Title: Wolf by Wolf
Author: Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf, #1
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Release Date: November 5th 2015
Over ten years since the Nazis won the war, 18 year old Yael has one mission: to kill Hitler—a captivating second novel from Walled City author, Ryan Graudin.
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.
Germania, 1956. Over ten years since the Nazis won the war. 18-year-old Yael is part of the resistance, and she has just one mission: to kill Hitler.
But first she’s got to get close enough to him to do it.
Experimented on during her time at Auschwitz, Yael has the unique ability to change her appearance at will. The only part of her which always remains are the five tattooed wolves on her arm; one for each of the people she’s lost. Using her abilities, she must transform into Adele Wolfe, Germany’s most famous female rider and winner of the legendary Axis Tour; an epic long distance motorcycle race from Berlin to Tokyo, where only the strongest (and wiliest) riders survive. If she can win this, she will be able to get close enough to kill the Fuhrer and change history forever.
But with other riders sabotaging her chances at every turn, Yael’s mission won’t be easy…
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
Before starting this book I’d heard so much about it; people seemed to love the story and Yael herself, everyone seemed so excited for the sequel, and Wolf by Wolf was recommended to me time and time again. I gave into the hype and brought the book a couple of months ago but only got around to reading it recently. I had high expectations for Wolf by Wolf, based on what I’d already heard about it, and luckily it more than lived up to every one of them.
Set in an alternate world where Germany won the second world war and Hitler has taken control of most of the world Yael is an escapee from the one of the concentration camps with a very dangerous task ahead of her. One year ago during the Axis Tour the winner revealed herself as Adele Wolfe, and not her brother Felix like everyone assumed, and the resistance saw an opportunity. As a shapeshifter Yael has the ability to change herself into Adele, take her place on the Axis Tour, win the race, attend the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo, and kill Hitler.
Although kidnapping Adele and getting to Berlin for the start of the race is easy once it starts Yael is up against a lot more than she assumed. Felix, Adele’s brother, has joined the race and is determined to bring his sister home again, and Luka, a previous victor, keeps referencing a past with Adele that Yael has no knowledge of. She knows the bare bones of the pasts of both boys, but side by side every day as they race from Berlin to Tokyo Yael needs more information to pass as Adele.
However as the race commences it isn’t just the threat of Luka and Felix and what knowledge they have that threatens Yael. There are no rules that cannot be broken on this race, competitors can be poisoned or ran off the road or even attack as long as it happens out of view of the cameras. Then there’s the terrors of they face on the road; sandstorms, rock slides, and resistance fights who threaten Yael’s hard earned lead in the race.
Yael isn’t in it for the Iron Cross though, however her desire to win is echoed by all the other racers, especially Luka and Tsuda who are competing for their second Iron Cross and a favour from Hitler himself. Yael has no clue who she can trusts but if she wants to reach the finish line in one piece she needs to rust someone, either the brother who is determined to bring her home, no matter the cost, or the fellow victor who’s history with Adele already includes betrayal.
Yael is an amazing character, and has gone through so much in the years before the start of the Axis Tour she is competing in. We see glimpses of her past as we witness what shaped her into the person she became. When she got off the train at the concentration camp she was scared, clinging to her mother’s coat, but there was a strength in her that drew the attention of one of the scientists. Everyone Yael has loved and lost is marked on her skin and we witness how losing each of them changes Yael’s views of herself more than the experiments she goes though.
Turned into a shapeshifter Yael has long since forgotten what she looked like before the experiments but at her core she still has the same strength she did as a child staring down the Nazi’s. She is determined above all else. Yael believes in the resistance’s goals and needs to become the valkyrie that takes down Hitler, not just for what he did to her but the deaths he caused of those she loved the most; her mother, Babushka, Miriam, and Aaron-Klaus.
The start of the Axis Tour introduced us to both Felix Wolfe and Luka Lowe, both of whom are people Yael knows on paper but who are so much more complicated than the stats and facts she memorized. Felix is Adele’s brother and he clearly cares for her; all Felix wants is to bring his sister home and he is willing to enter the Axis Tour himself to do that. However when his attempts fails he proves he has her back, because if he can’t get her to quit the race he will make sure she survives it.
As one of the other competitors competing for his second Iron Cross Luka makes no secret of his desire to win, no matter the cost. Even though at first glance, and based on the facts Yael has memorised about him, Luka seems the poster boy for Hitler Youth there is a lot more to him that what Yael has read. Luka and Adele have a past that Yael has no knowledge of, and he seems to determined to even the score between them after what happened last year.
At first Yael is determined to push both Felix and Luka way, terrified that if she allows them to see too much they will see through her disguise and guess that she isn’t the real Adele. However while on the road she has no choice but to reach out to each of them; having to either trust them or forfeit the race.
Wolf by Wolf is set in an alternate world where Germany won the second world war; where concentration camps have sprung up everywhere filled to the brim with innocent people, where Hitler’s soldiers police the streets for citizens out after curfew, and where there are only small pockets of resistance fighters left struggling to survive. I really loved the alternate world that Wolf by Wolf was set in. Although it splits off from history as we know it there was still clearly a lot of research that went into this story and the horrors of the second world war before it ended. We see in flashbacks Yael’s past in the concentration camps, everything she went though at the hands of the scientists and everything her loved ones went through working day after day. The horrors of the war were touched upon but they weren’t the whole aspect of the story, instead it focused on Yael after her escape as she moved forwards seeking vengeance for all the people and lives that had been lost.
It took me a long time to get around to Wolf by Wolf, but it was well worth the wait. This is a brilliant book; a mixture of historical fiction and fantasy blended with a dystopian take on World War Two which creates an unforgettable story of a girl and her journey across Berlin and Tokyo. There is a second book being released soon (which I had no clue about when I started this book) that I cannot wait to get my hands on.
What did you think of Wolf by Wolf? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.