City of Fate by Nicola Pierce

City of Fate

Written by Nicola Pierce

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March 2014 Book of the Month Emotionally taut and empathic, this novel will transport the reader into the very heart of the Second World War and the lives of children caught in the middle of history. Yuri is celebrating his fourteenth birthday when the German planes comes swooping low over his home dropping bombs as they pass. The Battle of Stalingrad has begun. One of the most significant battles of World War Two and one which accounted for the greatest loss of life is described through the eyes of children. Despite the obvious suffering the children all manage to keep going in a heart-rending story of individual courage and collective endeavour as the citizens of Stalingrad fought to survive and to keep Stalingrad – and the whole of Russia - safe from the German army.

A Piece of Passion from Susan Houlden, Editor, O'Brien Press When you have been working with children’s authors for over 25 years, you sometimes think you cannot be surprised or excited by any new manuscript that lands on your desk. Then someone like Nicola Pierce comes along. And there really is excitement as you turn to the first page – even when the book is in its first draft.

There is a haunting quality to Nicola’s novels. Her characters will enter your life and they won’t let you put them down. You will never forget their stories. When you are reading City of Fate you have to know what happens to five-year-old Peter and his friends Yuri and Tanya as the Germans take control of the city of Stalingrad during WWII. And you feel you are on the train, crossing the great Volga River, sitting beside men and boys who may die, on the way to fight for the city, with Vlad and his classmates. You can hear Stalin, the Russian leader, with his order number 227: ‘Not One Step Back’. And you’re hoping they’ll all survive – even the bully Anton.

A note from the author - I’ve always been interested in the two World Wars. Once I finished Spirit of the Titanic my publisher asked me what I wanted to write next. A good friend suggested the Battle of Stalingrad. I read up on it and discovered that this battle is generally considered to be the most important battle of World War II because it was the first time a German army was well and truly demolished. Over nine hundred lost children managed to survive for nine months in a devastated and dangerous city, and only six of those were ever re-united with their parents. I quickly decided this was the story for me.


City of Fate by Nicola Pierce

Sunday 23 August 1942 is an important day for Yuri Grossman. It is his fourteenth birthday and also the day that the Nazis began their carpet-bombing campaign of Stalingrad, which continued every day for the next two weeks. Facing overwhelming odds, it will take all his determination and wits to survive.

In the City of Fate there are only two options: to win or to lose forever. Imagine your home is bombed one Sunday afternoon by a horde of enemy planes. Imagine your family has gone and you are left behind. This is the fate of five-year-old Peter and two teenagers Yuri and Tanya. Imagine being ordered to leave school to fight the terrifying Nazis in WWII. Imagine you are right in the middle of a battle; it's you or them - you have no choice. This is the fate of four classmates: Vlad, Misha, Anton and Leo.

The battlefield is the city of Stalingrad, the pride of Russia. Germany's Adolf Hitler wants the city badly, but Josef Stalin refuses to let go. So far nobody has managed to stop the triumphant Nazi invasion across Europe. It all depends on one city - Stalingrad - her citizens, her soldiers and her children. What would you do? Would you be able to survive?


Praise for Spirit of the Titanic

‘Gripping, exciting and unimaginable shattering’ Guardian Children’s Books

‘captivating’ Sunday Business Post

‘Beautifully written’ BBC Radio Ulster

‘A stunning debut’ Verbal Magazine

‘This familiar story does not fail to grip the reader’ Books for Keeps

‘A ghost story with a twist’ Sunday Independent

‘Pierce delivers some masterful narrative which will hold children aged 10 upwards enthralled’ Evening Echo

‘A huge 10 out of 10’ Elev8, reader review

About the Author

Nicola Pierce

Nicola Pierce lives in the town of Drogheda in Ireland. Following her many successful ghostwritten books for adults, Nicola published her first book for children, Spirit of the Titanic. The book received rave reviews, and ran to five printings within its first twelve months. City of Fate is her second book for children and transports the reader deep into the Russian city of Stalingrad during World War II.

Q+A for Nicola Pierce

Q: Nicola, when did you first start writing?

From the very beginning I was a big reader and somehow writing just seemed to be wrapped up with my love of reading. I have diaries that I kept when I was a young child; they were as precious to me as my Enid Blyton collection.

Q: You write historical fiction novels – were you really into history when you were in school?

Q: Where did the idea for Behind the Walls come from?

I was asked to write a novel about the Battle of the Boyne in1690. During my research I discovered that a lot of the soldiers at the battle had fought at the siege of Derry in 1689 and so I felt that I should at least give it a mention. However, when I read about the siege it was such an exciting and dramatic story that I immediately knew it deserved an entire book to itself.

Honestly, the most interesting time period to research is whatever I’m in the middle of researching. I set out to discover as much as I can about the event and become hugely absorbed in that particular period – thanks to some wonderful documentaries on Youtube and the books that I find in my library and bookshop.

Q: How do you write historical fiction – research first and then write, or research as you go along?

Q: Where and when do you write?

I am not a disciplined writer. I aim to write 2,000 words a day and I try various ways and means of achieving this. I handwrite my novels so that means when I get tired of working in the house I can go out to a café and try working there. There are the days of glory when I reach 2,000 words before midday but these are usually followed by long, dark days when no matter how many times I count what I’ve written my total doesn’t add up to even half of what it should be.

Q: What was your favourite book when you were a teenager?

In my teens I re-read favourite books like “Little Women”, “Pride and Prejudice” and “Children of the Oregon Trail”. I also loved “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry”. I also spent my teens falling in love with most of the characters in books like “The Outsiders” and “Rumblefish”.

Q: Did you think that one day you'd write a novel that would actually be published?

Q: What advice can you give would-be children's authors in getting published?

This is a tough one as I realise how lucky I was and how difficult it is to get published today. What I can add to the reams of advice out there except to say try not be led by fashion. Ignore that best-selling fantasy book and write your own story honestly and from the heart. I’ve had some people smirk at me as they ask how long young readers will want to read historical fiction. Who knows the answer to such a question? I firmly believe there is a reader for every story.

Q: Favourite place in the world and why?

Two places: San Francisco and Portland, Oregon in America. Okay, so I haven’t yet been to either of them but that is going to change in May of this year. I can hardly believe that I am finally going to America for what I hope is just my first visit. I have read American writers for years and years and am very much looking forward to visiting the City Light’s Bookstore in San Francisco and Powell’s Bookstore in Oregon. I am also extremely excited to be anywhere near the possible destination of ‘Children of the Oregon Trail’.

Lordy, what a question! I would have liked to have seen Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix in Woodstock in 1969 because they are two of my favourite singers/musicians. I would have liked to visit Paris/Berlin in the 1920/30s when they were crammed full of writers, artists and musicians before Hitler obliterated everything. I would also have liked to have been a cowboy on the great plains in America after the end of the Civil War and before Abraham Lincoln was murdered.

By far my number one passion has always been reading. I do it every day and can do anywhere. And I spend a small fortune on this particular hobby.

I love listening to music – loud, really loud! I’ve already mentioned Hendrix and Joplin. As I’m typing this I’m listening to a double album of The Temptations.

10 things you didn't know about Nicola Pierce

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Book Info


272 pages
Interest Age: From 10 years


Nicola Pierce
More books by Nicola Pierce


O'Brien Press Ltd

Publication date

17th February 2014




Publisher Profile

O'Brien Press Ltd is an imprint of O'Brien


The O'Brien Press is Ireland's leading general publisher of both adult and children's books. Our list covers a huge range, including biography, humour, photography, history, art, fiction, politics, cookery, sport, music, memoir, true crime and travel and we are constantly expanding into new and exciting areas.

Publisher's Website

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