What if the Axis powers won World War II? What if the Nazis had run a secret experiment that caused people to be able to change faces at will? What if a multi-continent motorcycle race was the only chance to set the world right again?
In Ryan Graudin’s Wolf by Wolf, Yael—a seventeen year old resistance fighter—is about to start her greatest mission. The Axis Tour begins in days, and she’s been studying for months so she can compete in the motorcycle race of a lifetime.
The catch is that she won’t be competing as herself. Thanks to horrible Nazis experiments, she is able to change her face. Yael can become anyone she wants, and for the sake of her mission, she’s becoming Adele Wolfe—the winner of the previous year’s Tour. The real Adele has already qualified to compete in the race, and Yael and her mentors believe that should “Adele” win again, Yael will get the opportunity to get close to Hitler and—if all goes to plan—kill him.
While Yael’s plan to take Adele’s face and kill Hiltler is straight-forward enough, things get really complicated when Adele’s brother, Felix, shows up for the race and it becomes clear that Adele had a more complicated relationship with fellow racer, Luka, than anyone suspected. Yael has trouble keeping up the act as the race gets going, and she has to make some difficult decisions as her actions and those of others affect her chances at winning the race.
Wolf by Wolf wasn’t what I expected it to be. That’s mostly because I was under the impression that it was about a shapeshifter (i.e. werewolf) and not a skinshifter. I wasn’t upset to be proven wrong—just made aware that I really need to be better about reading descriptions of books so I’m not all like “When’s the main character going to grow claws?”
Instead of an Urban Fantasy, Wolf by Wolf is a straight-up Alternate History (with a bit of Scifi thrown in). As Alt Histories go, you don’t get much more romp-y than a
sort of story either.
The plot is pretty much non-stop action with a lot of motorcycle-related violence and the occasional punching of Nazis. There’s twenty motorcyclists in the race and some of them meet untimely ends. . .occasionally at the hands of our heroine.
It’s fun and tense and horrific all at once, and I loved every minute of it. Yael, a very brutal action heroine, fits into the world. I loved that she was so driven to reach her goal. She’d lost a lot of people throughout her life so she was willing to do what it took to reach the end of the line. I liked that and I liked that she struggled with her past, identity, and morals. She came across as fairly real for a girl who didn’t even know what her real face looked like.
As for the other aspects of the novel, my only dislike was the romance and dislike is probably even to intense of a word for my feelings about it. I was just “meh” about the tension between Luka and “Adele.” The love story wasn’t a huge aspect of the story though—and mostly it was just used to illustrate Yael’s conflicting feelings over who she was and what she was doing. I was okay with that, but I think there would have been a bit more drama if Yael either didn’t like Luka at all or she was totally falling for him. The story left them kind of in emotional limbo. Actually, (because I’m weird) I thought that Yael would reveal her true identity to Felix and there’d be some romance between them, but that didn’t happen. So much for wanting this plot to go to a weird place. . .
Another thing that I was unaware of going into Wolf by Wolf is that it’s the first book in a series. I probably would have seen the ending coming a mile away if I had known that, but I was shocked in a very “NO!!!” sort of way because I had hoped that everything would get wrapped up neatly before the ending. I still liked the conclusion, but now, I’m not so pleased about having to wait for Book Two. It’s such a struggle to read books as they come out!
I’d recommend reading Wolf by Wolf (if you don’t mind cliffhanger endings and such). It’s one of the few books that I’ve read that I’d say actually comes close to being “The Next Hunger Games.” It’s not a Dystopian, but it has the action, violence, and social commentary of Suzanne Collins’ work. (Ahem, I might have even liked it more than The Hunger Games.) If that’s your things or you like the idea of trying to kill Hitler, definitely pick up this book.
Do you like Alternate History? What’s your favorite book or series in the genre?