“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?”
Everyone, say hello to one of my absolute favorite books of 2015. Wolf by Wolf is a brilliant novel by Ryan Graudin that fuses alternative history with science fiction/fantasy, the outcome being one kick-ass ride with the strong female protagonist of my dreams. Graudin’s novel takes place in a world in which the Axis powers won the Second World War, and provides a fascinating look at what an Axis-ruled empire would look like ten years after the fact. When I first heard of this book months ago, it sounded like the perfect novel for me: I studied Germany during WWI and WWII for both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Spoilers: it was perfect.
Yael is the survivor of a concentration camp, and the experimentation she was subjected to during that time left her with the ability to skinshift – to completely change her appearance and become another person. Driven by the need for revenge, Yael joins the resistance and enters the race (as last year’s winner) with a singular goal: kill Hitler. I adored Yael because of her strength and conviction – she never wavers from her goal, doesn’t allow herself distractions. Throughout the novel, there are flashbacks to her time in the camp and her early days in the resistance, and those added such depth to the story and world building.
The Axis Tour – the motorcycle race from Germany to Japan that Yael must win – sets a fierce pace for the novel. Much like the race, this story is intense, with very few low points or slower moments. This is a race story, and the punishing route and cutthroat competition are ever-present for Yael (and the reader!). The other riders are can absolutely stand on their own, no static background characters here. Watching Yael navigate Adele’s complicated relationships with Luka and Felix was really intriguing, although I do hope we’re not being set up for a potential Yael-Luka-Adele love triangle in the next book. I want to see more of Felix and understand where exactly he stands in all this. I think there’s more to his character than meets the eye.
Wolf by Wolf is the first book of a duology, and I’m already eagerly anticipating the second novel. I need it now! I cannot recommend this book enough, and I’m not sure a review could even do justice to how awesome Wolf by Wolf is. Ryan Graudin constructed a world that not only asks “What if Germany won?” but, more importantly, “What would it take for one girl to bring the Axis to its knees?” You will root for Yael, and with each mile she races, you won’t be able to turn the page fast enough.
*I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.