Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
|Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Alternate history story in which the Nazis won WWII, following an intercontinental motorcycle race. If Yael, our heroine, can win, she will kill Hitler. Perhaps a little heavy on motorbikes and a little light on worldbuilding, but otherwise an absorbing, exciting and interesting novel with a great central character.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: November 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
It's 1956. And a very different world from the one you'd expect. Germany won World War II and the Nazi project is in full flow. Lebensraum is expanding. The extermination project has spread to Slavs. Defeated Britain is irrelevant and the United States is pursuing an isolationist policy, hoping Nazism never makes it to the Americas. The main Axis powers of Germany and Japan have pretty much divided territory between them. To commemorate a victorious war, the two powers host the annual Axis Tour, a continental motorcycle race. The previous year, it was won for the first time by a girl: Adele Wolfe disguised as her brother Felix.
And this is where Yael comes in. Yael is a member of the resistance and a victim of Doctor Geyer's concentration camp medical experiments. In his efforts to turn Jewish Yael into a pure Aryan, Doctor Geyer has turned Yael into a shape-shifter. And her mission for the resistance is to impersonate Adele, enter the Axis Tour, win it, and then kill Hitler at the Victor's Ball. After dozens of assassination attempts, the Fuhrer is rarely seen and this is the resistance's only chance to rid the Nazis of their figurehead and ignite a rebellion.
Yael can successfully take Adele's place in physical terms. But can she win the race itself? And can she fool her own brother, who has also entered, and Luka, Adele's motorcycling arch-rival?
If you enjoy alternate history novels, then Wolf by Wolf is for you. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
If I were going to pick holes - and I'm a reviewer, so I am a hole-picker - I would say that the dramatic denouement didn't come as much of a surprise, so had less impact than I'd hoped. I'd also say that, while the book is incredibly successful in terms of the race itself and in the flashbacks, I felt the worldbuilding in the present day was a little lacking. I'd have liked a bit more detail on how society worked under Nazi rule - but Yael had been sequestered with the resistance so there was little opportunity for it. So, perhaps a little heavy on motorbiking and a little light on background worldbuilding.
Other than these relatively minor nitpicks, though, I loved Wolf by Wolf. Yael is a fabulous central character. She has too much experience for her years in some ways - an horrific past of violence and loss, intensive training in combat and spycraft - but too little in others - how to relate to family and friends, how to deal with romantic feelings - and she has to navigate a truly dangerous world pretty much by herself. You root for her for all you're worth.
The racing segments are well-described and genuinely exciting, even for those of us, like me, who have absolutely no interest in motorsports. Graudin gives us backstory via various flashback segments, which explain the dreadful medical experiments Doctor Geyer performed on Yael, and also the people she has lost along the way, commemorated by the wolf tattoos on her arm. These are perfectly integrated into the overall narrative.
There's another book on the way. And I'll certainly read it.
You can read more book reviews or buy Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.