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Writers Inspiring Change feature review: The Amber Crane

Updated: Jan 28, 2023


The Amber Crane, by Malve von Hassell, is an historical fantasy, elegantly written, well-paced, and moving. In this story we follow, Peter, in 1645, during the Thirty Years’ War, a war that resulted in an estimated eight million casualties and engaged every European nation. As an apprentice, sculpting amber, which at that time was a valuable substance, Peter happens upon two pieces of amber which he keeps, a crime in itself because no one is supposed to possess it except at the behest of The Guild. These amber pieces, however, possess a special quality, and Peter soon discovers that he is transported from 1645, to the final months of World War II in 1945, where he meets Lioba, a young woman who is trying to escape the on-coming Russian army which is advancing into Germany. Peter is unsure of what is happening to him. Is he dreaming – he wonders? The story flips back and forth between 1645, his life in a small village in Germany, to 1945, as he continues to cross paths with Lioba, both of whom come to realize that he is somehow traversing 300 years of time – none of which makes sense to either of them, but nonetheless, Peter becomes engaged with helping Lioba escape the Russians. The historical details are excellently woven into the story. One feels and senses the life he lived in 1645; the trials and tribulations he endures in an age, not only of protracted war, but the oppression of the common people. This is the age when mere whispers and rumors can tag a woman a witch and send her to a gruesome death – and it is this very scenario that Peters finds himself battling as his sister is accused of witchery. Meanwhile, Lioba, in his other life, is also running for her life. Every choice he makes will affect the lives of two people he loves. The ending is brilliantly done – not expected, but certainly haunting and touching.

About Malve von Hassell

Malve von Hassell is a freelance writer, researcher, and translator. She holds a Ph. D. in anthropology from the New School for Social Research. Working as an independent scholar, she published several books and journal articles, in particular, The Struggle for Eden: Community Gardens in New York City (Bergin & Garvey 2002) and Homesteading in New York City 1978-1993: The Divided Heart of Loisaida (Bergin & Garvey 1996). She has also edited her grandfather Ulrich von Hassell’s memoirs written in prison in 1944, Der Kreis schließt sich – Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft 1944 (Propylaen Verlag 1994). She has taught at Queens College, Baruch College, Pace University, and Suffolk County Community College, while continuing her work as a translator and writer. She has published a children’s picture book, Letters from the Tooth Fairy (Mill City Press, 2012), with a new edition published 2020, and her translation and annotation of a German children’s classic by Tamara Ramsay, Rennefarre: Dott’s Wonderful Travels and Adventures (Two Harbors Press, 2012). The Falconer’s Apprentice (namelos editions, 2015) was her first historical fiction novel for young adults. Her most recent releases are Alina: A Song for the Telling (BHC Press, 2020), set in Jerusalem in the time of the crusades, and The Amber Crane (Odyssey Books, 2021), set in Germany in 1645 and 1945. Currently, she is working on a biographical work about a woman coming of age in Nazi Germany.

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