World building: 9/10
Writing style: 9/10
Character building: 8/10
My opinionated review
When I first heard about the book, the title instantly allured me, and I knew I wanted to read it without even knowing the premise of the story. ‘Wolf by Wolf’. Such a strong title and the ongoing importance of wolf symbolism has made this a wonderful read. I have always been fascinated by wolves, and as Yael, have a wolf tattoo. The wolf symbolism was enough for me to believe that I would enjoy this book. And going further into the read, this fast-paced action-filled adventure has gripped my interest and kept me on the edge all throughout.
It is definitely one ambitious and intriguing premise: Ryan Graudin blends an alternative history plot with science-fiction elements, presenting both these topics with such reality that the reader instantly believes in this fictitious world. The horror that the Nazis and Adolf Hitler imploded on the world is known to everyone. Therefore, this alternate portrayal of the world that would have become if Hitler actually won, seems very believable and very horrifying. Since Hitler was one of the most brutal villains, in reality, moving this figure to fiction results in completely relatable and easily-understandable villainous character hate. Mixing that storyline with science experimentation and creating a character with skin-shifting fills the story with more depth and potential that makes it impossible to stop reading.
Mostly, this book is about identity, and finding yourself when you are forced to hide. Therefore Yael, a she-wolf skin-shifting 17-year-old girl is one of the most complex and compelling characters I have ever had the pleasure to know. She struggles with her identity – she becomes other people, changes her appearance until she forgets her own face. Especially in the hate-filled society of seeing only the Arian race as ‘pure’ and worth living, the circumstances Yael has to deal with, are truly horrific. The horrors and tragedy that she was forced to endure harden her skin and the unique ability of skin-shifting mixed with getting into the hands of resistance activists by chance create a super-spy character, entrusted with the most important mission of all – the execution of Adolf Hitler. She has to become the symbol of hope, the symbol of war, dealing with many dangers, testing her limits, while struggling with her own identity and reminders of people she is doing this for.
After many attempted assassinations of the world’s most hated leader, it is not an easy task to get close enough to Adolf Hitler and kill him. Therefore Yael has to go to extreme lengths and enrol in a motorcycle race competition, taking the identity of a famous racer Adele Wolfe and balancing this stolen personality with her important mission, and maintaining Adele’s complex relationships. This ‘Mad Max’ type of adventure kept me on the edge throughout the whole book. The constant challenges and twists thrust upon Yael were so intense that I would have to put the book down to be able to absorb everything that happened. The need to balance two completely different relationships with very multi-dimensional characters became the most entertaining part of the story. Felix, Adele’s brother, went to extreme lengths to protect his sister; and Luka, the toughest competition with unknown ties to Adele, history filled with love and betrayal, proved to be unplanned challenges to Yael. These already complex dynamics mixed with Yael trying to balance already established connections with her own struggles on whether these people are just Nazi followers or something more has made one thrilling plotline. And in the heart of all is Yael, struggling to find a balance between saving the world and losing her humanity. So much happens in this book, that it is impossible to analyse every single detail, but it sure is never boring, and at times hard to read due to the difficult subject matter. It’s like Hunger Games, just much closer to reality.
Oh boy, it was one hell of a ride. The final twist was somehow expected, although I have not seen it coming until the very end. The book ends with so much potential for the story to continue, without giving any identification of which direction the author will be taking the plot and our beloved characters. I hope Luka and Felix’s character will be explored more thoroughly in the sequel, since they are so complex and well-crafted, and I already feel much love for Felix’s protectiveness and Luka’s ‘moreness’. I cannot wait to see what’s in store for Yael now that she can be herself, and how the dynamics between the characters will be progressing. Moreover, I cannot wait for more action, because ‘Wolf by Wolf’ has easily become one of my favourite reads of the year.
- Imagine Dragons – Gold
- Blue October – Hate Me
- Celldweller – It Makes No Difference Who We Are
- Alice Cooper – Poison
- Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun