Title: Wolf by Wolf
Author: Ryan Grauding
Published: October 20th 2015
Length: 388 pages
Source: Received for review through Netgalley
Why is it that the books I always delay reading end up being the ones I enjoy the most? Wolf by Wolf is definitely not a light read which is why I think I kept pushing back reading it. It was so well written and managed to captivate my attention, I literally stayed up ‘til 4am reading it!
Here’s the synopsis: (taken from Goodreads)
‘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. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s 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?
From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.’
World Building: This book is set in a time where mankind arguably carried out one of the most horrific acts ever and I think that’s why I was intimated a bit by reading it. The world building in the novel is just fantastic. Our main character Yael takes part in the Axis tour where she travels across the world from ‘Germania’ to Tokyo and the way Ryan Graudin was able to portray these different regions, from Cairo to India was great! The way the book was structured was that it kept changing from a chapter from Yaels past to a chapter in her present. Her past was her growing up in a death camp and going through some things that no one should ever endure, these chapters really tore my soul out! At the same time I really appreciated that the author didn’t decide to base her novel on a ‘milder’ version of what happened but actually went into the details creating an atmosphere that genuinely made me shudder. Personally I think that the chapters interchanging between the two times worked really well, just when things got really dark for Yael we are sent back to the race. For me that made this book a little easier to read. When I read about fictional occurrences no matter how horrific they are at the end of the day I know they’re fake. However when reading about something where millions of innocent people were actually wiped out, it can get a little intense.
Characters: I don’t know if it’s just me but this character really resembled Arya Stark from GoT. She literally says ‘A girl without a face’ ‘The girl who was no one’, and she could also have many faces… just like Arya Stark. I don’t know that’s just something that stood out for me. I really loved Yael and the way she was portrayed . As someone with a purpose, but also at the end of the day human. Overestimating just how heartless she could be, and realising that things weren’t always black and white. She knew this better than most because she had to cross these boundaries many times… Sometimes I feel like the author tries to make a point of how ruthless and tough their protagonists are that sometimes it becomes unrealistic. This was definitely not the case with Yael, sometimes even she’s surprised for harbouring guilt for certain things she does (trying really hard to restrain myself from spoiling the book!) and it makes me as a reader able to connect with her. Another thing I notice in a lot of novels YA or others, is that they neglect to portray their characters as real human beings. Let me explain, when was the last time you read that a character needed the toilet, or needed tissue or something really mundane that would make them that much more realistic? Throughout this book Yael says things in brackets that make her that much more believable, even if it’s just talking about the road rash she got from her motorcycle.
The main thing that motivates me as a reader to carry on is the plot, eventually we all want to know where this ends. What’s going to happen? Who ends up getting their way? The plot line developed at a steady pace in this novel that kept me both interested and intrigued to know what happened in Yaels past. I didn’t feel like at any point the race dragged on and the plot delayed because actually a lot of important things happen during it! There were a few plot twists that I genuinely didn’t see coming and by the end I was itching for the next book!
Overall a great book that I feel like not enough people have read. A great insight into what it would’ve been like to be a part of that time and really causes you to reflect on how privileged you are today. With some complex relatable characters and a plot line that kept me completely engaged the whole time. It also had a really interesting twist on how Hitler’s reign would end, I would definitely recommended this book!