Title: Wolf by Wolf
Author: Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf #1
Genre: Historical Fiction, Alternate History, Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: November 5th, 2015 by Orion Children’s Books (first published October 20th 2015)
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Plot: action packed, well-paced, crazy good, intense, though-provoking
Writing: lyrical, smooth
World Building: detailed, historically correct, vivid
Characters: well developed, complex, three-dimensional
Greetings bookworms and welcome back. Today I am bringing you an exciting new book review of Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin, her newest book release and by far the best historical fiction novel I’ve read so far, telling the story of a strong young female in an alternate history where Hitler won WW2. Let’s get to it then, shall we?
I knew this was going to be a 5 star read almost from the beginning. Everything about this novel screamed out to me and called for me, and as I read on, my opinions continued to solidify and now that I have officially finished it, I must say, I am absolutely blown away. I’m glad to have started off my year with this unique, beautiful and intoxicating novel. In my opinion, it’s nothing like you’ve ever read before – it’s a one of a kind-type story that you’d be missing out on if you decided not to read it, especially if you’re a historical fiction fan.
I adored the premise of Wolf by Wolf, even before a copy of it landed miraculously in my hands. Just the mention of Hitler, the Nazi’s winning WW2 and the story of an 18-year-old girl with the power to shapeshift on a ride-or-die mission to kill Hitler gets my blood pumping. Who could possibly resist such an enticing premise? Certainly not me. And my, oh my, this book really lives up to the premise, in more ways than one. Through lyrical writing, three-dimensional characters that keep you second-guessing more than a couple times and a plot that drives you with a hunger to read on and know what the heck is going to happen and a keen eye for historical detail, this book was pure joy to read.
Wolf by Wolf is a intricately woven historical-fantasy hybrid. Graudin’s attention to historical detail impressed me, as a fan of the time period, I could truly identify with many of the historical tidbits mentioned. While being a treat for history fans/nerds, it’s also still perfect for those not educated in the time period or for those not particular fans of the historical genre. There’s enough information in there that allows you to put yourself in that world and in that situation, without drowning you in facts, and I loved that. Couple this with Graudin’s writing – which was lyrical – and that makes a recipe for vivid imagery of the world within the novel. As Yael travelled to the checkpoints in the Axis Tour competition, the way each checkpoint is described sets them all apart and I felt myself moving through the checkpoints along with Yael and all the other competitors.
Yael’s mission is what truly makes this novel as intoxicating as it is. If you read the blurb, it’s clear what’s going on – Yael is on a mission to kill Hitler, disguised as the face of the last Axis Tour winner due to her skin-shifting abilities. The plot is extremely well done and immediately grabbed my attention from the beginning and wouldn’t let it go. It’s not just a story about a race and a mission to kill a tyrant – it’s a story about immense strength and perseverance. The element of fantasy – Yael’s ability to shapeshift – was woven well within the story. It didn’t feel out of place among the rest of the story and neither did it feel too much like a fantasy story. It was just a small element that added more excitement and it was explained in a logical, believable way.
I consider Wolf by Wolf as a novel that is very much plot driven, however, one of the things I loved about it is that, Graudin not only presents an invigorating plot, she brings in complex, three-dimensional characters. Yael is an incredible protagonist. She’s extremely strong and brave and years of growing up in the hardships in the Hitler era hasn’t broken her, instead it has sharpened her into a stronger, more powerful woman and this is seen through Graudin’s way of writing the story – although we don’t see straight into Yael’s mind as it is in third person, it switches between Yael’s past and present, giving meaning to Yael’s thoughts and actions as the story progresses. I thought this was absolutely beautiful and Yael’s story is heart-breaking. The more I think about it right now, the more I feel like crying. It’s not just Yael who is so well-built as a character. The supporting characters, such as Felix and Luka are the same. In third person limited, you get no glimpse into any of the other character’s minds. You only know what Yael knows about them, and she doesn’t know much. This made it riveting to see Yael ride alongside these people and try to fill in the holes of memories that they shared with the face that was not her own.
There is never a dull moment in Wolf by Wolf. It’s all intense action and angst. You’re never sure of what’s going to happen, and it gets even harder to tell whether Yael will succeed as her mission gets more and more complicated than it should be. I appreciated Graudin giving a glimpse into the life some people had during the time period – those who were persecuted by Hitler and sent to concentration camps. Although there was only a glimpse into that, I really appreciated that. Wolf by Wolf, to me, felt like a story about identity in a world ruled by a tyrant who only wants people to a certain appearance and stature. When you must conform to the standards of appearance or otherwise face death, will you remember who you are? Will you lose yourself in the process? These were questions that arose to me as I read Yael’s journey.
Overall, Wolf by Wolf is a phenomenal, enthralling piece of work. It’s a historical fiction novel with a hint of fantasy that you can’t take your eyes off because you’ll crave to know what is going to happen next. I recommend everyone to read it, because if you don’t you are most surely missing out!
Have you read Wolf by Wolf?
If so, what did you think of it?
If not, are you thinking of picking it up?