The Forest of Vanishing Stars [Book Review] #HistoricalFiction #WW2 #Survival

July 6, 2021

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel (cover) a woman wearing a red coat stands with her back to the camera looking out over a valley....planes fly overhead.....white text on the red coat)

Genre/Categories/Settings: Historical Fiction, WWII, Poland/Germany, Survival, Jewish

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary of The Forest of Vanishing Stars:

“You are a warrior. You are a hero, and a fighter, and a savior. You are a caretaker and a life giver.”

Thanks #NetGalley @GalleryBooks for a complimentary eARC of #TheForestOfVanishingStars upon my request. All opinions are my own.

The Forest of Vanishing Stars is inspired by true stories of survival in the expansive forests of Poland during WW11. The movie Defiance with Daniel Craig depicts one of the largest hidden groups.

Yona is stolen from her wealthy German parents when she is two years old (1922) and raised in the wilderness by an elderly eccentric herbalist and visionary. In 1941 when Yona is a young woman, her kidnapper dies and she is left to fend for herself in the forest. She is surprised to stumble upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazis. After her fear subsides, she is determined to teach the group all she knows about surviving in the forest. However, they teach her about community and friendship after living her life in isolation. Told in one straightforward timeline from one perspective, this is a story of found family, finding people to trust, and of survival.

My Thoughts:

Genre: The beginning of The Forest of Vanishing Stars includes some magical realism/mysticism that I wasn’t sure would work for me… felt like reading folklore rather than histfic. However, when the old woman/kidnapper dies, the story settles comfortably in the genre of realistic historical fiction. Every time I pick up a WW11 histfic, I am amazed and intrigued by the myriad of perspectives from which the story of this atrocious war can be told. Kristin Harmel is an extraordinary story teller!

Character: Strong and resilient, Yona is a complicated character and survivalist. At times, she reminds me of Kya in Where the Crawdads Sing. As she overcomes her shyness around people, Yona becomes a strong and wise leader and saves many lives.

“…In the times of greatest darkness, the light always shines through because there are people who stand up to do brave, decent things.”

Themes: Strong themes in The Forest of Vanishing Stars include wilderness survival, helping others, compassion, leadership, disappointment, found family, building trust, empathy, kindness, working together, and perseverance.

“Humans had a responsibility to do more than just protect themselves. In the face of evil, they were compelled to save each other.”

Content Considerations: WW11 hardships and atrocities, isolation, survival, death, grief

Recommended: I’m enthusiastically recommending The Forest of Vanishing Stars for fans of histfic (with a side of mysticism and romance), for readers who are especially interested in WWII, for those who love stories of strong, inspirational women, and for book clubs.

Related: Other stories by Kristin Harmel that I have reviewed: The Book of Lost Names, The Winemaker’s Wife

My Rating:  4.5 Stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel (cover) Image: the back view of a woman wearing a red coat overlooking a landscape with planes flying overhead

The Forest of Vanishing Stars Information Here

Meet the Author of The Forest of Stars, Kristin Harmel

Author, Kristin Harmel

Kristin Harmel is the New York Times bestselling, USA Today bestselling, and #1 international bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names, The Winemaker’s Wife, The Room on Rue Amelie, and a dozen other novels that have been translated into 28 languages and sold all over the world.

A former reporter for PEOPLE magazine, her favorite stories were the “Heroes Among Us” features—tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Kristin was born just outside Boston, Massachusetts and spent her childhood there, as well as in Columbus, Ohio, and St. Petersburg, Florida. After graduating with a degree in journalism (with a minor in Spanish) from the University of Florida, she spent time living in Paris and Los Angeles and now lives in Orlando, with her husband and young son. She is the co-founder and co-host of the popular web series and podcast FRIENDS & FICTION.


Is The Forest of Vanishing Stars on your TBR?

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:
Instagram (Threads link in bio)
Goodreads and StoryGraph
Reading Ladies Book Club on Facebook

***Blog posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.



  1. I lost interest in the book with the magic realism. Many years ago I read Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. Not only did it win the Man Booker Prize, but it received the best all-time prize winner in 2003. The premise looked great so I bought the book. I absolutely hated it because of the magic realism. The last quarter was so weird that it was a real effort to finish. I don’t mind a fantasy book, but something in between fantasy and reality isn’t my cup of tea.

    • I agree….give me fantasy or reality but not both! 😂 fortunately the magical realism was most prevalent in the beginning of this book otherwise it might have been a DNF

  2. Magical elements throw me off in HF, and I’m curious about the kidnapping and how that plays into story. Interesting!

  3. Wonderful review Carol. I waffle with magical realism, so thanks for that information that it is just at the beginning. I enjoy Kristen Hamel’s writing, so am sure I will enjoy this one when I get a chance to read it. I agree, it is amazing who many perspectives and stories there are dealing with WWII.

Leave a Reply