Wolf by Wolf is an incredible book – full of adventure, passion, history and powerful characters and writing. It’s one that I’ll keep thinking about for months and years to come – a fantastic novel.
“Over ten years since the Nazis won the war, 17-year-old Yael has one mission: to kill Hitler. But first she’s got to get close enough to him to do it. Wolf by Wolf is a captivating YA alternative history thriller, selected as the BBC Radio 2 Book Club title for 4th January 2016 and perfect for fans of The Book Thief.
Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them – made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same. Her story begins on a train.
Experimented on by scientists during her childhood in Auschwitz, Yael escaped from the concentration camp with the unique ability to change her appearance at will. The only parts of her which always remain are the five tattooed wolves on her arm, one for each of the people she’s lost. Now she is intent on getting revenge and achieving her goal: to kill the Führer and change history forever. But to get close enough she must win an epic and gruelling motorcycle race from Berlin to Tokyo – disguised as someone else…”
I had this book on my Kindle for a good month before I opened it up, simply because I had so much else to read (mostly for work). I was actually in a bit of a slump, I kept starting books and giving up because I just wasn’t bothered – books I’ve come back to and loved since. But when I read the first few paragraphs of Wolf by Wolf, I was hooked. I kept being drawn back to my Kindle to read.
The time period is one I will never tire of, I inhale wartime fiction, and read Birdsong at least once a year. But I loved the twist Ryan puts on it, I love that we see a Jewish girl who is strong, resilient and who fights back. It was so interesting to read what the world might have been like if the Nazis had won the war. I loved the slight sci-fi edge too, it’s so light that it feels incredibly realistic, and completely believable.
Ryan’s characters are complex and powerful, I followed Yael’s romance, I adored the brother-sister relationship that she had to endure as Adele and the fierce adventure too. That’s what adds a new dimension onto this book: the bike racing. It’s like Storm Rider set in an alternative post-WWII period and it’s utterly unique and brilliant.
You have the politics and emotion of the Nazi time period, the emotion of the family relationships and what the wolves mean to Yael and the thrill of the long endurance of this race and its final goal. The twist is heartbreaking but so clever and you’re left hanging in the balance at the end of the book.
It was nice to read a book about a Holocaust victim which shows them as people outside of the camps and not only that, but strong, vengeful and important. At times she didn’t feel like a victim at all but you remember why she is there, what has happened which is true and you’re shook with anger, and even guilt, once more. It felt great to be seeking revenge on Hitler with Yael and that’s what makes the book so fantastic, a fiction adventure which has basis in reality, it’s like an alternative ending to history, a re-imagining, which makes it so easy to feel real.
The combination of tension, vivid detail, historical insight, pain, action and emotion makes this book totally different from anything I’ve read and it was an utterly fantastic read – brilliant characters with writing which didn’t let up for a second, I was completely immersed in their world and the story and am so excited to read Blood For Blood out in October.
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin is out in paperback on 5th May.