on October 20th 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
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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?
From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.
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.
This book is an action-packed adventure, but it cannot be denied that a lot of its strength comes from one of the most fascinating premises I’ve ever read. Two, really. Though this may have been done by other authors, it was the first time I’d read anything like it. Wolf By Wolf imagines a reality based on two horrific “what ifs”. And it is damn compelling.
Almost everyone knows about the atrocities committed by the Nazis during World War II, and most people will know of some book or movie that explores the possibility of a world where Hitler won the war. What fewer people know is that medical experiments were conducted on concentration camp prisoners – painful, genetic alterations, attempts to cure homosexuality, injections of dyes to create blue eyes, etc.
Graudin takes the “what if” of Hitler winning the war and pairs it with the “what if” of an experiment that resulted in something else. What if the Nazi’s attempt to play with genetics created a new type of creature – a “human” with the ability to shift their physical appearance, to take on the face of someone else? Meet Yael.
This book offers an introspective exploration of identity and the ultimate result of the Nazi crimes – a loss of identity, a loss of a sense of self. Yael can be anyone, have any face, and by doing so, she never really has an identity of her own. This inner struggle is paired with a fast-paced, heart-pounding plot.
Yael is part of a resistance with the ultimate goal – to kill Hitler. However, the Fuhrer rarely appears in public these days, so Yael must go to extremes to get close to him: join and win the Axis Tour (disguised as Adele Wolfe) and then put a bullet through Hitler’s heart at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.
But Yael makes the mistake of thinking her biggest challenge is becoming an expert biker. She gets way more than she bargained for when faced with the intricate web of jealousies, love and backstabbing from the other riders. The author reminds us that humans are complex and layered, and Yael is unable to view the other riders as empty followers of Nazi ideology because, of course, underneath everyone is so much more.
I will issue one warning – not criticism, exactly, because I quite enjoyed it – Graudin’s prose gets a little purple at times. I found it more polished and less jarring than in her previous book (The Walled City) but I know flowery metaphors are a deal-breaker for some readers. Otherwise, I thought it was excellent.
Even knowing that the ending couldn’t possibly be as neat as planned, I did not see it coming. It opens up possibilities for an exciting sequel, while still drawing a line under this chapter of the story. I cannot wait to read more about this world and its characters – their trials, troubles, struggles and hope.
He hadn’t stood a chance really, but that was the power of hope, the utter cruelty of it.