Unknown // Book Review

Ever since my first trip to Russia, I have completely fallen in love with all things Russian, from the language to the music to the people to the architecture to the ballet to the cathedrals to the trees…you get the idea. So when Vanessa reached out to me, offering me to read her debut novel Unknown in exchange for a review, I leaped at the chance.

Because how could I resist a suspenseful story set in Russia with a ballerina as one of the main characters?

Unknown (Grace Sufficient Book 1) by [Vanessa Hall]


He knew there was a cost. He just didn’t know how great it’d be.

Gabriel Kelly returned to Russia for one reason—to bury his parents. After ten years in the United States, he hadn’t expected to return to his childhood home in the face of tragedy. However, after short days in Moscow, he begins to consider if the same call that cost his parents’ lives is now upon him.

Sofia Rykova’s dreams finally came true when she became a principal soloist with the Bolshoi Ballet. One night, though, an old crush walks back into her life, making her wonder if there is more to life than ballet. Gabe Kelly is just as she remembered, just as she longed for—yet religion stands between them.

Unknown to Gabe and Sofia, danger lurks closer than either would have guessed. The deaths of Gabe’s parents grow more suspicious by the day, and Gabe and Sofia are drawn into the midst of a plot neither can escape. Will obedience to God’s call—in spite of their fears and desires—result in a price too steep to bear?

buy the book here!


Vanessa Hall is an author, musician, and homeschool graduate. Most days, she is reading, writing, or practicing the violin—or trying to find time for all three pursuits. Currently, she is working toward gaining a degree in instrumental music education. Unknown is her debut novel. Above all, she is a sinner saved and held fast by the abounding grace of Jesus Christ.


Characters — I adored every single character in this book. They all felt so real and fleshed out, with sympathetic motivations for their actions and realistic transformations. I loved Gabe and how his grief was portrayed in a realistic way. It’s an ongoing process that isn’t solved overnight, forcing you to rely on God to help you through it. He was also a very relatable character, and I especially enjoyed the salad scene. I laughed so hard. 😂😂

Sofia’s tenacity and perseverance was really admirable. I mean, dancing on a broken ankle?? Man those scenes were tense. I was practically peeking through my hands and hoping she made it out in one piece. XD And it was so fun to get a sort of ‘inside’ look into the Bolshoi!

Finally, the whole conflict between Sofia and her charming, rich brother was really captivating and suspenseful. And the end just about tore my heart out.

Prose – It was very fitting for this book! Enough description that I could clearly immerse myself in various scenes, but not too much to interfere with the suspense, which was skillfully pulled off. Not choppy or rushed at all.

Also, I’m not sure if the author has visited Moscow, but either way I was impressed with how realistic it felt! Everything from Soviet-era surroundings and just the attitude of the people felt quite similar to my experiences.

Themes – I touched on this a bit above, but I loved how Gabe dealt with his grief by relying on God. The characters get in very tense, sketchy situations yet they powerfully trust in God to deliver them (or learn to, anyway.) It was so inspiring for me in my own life, during my ongoing struggles to truly lean on Him and cast all my worries and anxieties on Him.

Now, this is might be due to personal differences in faith, but I disagreed with the idea that evangelical, Baptist Christianity is the best, primary way to bring mostly-lost Russians to Christ. Russia has the fourth largest Christian population in the world, and while most of them are Orthodox instead of Baptist, this doesn’t make them any less Christian. Of course, every nation needs the light of God, kind and serving missionaries like the ones described in the book, and welcoming churches — all of which I fully support. But Russia is far from being a lost nation who doesn’t know God.

Plot/Pacing – This was probably my favorite part. I was immediately sucked into the dazzling world of elite ballet and then catapulted into mystery and tense action, with carefully placed slower interludes. A perfect balance. But especially after reaching the midpoint, I couldn’t finish this book fast enough! One wrong thing piling up on top of the other until I was racing to see what happens along with the characters. A fantastic ride!


If you like Russia, ballet, and romantic suspense with thrilling action and realistic, lovable characters – get this book!

Happy reading, and bon voyage!

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