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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-03-29 20:30
Wolf By Wolf
Wolf by Wolf - Christa Lewis,Ryan Graudin,Hachette Audio

***Note: this review assumes that you've read the book.***

 

One-sentence review: the hand of the author was too visible to allow me to fully immerse myself in this one.

 

My favorite part: Brava to Ms. Graudin for showing so subtly and clearly that, no matter how hard one tries, one can never inhabit another person's thoughts or fully understand that person. This was the subtlest theme of the novel, and one I truly enjoyed--watching Yael realize the tiny ways in which human relationships, even when public, are by their nature intensely private, and how another person's mind and life are impossible to grasp, despite intense research and investigation.

 

Premise. The most common praise I've heard for Wolf by Wolf is that it has a unique and fascinating premise. The alternate-history aspect, in which Germany and Japan have won the war, is not in itself unique. (See this Wikipedia article entitled "Hypothetical Axis Victory in World War II.") Even the element of an underground resistance movement that wants to kill Hitler has been done before in this same alternate-history context.

 

So the unique aspects in Wolf by Wolf are the facts that Yael is a shapeshifter, and that she has to win a cross-continent motorcycle race in order to get her shot at the Führer. Unique, perhaps, but these two features actually weaken the novel somewhat in my opinion: 

 

Road Race. For me--and this may not be true for other readers--a race is just not interesting enough to sustain the entire book. It very quickly felt like a series of hurdles: problem introduced, problem solved; another problem introduced, etc. Sometimes solving one problem created the other. Many times, Yael solved the problem simply by revealing her plan or identity to the person involved. (More on that below.)

 

Shapeshifter. Alternate history and historical fiction are a great pairing, but the fantasy element of Yael being able to shapeshift made the history less believable. In every other way, the world was like ours: unmagical. And other than the implied existence of other shapeshifters, nothing else is fantastical in this book. It made me wonder whether a) shapeshifting was necessary to accomplish what Ms. Graudin wanted to achieve, and b) if it was necessary, why this world didn't have more fantastical elements.

 

The science. Because let's face it, the science-fiction aspect was not convincing. When your plot device is medically based, I want some sort of plausible mechanism. You can make it up, but it should be based on something scientific or biological. What sort of injectable agent could possibly cause a person to be able to change their body, right down to bone shape and length, within minutes? The reader is meant to accept this as the premise and move on, but I got stuck in Untransported Land.

 

The hand of the author/author devices. When the author allows implausible things to happen just to keep the story moving, it becomes difficult to stay transported as well. How likely is it that in a concentration camp the gate guard would allow Yael to exit the camp when she tells him the doctor has requested to see her? Wouldn't he accompany her from the gate to the doctor's door? How likely is it that the nurse wouldn't accompany her from the clinic to the commandant's door? Ms. Graudin needed to develop a more sophisticated escape route, rather than ask us to believe these two impossible moments could occur.

 

Similarly, how likely is it that the race organizers have stocked fuel but not drinking water at the checkpoints? They've lugged spare motorcycles to each checkpoint, but no water? This was an author device to get Yael to approach Luka for a favor. And even that is unbelievable: why would Yael go to Luka, her nemesis, for a canteen, rather than to Adele's brother, who has said he wants to protect her? And why would Luka bargain the water for a mere favor, rather than demand that she partner with him, which is what he really wants?

 

Why does it take so long for Yael to ask Felix where he got his information about a "big event" happening at the race. Wouldn't Yael be suspicious of him?

 

How is it that the Russian partners in the resistance don't know Yael's code name, or that she's on this crucial mission, even though the race goes through their territory?

 

The Russian commander says that his life and the life of his men are forfeit if he lets her go, yet if she "happens" to escape "that's a different matter?" Really? He wouldn't be punished in the extreme for his incompetence in allowing an escape? 

 

Linearity. Although Ms. Graudin tries to break up the monotony of the motorcycle race by inserting flashbacks of Yael's origin story (which I did find interesting), it's hard to stop this book from feeling very...linear. There is a hurdle, then a solution, repeat. The solutions are often Yael skinshifting her way out of the problem, spilling her plan--to the soviets, to Felix--or provided by a deus ex machina (e.g. Felix fixes her bike for her).

 

The Soviet side-trip. Why is this in the novel? It achieves nothing in service of the plot. I can only think that Ms. Graudin thought the monotony of the race needed something to break it up. Everything that she achieved (getting the competitors to rely on each other) could have been done another way.

 

Research. There were some errors here:

 

Ms. Graudin painted a picture of Cairo with "carts full of pomegranates and figs." Well, this race begins in early spring (late March, early April) and Egypt's pomegranate season runs from early September to December. Figs are more complicated (they have two seasons, a big one and a small one), but since Ms. Graudin doesn't specify dried or fresh, we should probably cut her some slack by assuming the cart had dried figs.

 

Luka says, "Not such a great bullet point on your curriculum vitae." And the narrator says, "No number of bullet points and biography facts could pin the soul behind her eyes." Unfortunately the term "bullet point" is from 1983, and the advent of wordprocessors.

 

Miriam reassures Yael that Babushka and Mama, both deceased, will be "watching" her escape from beyond. This implies a Christian view of heaven, doesn't it?

 

The writing. The language is meant to be evocative, but sometimes it simply doesn't make sense: "Act like you belong, not a hollow stuffed girl."

 

Sometimes the descriptions are so unspecific as to not be helpful, visually:

 

[To reach the knife in her boot,] she had to bend her body at awkward angles (which might have been impossible if Yael hadn't used her skin shifting to lengthen Adele's arms a few centimeters)...

Tell us how her body is bending, please.

 

Ms. Graudin also likes to serially pair nouns and/or adjectives, which might be fine in moderation, but there's a little too much of it of it. For instance, in describing Luka's lips:

Moving and melding. Soft and strength, velvet and iron. Opposite elements that tugged and tore Yael from the inside. Feelings bloomed, hot and warm. Deep and dark.

And speaking of "soft and strength," she has an interesting habit of using nouns for adjectives (strength instead of strong) and adjectives for nouns ("the tight of his fist"). Pretty, or distracting? I truly couldn't decide.

 

I had questions:

 

Why was the Japanese racer crying, only to be murdered without our finding out why? 

 

What the heck are the rules of the motorcycle race, and how is it timed? We're given some information, but if I had to reconstruct it to hold an actual race, I couldn't.

 

In sum: This was refreshing YA fantasy for not being yet another Beauty and the Beast retelling, and for choosing an alternate history for its "dystopia." I was totally happy to keep reading it, but now that it's done I find I'm enjoying watching The Man in the High Castle more.

 

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review 2016-04-26 15:14
Review: Wolf by Wolf
Wolf By Wolf - Ryan Graudin

April 25 2016 - Started again yesterday and finished this evening.

Very good. 3.1/2 stars. Brutal and hard to read at times but excellently written, utterly gripping and finally got to the impossible to put down. Exciting and nail biting, full of tension and adrenaline. Yael was a great lead and I'm looking forward to finding out how this concludes after that brilliant twist at the end.

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review 2016-04-07 16:27
Wolf By Wolf - Ryan Graudin

WOLF BY WOLF by Ryan Graudin tells the story of Yael who lives in a world where the Nazis won the Second World War, and she is part of the resistance. A decade after their victory, when Yael is seventeen she is given the mission to kill Hitler.

WOLF BY WOLF is a really fast paced read; once I began reading I fell straight into the story, and struggled to put the book down. The setting and the plot of the novel were brilliantly thought out, and I had to keep turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next. Graudin creates an intense and very real world, where the stakes are high. As the story unfolds you find yourself hoping that Yael will succeed at her goal.

It’s impossible to talk about WOLF BY WOLF without acknowledging the fact that it’s an alternative history, and one that, to me at least, seems fairly plausible. That in itself is one of the things that I really enjoy about this book – it seems like it could have been a very real possibility, and a scary one at that.

Yael is an intriguing main character; she is at once both alive and tangible on the page, whilst also being like a ghost. It is, I think, part of her charm. Yael and her struggles felt very real to me, and I found myself rooting for her from the beginning. I liked the fact that although Yael is shown to be a very competent and confident young woman, Graudin allows us to see through the cracks in her armour.

Characterization is one of the things that really Graudin really does well in this book. Not just with Yael, but with the other characters that appear in the book. Interesting characters populate the book; although the narrative focuses on Yael, the people she interacts with and watches feel believable. As such, the world of WOLF BY WOLF feels very vibrant and genuine.

WOLF BY WOLF is narrated in the third person, with the narrative moving between now and then. I think that this style worked very well, as it allowed Graudin to slowly paint a picture of what the world is like and to show us who Yael is. It also works because when we learn about Yael’s past it never feels like information dumps; instead it just feels like the next turn in the story.

Although the narrative of WOLF BY WOLF is very much an alternative history, there’s also just a touch of magic to the story. WOLF BY WOLF is the first book of a duology (I think) and as such, the world building is superbly done. As soon as I picked up the book I just powered straight through it, and was breathless by the end. I am very much looking forward to getting my hands on BLOOD FOR BLOOD.

Originally posted on The Flutterby Room.

Source: theflutterbyroom.com/2016/04/07/review-wolf-by-wolf-by-ryan-graudin
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review 2016-01-03 19:01
Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Wolf By Wolf - Ryan Graudin

I freaking loved Ryan Graudin’s The Walled City. It was a novel that I ate up in almost one sitting. It was exciting, it was romantic, it was thrilling—it was exactly my cup of tea. So when I found out that they’d written another novel, Wolf by Wolf, that was described as ‘Code Name Verity meetsInglorious Basterds’ I knew that I was about to delve into something great. Novels set during the Second World War are ones that I find riveting considering the history surrounding timeline, and with Wolf by Wolf being set in another universe where the Nazis won the war—you could consider my curiosity piqued.

Yael witnessed the atrocities of the death camps firsthand. A survivor who has experienced her fair share of losses, Yael is disgusted by the Axis Power of the Third Reich who have successfully taken over the world. Each year a motorcycle race is held in the form of the Axis Tour where young German and Japanese teenagers are given the opportunity to represent their respective countries for the world to see. For Yael, winning means obtaining the means to see the reclusive Adolf Hitler in person.

Having been turned into a shapeshifter through experiments done on her in one of the camps during her childhood, Yael takes on the appearance and life of Adele Wolfe, the only female victor of the Axis Tour—and the only person within striking distance of Hitler. Yael’s job is simple. Win the race. Kill Hitler. Free the world. But Adele’s twin brother, Felix, poses another problem. And one of her competitors, Luka, has made it very clear that no amount of studying could prepare her for the truths of just who Adele Wolfe really was and how that alone might compromise her mission.

Straight up, I freaking loved this book. The way that Graudin writes is amazingly vivid and accurately depicts the setting. There were no instances where I couldn’t clearly imagine what was happening in the novel as I read. Everything from the German cities, to the deserts, to Imperial Japan—all of it was described with beautiful clarity. The fact that Graudin’s writing can also grip a reader from the very beginning and never let them go certainly helps too.

The storyline for Wolf by Wolf is fantastic. The narrative slips between Yael’s experiences during the Axis Tour as Adele Wolf to the experiences that lead her to become the woman she is in the present day. Yael’s character is unique andreal. She’s flawed. She’s caught between duty and morality constantly. You can’t help but sympathize with her character as she begins to slowly unravel the mystery behind the aspects of Adele Wolf’s life that she was unaware of, and has to learn how to properly portray that version of Adele for the greater good. Yael’s character is definitely one of my top favorites.

The relationships and characters in Wolf by Wolf are all incredible in their own ways. I think this is one of those novels where everybody will be able to find a character who they feel they can relate to the most. I personally loved Yael and the character Luka. Luka is your typical arrogant, attractive jerk, but there’s more to his character as you progress through the novel. If you’re a fan of characters like Jace from The Mortal Instruments or Adrian from Vampire Academy/Bloodlines then you’d definitely enjoy Luka just as much as I did.

I would recommend Wolf by Wolf to readers who are looking for a novel that’s freaking awesome. Readers who are fans of action, thrillers, and novels that deal with competition (a la Hunger Games, The Scorpio Races, etc.) should give it a read. Any readers who are also looking for a novel that takes place in the past but offers a new take and twist on history should also give Wolf by Wolf a read.

Source: www.chapter-by-chapter.com/review-wolf-by-wolf-by-ryan-graudin
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text 2015-11-03 16:28
Wolf By Wolf - Ryan Graudin

**On Hold**

 

Just not getting into this one at the moment. Have barely made it past 10% in a month. It's not that I don't like it, I've read so little at the moment I'm not sure if I do or don't. It may just be that kindle format is working for me, I have purchased a hardback and will try to pick it up again at some point in the future.

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