Genre: Sci-fi, adventure, ‘what if’
Series: Wolf by Wolf
Author: Ryan Graudin
Source: Christmas gift from Melia!
Release Date: November 5th, 2015
Book Format: Paperback
Rating: 5 stars
Quote from the book: ‘There would be no dressing up as a maid. No cyanide slipped into his crystal glass of mineral water. The Fuhrer’s death was to be a loud, screaming thing. A broadcast of blood over the Reichssender.’
Synopsis: Her story begins on a train.
The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.
Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe, who caught Hitler’s eye. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele’s twin brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.
But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?
My thoughts: Wow.
This (amazing and incredible and utterly fantastic) book is centred around two what ifs. Two what-ifs, one of which could have happened. (Thank lord for the Allies! No offence Germany.)
‘According to the stories, when the führer first announced his vision of an occupied Africa and Europe to his generals, some of them had laughed. “Impossible,” they’d said. “It can’t be done.” But the word impossible held no sway over a man like Hitler.’
The first what if is what may have happened if Hitler won WWII. The second was what if Hitler had been experimenting with more than just the basic genetic changes. What if he stumbled across something more.
Something revolutionary. Something dangerous. Something magical. What if someone could take the form of someone. Replicate their form.
Meet Yael. Shapeshifter extraordinaire.
‘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.’
‘Yael had many faces. Many names. Many sets of papers. Because the chemicals the Angel of Death had crammed into Yael’s veins had changed her.’
The characters in this book are amazing. They are developed so well, and the side characters are the perfect counterbalance to Yael’s fiery personality and taste for revenge (served with a hole in either the head or chest, possibly with a few stab wounds!) while not overshadowing the messages and main plot in the story.
They also relate to us. Felix is the brother we all wish for, (sorry, Hamish! You are still an adequate brother!) and Luka is the type of dark and brooding guy we all love reading about. Yael is that kick-butt female role with a no-nonsense attitude, one that we all wish we had! Tsuda Katsuo. The… temporary antagonist in the race. To win the race, you must eliminate the competitors, correct? (Tip: never go up against me competitively. There is a good chance you won’t leave alive…) That is Yael’s logic. (Smart, isn’t she!) But there are some rules to the race. No harming competitors. Oops! That puts an obstacle in Yael’s path!
It would be hard to win a race to kill the ruler with him in the way! Eliminating him seems to be the only choice! That adds trouble to the story line, which I find compliments Yael’s personality and the race perfectly.
And, does anyone remember that dark and brooding guy I mentioned around two paragraphs ago? Luka Löwe. He and Adele… they have a history that causes them to be at odds. (Minor spoilers for standalone, Iron to Iron (Goodreads) in the following paragraph.) In the previous race, Luka and Adele were up against each other. And Adele, just wanting to win the race, led Luka to believe that she was in love with him. The delusion went too far when Luka started to believe that he too, was enamoured of Adele, and trust me when I say he wasn’t faking it! Adele ended up leaving him with a shattered heart. (She also won the race, so… he’s doubly angry!) And so, he wants revenge, and he wants to win… Fifty dollars he breaks her heart the same way she did!
An aspect of humanity this book explored was identity. Even Ryan wrote it in her author’s note.
‘This book, at its heart, is about identity. Not only in how we see ourselves but also about how we see others. What makes people who they are? The colour of their skin? The blood in their veins? The uniforms they wear? I gave Yael the ability to skinshift to address these questions, as well as to highlight the absurdity of racial superiority. By taking liberty with this surreal element, I hoped to push readers out of their own comfort zones and into Yael’s many skins and, by doing so, to impart a deeper understanding of what humanity is capable of. Both the good and the evil.’
That goal… that goal is hard. But, but somehow, Ryan managed it. I finished this book with a deeper understanding of racism and I found myself pondering these questions.
The humour. Oh my lord, the humour. It added to the book so, so well. For example:
‘Beside her, Luka fell victim to a coughing fit that twisted his face and rattled his lungs. Yael could hardly tell if it was real or not.
“Are you alright, Victor Lowe?” The Fuhrer’s concern fell flat. As if he was reciting lines. His eyes glinted something feral as he watched the boy.
“Too many cigarettes,” Yael said.
Luka stopped coughing. The look he gave her was brilliant, a masterpiece of wrath and emotions: That-was-our-secret mixed with hell’s-frozen-over and a dash of go-to-hell and fine-be-his-Aryan-morality-lapdog-for-all-I-care.
That should teach him not to cheat.’
That was one of my favourite parts. Please, I started cracking up. My friends looked at me like I was insane. Please tell me I wasn’t the only one.
Creepy anyone? Ryan said that Hitler was old and Yael/ Adele was young. If WWII and Hitler’s former paramours didn’t give me an indication of Hilter’s loathsome and almost pedophilic personality, this certainly did!
There is one slight warning/ negative thing I will say about this book. The writing style is not for everyone. There is prose in this book that not everyone would like. Ryan Graudin uses many literary devices such as metaphors that many wouldn’t like. But either way, give it a try! It’s worth it.
‘So she traced and she named. She hurt and she raged. She remembered.’
I want the next book. No, I have been searching for it since I finished Wolf by Wolf. Book review: Blood for Blood, coming soon!
Written by your favourite blogger and mine, (who is still trying to convince her parents that they should allow her to ride a motorcycle when she gets her licence. (Blame the book!))
(Hey! Don’t do that! Am I not allowed to be proud of my work! THIS IS NOT ARROGANCE! Not really.)