Excerpt from The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The World That We Knew

by Alice Hoffman

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman X
The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2019, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2020, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
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Lea heard footsteps. The alley seemed darker and she had the urge to flee even though she'd been told to stay where she was. Should she call for her mother? Should she whistle or shout? She had a bleak shivery feeling, as if she had fallen through time to find herself in Bobeshi's village. Before she could decide whether or not to run, he was looming there, a man in his twenties, a soldier in the German army. His eyes flicked over her and she shrank from his gaze. In his presence Lea immediately lost the power of speech. He was a demon and he took her voice from her and held it in his hand. He grinned, as though he'd picked up the scent of something delicious, something he wasn't about to let get away. No one wants to be the rabbit, standing motionless in an alley, ready to be devoured.


"Beweg dich nicht," he told her. Don't move.

She was only a girl, but the soldier saw her not just for who she was, but for who she would be. For him, that was more than enough. He ran a hand over her long blond hair. Right then and there, she belonged to him. He didn't have to tell anyone else, or share her, or even think what he would do with her after. This was what it was like, she thought. This was the trap.

"Schön," he told her as he petted her. Beautiful.

One touch and he changed her. This was the way dark enchantments worked, without logic, without cause. You are one thing and then the world pitches and you are something else
entirely. A bitter fear was rising inside of Lea. Without knowing anything about what men and women did, she knew what came next. She'd felt it when he touched her. Ownership and desire.

When the soldier signaled for her to follow him down the alley, she knew she should not go. She was shivering, and her throat was burning, as if she had swallowed fire. It's not easy for a girl to face a demon, but she forced herself to speak.

"My mother said to wait."

The soldier grabbed Lea and shook her by the shoulders. He shook her so hard her teeth hurt and her heart ached. She thought about her father opening people's hearts and putting them back together again.

"I don't give a damn what your mother said," the soldier told her.

He dragged her to the end of the alley and shoved her against the wall. She felt something break. It was her tooth, cracked in her mouth. The soldier had a gun under his jacket. If she called out, she was afraid he might shoot her mother. He might tear them both apart. She thought she saw a handsome man on the rooftop in a black jacket. She could call out to him, but what if he was a Nazi? Then she realized he was Azriel, the Angel of Death, whom a mortal is said to see only once in her life.

Before Lea could think of what to do, the soldier was reaching beneath her skirt, pulling at her undergarments. Her heart was shredding inside her chest. He covered her mouth with his, and for a moment she saw nothing and felt nothing, not even dread. The world went black. She thought perhaps this was how her life would end. She would walk into the World to Come in darkness, a sob in her throat. Then something rose up inside her.

She braced herself, arching away from him, nearly slipping from his grasp. He didn't want a girl who fought back. He didn't find it amusing in the least. He covered her mouth with his hand and told her she could scream if she liked, but there was no one to hear her, so she had best shut up or he would shut her up. She belonged to him now.

"Du wirst nie entkommen." You can never get away.

That was when she bit him. She was the wolf in her grandmother's stories, she was the girl who rose out of the darkness, the flower on a stem of thorns.

He shook her off, then clutched at her more roughly, kissing her harder, biting at her lips so she would know she was nothing more than his dinner. He felt her body as an owner would, going at her until she wept. Everything was moving too fast; a whirlwind had descended upon them and the air smelled like fire, burning up all around them. This happens when the Angel of Death is near, the one who is so brilliant he is difficult to look upon.

Excerpted from The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman (copyright © 2019 by Alice Hoffman). Reprinted with permission from Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.

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