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, they host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The prize? 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’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 be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and stay true to her mission?
Wolf by Wolf is an alternate history WWII novel with a sci-fi twist. In this world, the Axis powers won the second world war and Hitler has control of most of the Western world, while Japan and Emperor Hirohito is in control of the East. However, the Resistance is growing and our main character, Yael, is at the centre of a mission to bring down Hitler. Each year, a cross-continent motocross competition is held and Yael enters this race posing as the previous year’s winner, Adele Wolfe. As the winner of the motocross race, Yael would have the opportunity to have a private audience with Hitler, where she plans to kill him.
The only people desperate enough to do business under high moon and heavy shadows were resistance conspirators, black-market scoundrels and Jews in disguise.
Yael happened to be all three.
Yael was taken to a death camp as a child, where she was experimented on and injected with chemicals that would give her an Aryan appearance. But white blonde hair and pale blue eyes weren’t all that these injections gave Yael. She acquired the ability to skinshift, meaning that she can change her appearance at will, including her bone structure, the colour of her skin, the colour and length of her hair and the sound of her voice. This ability has put Yael at the heart of the mission to assassinate Hitler. She enters the motocross race as Adele Wolfe and must try to keep her own identity and her true self hidden. But this proves to be harder than Yael expected. She finds her own emotions getting in the way of what needs to be done. In addition to that, she could have never expected Adele’s twin brother to also enter the race or that there may be a secret relationship between Adele and another competitor that Yael knows nothing about…
I really loved Yael’s character. She was very intriguing and I loved seeing her inner turmoil as she tried to stay in the character of Adele, while her whole being was telling her to act in a completely different way. I enjoyed seeing her develop from a person who was hellbent on revenge and refused to let anything get in the way, to a person who cared about those around her and how her actions would impact them. The emotional growth in her character as she experienced romance and brotherly love was wonderful to see and I liked seeing her rely on others and not taking on everything by herself. The only thing that I was skeptical about were her abilities. I just didn’t quite believe what she could do in terms of her skinshifting. It just seemed so completely impossible that I had to just suspend my disbelief.
My other small criticism is about the world that Ryan Graudin has created. I love the idea of the book and I really enjoyed the alternate history world. Graudin has done as fantastic job at creating a world that is plausible given the actual events of WWII. I really enjoyed how she integrated the East and the West, and how those from Germany had to learn the Japanese language and vice versa. And I also enjoyed the tension between the Germans and the Japanese, and how they continued to want to beat the other. My problem with the world was that it didn’t feel historical enough. Everything seemed very advanced and contemporary, which I could kind of understand given how much experimentation the Germans conducted. But there were times when I’d forget that this novel was taking place in the mid-1950s. It felt like it was happening in the present day, and I just didn’t get a good sense of the time period, which is the only reason why I’m taking off half a star.
I thoroughly enjoyed the other characters in the book. Wolf by Wolf had a spectacular cast of really complex characters that just kept me guessing the whole time. They were all very multidimensional and I loved how they weren’t who they seemed to be. It was difficult to understand their motives and I’m still unsure about some of the characters, but that’s what I loved most about this book. It was unpredictable and had me really excited to find out more. There is a little bit of romance in this book that was slow burning and had me wanting things to just happen. But it made me super excited for what’s to come.
I also really enjoyed the writing style of this book. It was definitely a unique style that isn’t for everybody but I didn’t find it to be hard to read and I thought some of the stylistic devices she used were very successful. There was a little bit of purple prose at times, but I didn’t mind it too much. The novel also consisted of ‘then’ and ‘now’ chapters and I thought they were perfectly placed. Often, books with then and now chapters seem very repetitive and unnecessary but I thought Ryan Graudin did a fantastic job with this format. The plot flowed extremely well and I enjoyed everything that happened in the book. I did predict the twist at the end though, because I knew that there would be a sequel to the book, so I wasn’t completely surprised by it. But it had me very excited about what’s to come and I’m highly anticipating the next sequel.
Overall, this was a highly enjoyable, fast-paced and action-packed book that has an interesting world and amazing characters that you will love. I highly recommend this one!