Thursday, March 9, 2017

Wolf by Wolf, by Ryan Graudin

Oh, my heavens, I need the second book now!

*checks Amazon. It's already written, and published! And there's a short story, too! I can buy it with one click!* *clicks* #theadvantagesofnotgettingtoabookonyourtbruntilitsalreadybeenoutforafewyears

Never mind about the review, I have to go start reading.


Oy vey. (I wish I were actually Jewish so I could convincingly use this phrase in daily conversations. I would use it all the time if I could.)

The premise is so breathtakingly brilliant that it will take your breath away: Germany won WWII, and the world is now divided between the Third Reich and Imperial Japan. Every year there's a celebratory (for the Axis powers) motorcycle race across Europe and Asia, and the winner meets Hitler and Emperor Hirohito at the Victor's Ball. This year, someone is going to win the race and kill Hitler at the ball. (Because, of course we're still trying to kill Hitler.)

Wait, it gets better: the heroine is a death camp survivor who, as a result of being experimented upon, can shift her skin to look like anyone she has seen. So she can mimic last year's race winner, and thus enter the race (so she can win it and kill Hitler). (No, really, this is a good plan. It will totally work.)

Are you thinking it sounds a little too implausible? This is crazy alternate history with a sort of paranormal kick, and Graudin pulls it off spectacularly. I was riveted from page one, completely pulled into the world, completely captivated by Yael.

Oh, Yael.  Fierce, broken, bitter, hopeful, with a will of iron and nerves of steel. She squeezed my heart until it ran dry. Then there's Felix, the brother of the girl Yael is mimicking, and Luka—her enemy? her lover? just what exactly happened between Adele and Luka during the last race? none of Yael's research can tell her, so how the heck is she supposed to navigate these relationships and not give away the fact that she isn't actually Adele Wolfe? (Yes, wolves are a bit of a motif in this book.)

So, yeah, great plot, great characters, fantastic pacing—tense, tense, tense all the way through. But the writing. Ryan Graudin's prose. Visceral, muscular, intense, poetic the way a boxing match can be poetic. Beautiful writing that never gets in the way of pacing because it creates the pacing. I started highlighting sentences that made me stop in my tracks they were so perfect, and the whole book is now pink. A few non-spoilery examples:
His irises were blue. The shade of a sky scraped bare and a skeleton soul. The color of veins just beneath skin, needle-ready.
Kilometers, cool darkness, and speed threaded through the gaps between Yael's fingers as she reached out.
His scarred, daughterless hand grabbed her marked, fatherless arm.
I found myself rereading passages the way I lick the bowl clean after eating something delicious and chocolaty.

But no, this is a meaty book: soy-ginger braised short-ribs served over garlic mashed potatoes to soak up every bit of the sweet-savory sauce. (And yes, I would lick the plate clean.)

Now, on to book 2!


  1. Wow, this is my kind of story. I love reading historical fiction about WWII -- but I haven't read anything with a paranormal slant. Did you know that Hitler was a student of esoteric studies -- he just used what he learned in an evil and extremist way. Thanks for visiting my website!

  2. You make this sound very enticing. I will put it on my TBR list. Thanks for the review. I love the lines you quoted. Great writing.