Review: To Dream of Shadows, by Steve N. Lee

About the book, To Dream of Shadows


Cover: To Dream of Shadows

  • Publisher: Blue Zoo (April 10, 2023)
  • Language: English
  • Paperback: 354 pages

She will save hundreds of lives. But can she save her own?

Inspired by a previously untold true story.

1943. 18-year-old Czech, Inge is torn from her family and imprisoned in some godforsaken hellhole. There, she suffers month after month of torturous labor while praying for liberation by the Allies. But rescue never comes. And her dream of surviving the war dies.
Heinz, an SS Sergeant, has been force-fed the Reich’s poison since childhood, but nowadays, he covertly helps prisoners.

So when a random act of kindness thrusts Inge and Heinz together, they can’t resist being drawn to one another. Unable to deny their feelings, they dare to dream of a future, a life — together.

But their relationship does not go unnoticed. For Inge and Heinz, falling in love becomes a death sentence. And not just for them, but for all those they care about.


Inge makes an unthinkable sacrifice.

Set during history’s darkest hour, To Dream Of Shadows is an epic tale of compassion, sacrifice, and the strength of the human spirit.

Discover one of the most heartwarming, heartbreaking, and heroic tales of the Holocaust. Discover To Dream Of Shadows.

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Steve N. Lee

About the author, Steve N. Lee

Apart from animals and writing, Steve’s passion is travel. He’s visited 60 countries and enjoyed some amazing experiences, including cage-diving with great white sharks, sparring with a monk at a Shaolin temple, and watching a turtle lay eggs on a moonlit beach. He’s explored Machu Picchu, Pompeii, and the Great Wall of China, yet for all that, he’s a man of simple tastes — give him an egg sandwich and the TV remote control, and he’ll be happy for hours!

He lives in the North of England with his partner, Ania, and two black cats who arrived in the garden one day and liked it so much, they stayed. Graciously, the cats allow Steve and Ania to stay in ‘their’ house.

Connect with Steve:

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My Thoughts



Steve Lee is a brilliant storyteller. So much so, that I stuck with his newest novel, To Dream of Shadows, a romance set in the Nazi prisons and concentration camps of World War II, even though the first half of the story is almost unrelentingly grim. I say ‘almost’ because there are bright spots, Rudi, the SS officer who is torn between being “a good German or a good Nazi,” and who displays increasing doubt about the way the Jews in the camp where he serves, when we first meet him, and ends up commanding, albeit temporarily, saves a young woman at the start of the story, and his scenes with his rescued dog, the impeccably-trained Bruno, offer much-needed breaks from the main story.

There are also some bright moments with Inge, who we first meet on a cattle car en route to “resettlement” – which ends up being a prison camp in Estonia where she’s forced to do hard labor, but makes a good friend, and manages to find favor with some of the prisoners who have more power than she does when it’s necessary.

Ironically, it isn’t until Inge arrives at Rudi’s camp, which is run by a brutal man named Kloser who takes real pleasure in tormenting people, and is credited with the invention of the Box, a “punishment” device so brutal that Lee chose not to share the full effects of being sentenced to it.

Inge and Rudi make believable characters, and plausible friends (sort of ) who become lovers in the worst possible situation. Lee writes their romance from a place of truth, and their choices are plausible and both heartbreaking (when Inge solves a mystery that is weighing on Rudi) and heartwarming, though none of these things is ever truly happy or joyous due to the horrific circumstances that serve as background to their tale.

I’ve read a lot of holocaust novels, not because I have a particular fascination with the period, but because it’s a popular period for a lot of really good stories, and this one, at it’s core, is less a true romance than a tale of compassion, “which is contagious, and must be spread to others,” as Rudi tells Inge during their first meeting.

I especially appreciated the way Lee bookended the story with Kloser’s debriefing, which made everything more chilling, but also put the worst horrors at a bit of a distance – how reliable a narrator is Kloser, anyway? I also appreciated that there was a range of personalities both among the imprisoned Jewish people, and within the officers of the camp. The medic, Baumann, who tries to help everyone without the necessary skills or supplies was a brighter spot and a good mirror to Gruber who is as bloodthirsty as his commander. I also appreciated the way the author used language – his dialogue always feels like real people speaking. Pacing was also perfect – and the final few chapters had me literally biting my nails with worry and excitement.

Overall, this is a satisfying, if difficult read. I would also say that stories like this are necessary reads in world where fascism seems to be growing ever stronger. We’re often reminded that those who don’t their history are doomed to repeat it. This story is a novel, but it’s based in truth and it is our history. Here’s hoping we take the right lessons from it.

Goes well with: a stiff drink and a dog to cuddle.

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