkans, which really grabbed my attention. Night Soldiers is the first book and Bulgarian Khristo Stoianev, who is recruited by the Russian NKVD in 1933 after the murder of his brother by Bulgarian fascists. The story moves to Russia, through the Spanish civil war and around Europe as WWII progresses. I enjoy how Furst develops characters and portrays Europe in the pre-war and during the actual ...more
Sep 03, 2012 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, eve ...more
Sep 04, 2009 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, wh ...more
Joe Stamber
Oct 16, 2016 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.
Jan 10, 2015 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
This is my second of the Night Soldiers series, which I did not even realize was a series when I read #10. This is the first. I do not think there is any reason to read these in order. Each book focuses on spies, but if the two I've read are any indication, take place in different settings with different characters. This on was twice as long as #10 and had a number of important characters who occasionally crossed paths. I do not recollect #10 being so complex.

The primary main character is Khris
Elizabeth (Alaska)
May 29, 2011 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
Dani Kass
Aug 14, 2014 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
Jun 06, 2016 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
Richard Wise
Sep 17, 2009 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 07, 2014 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 peri ...more
Alan Fust has long been one of my favorite authors. Most of his other novels set in this period of pre-WWII to the end of the war were like snapshot of a time and place. This, his first novel, was a bit more rambling. Many of his others end abruptly, leaving you wondering about the fate of the characters. Here, he brings the characters to a conclusion at the expense of being concise.
Dick Reynolds
Jan 25, 2013 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, bu ...more
Frank Stein
Aug 23, 2016 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
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Addicted to Alan Furst novels 13 95 Oct 18, 2014 04:05AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: Night Soldiers 1 3 Mar 21, 2012 07:12PM  
  • Stettin Station (John Russell, #3)
  • Field Gray (Bernard Gunther, #7)
  • A Coffin for Dimitrios (Charles Latimer, #1)
  • The Last Supper (Paul Christopher #5)
  • Rosa (Berlin Trilogy, #1)
  • The Bridge of Sighs (The Yalta Boulevard Sequence #1)
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

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)
“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
“Live today, for tomorrow we die.” 4 likes
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