Book Review: The Taster by V.S. Alexander

The TasterIn early 1943, Magda Ritter’s parents send her to relatives in Bavaria, hoping to keep her safe from the Allied bombs strafing Berlin. Young German women are expected to do their duty–working for the Reich or marrying to produce strong, healthy children. After an interview with the civil service, Magda is assigned to the Berghof, Hitler’s mountain retreat. Only after weeks of training does she learn her assignment: she will be one of several young women tasting the Fuhrer’s food, offering herself in sacrifice to keep him from being poisoned.

Perched high in the Bavarian Alps, the Berghof seems worlds away from the realities of battle. Though terrified at first, Magda gradually becomes used to her dangerous occupation–though she knows better than to voice her misgivings about the war. But her love for a conspirator within the SS, and her growing awareness of the Reich’s atrocities, draw Magda into a plot that will test her wits and loyalty in a quest for safety, freedom, and ultimately, vengeance.

Review

I didn’t know about tasters until I came across this book. Now that I know about the profession, I still can’t really wrap my mind around the entire concept. Tasters in the Reich used to taste Hitler’s food for poison. They would detect the poison and avert the crisis or die for Hitler if they fail to detect the poison. This was supposed to be an honorable profession because it meant that the Taster was willing to die for Hitler. One thing that I am not certain about is why Tasters were female. The author does explain that tasting is a skill and some Tasters have a natural gift. I don’t know if women were most gifted in the profession than men.

The Taster in this story is Magda Ritter who is the narrator. In case you are wondering how she ended up in the profession, Magda didn’t know what she was signing up for until it was too late (not in a spoiler, it is in the blurb). She quickly learns that she has to adapt to her new profession where each meal could be her last one.

The author did a great job in creating the setting for the story. The different locations where Hitler stayed were so well portrayed that I could picture what life was like over there. The bunkers without enough air or light, the high walls with a lot of security, they all created an atmospheric setting. Life outside these locations was also well portrayed. I had an image of Berlin burning as the story progressed.

This book had memorable characters and I liked the fact that it tackled new aspects of WWWII that I haven’t encountered before such as the Tasters. In addition, the story is told from the POV of Germans who didn’t idolize Hitler which was an interesting angle. My only issue with the book is that I didn’t find myself as captivated by the narrative as much as I expected. It is not a book that I thought about when I wasn’t reading it. I have been thinking about this and I think my issue was the fact that the entire story line focused a lot on one major thing that the main characters wanted to do. I felt like this slowed down the pace a bit because it took a while to carry out the task. However, I still enjoyed discovering new things through the story and I liked the narrator. I also enjoyed seeing how the characters developed through the pages especially Magda.

25 thoughts on “Book Review: The Taster by V.S. Alexander

    1. I think that an issue with me and not the book. I kept expecting things to move a bit faster. Still a good read though and yeah, tasting sounds interesting though quite dangerous 🙂

  1. Well I saw a commercial once (I don’t really remember what product was advertised) with a taster for a maffia type guy.. but I actually never thought about the fact that he would have had one as well. It is rather original and interesting! I’m sorry to hear it wasn’t as captivating as expected.. Given that it’s a fiction story, does it give enough detail about that time or not? I like to really feel it and learn something new but I don’t know how close this one gets to the truth. It’s on my wishlist but I don’t know whether to keep it there or not 🙂

    1. It does give adequate details about the time period. In my review I mentioned the portrayal of the Reich and Berlin falling. The life of Hitler was detailed. I also like the fact that the author shared a lot of information about tasters and the required skills. I feel like I can now identify cyanide poison just based on the description in the book.

      In addition, the book is inspired by real life people in particular, a Taster in the Reich. Definitely give it a try Inge.

    1. Thanks Kim. It is a great read and it did contain a lot of details about tasters and the Reich which I thought was good. I hope that you will get a chance to read it.

    1. Thanks Nikola. The idea of Tasters was new to me too and I still don’t understand how anyone would go into that profession willingly. I understand that there are leaders who use cats as tasters too:(

    1. Thanks Yvo. I think I am so used to thrillers so I always expect fast-moving paces. The pace for this one was well suited for the story but unfortunately, it dragged a bit for me.

  2. Oh Diana, I was so hoping that you loved this book because it sounds so interesting. There were tasters back in bible times (called cupbearers, I believe. They tasted the Kings ‘beverages), so the profession is one I’m somewhat familiar with. I’m sorry this one wasn’t captivating. Great review though.

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