Published: October 2015
Genre: YA // Historical Fiction // Alternate History
Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them–made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.
The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s ball.
Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has 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 victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission. (Summary taken from Goodreads)
This was November’s Uppercase Box selection. I was so excited because I had heard so many great things about it. Admittedly, it did take me a few months to pick it up. That’s mostly just because I already had a line up of books to read.
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.
I have to say, whenever I read Yael’s name, I can only think of Superman and Kal-El. This is probably only because I’ve been watching a TON of Supergirl lately. It also seemed weird to me that she was the only character to get a very unique name. I had never heard of this Hebrew name before but all the other names in book were pretty common for Eastern Europe, at least I thought so. Maybe it’s just me.
Between the Now and Then chapters, I began to dread to the Then chapters. Not that Yael’s past wasn’t interesting but I didn’t want to stop reading about the race. I kind of wish the Then was all placed together and I could read about Now. I understand the author has a reason for ordering the chapters the way she did, and most of the time, I agree. But this time, I just kept being taken out of the story and it was so hard to get back into the flow of reading after those chapters.
Other than that, I adored every minute of reading this book. I loved the concept- I thought it was really original (even though I know that The Man in the High Castle exists, I just haven’t read it). Still, it combines an alternate history with a glimpse of the paranormal plus an intense high-stakes motorcycle race from Europe to Asia. The motorcycle race was super fun to read. I loved reading about the sabotage the other racers would employ to get ahead.
Even at their most basic function, needles do two things: They give and they take away.
Yael’s character poses an interesting discussion about identity. She may look like Adele Wolf but she could never know about personal conversations or feelings that Adele has. Yael has to navigate the race as Adele while trying not to reveal herself to her competitor Luka (and possibly something more?) and Adele’s twin brother who was an unforeseen complication. All the characters were well-written and compelling. I want to read more of them.
This book really surprised me. I had a feeling I would like it but I didn’t realize how much. There’s a lot of elements to it but it all comes together seamlessly. Graudin’s writing can be a little wordy & elaborate at times but it’s nothing I minded.
It’s easy to get sucked into the story. Graudin is a compelling writer. Her other work is on my list–I have The Walled City on my kindle. I did not see the ending coming and it will be interesting to read how it all comes together in the sequel. Blood for Blood coming out November 1, 2016. There’s a short story/ novella coming out March 8th, 2016 called Iron to Iron as an ebook about the race in 1955 from Luka’s POV.
Have you read Wolf by Wolf or The Walled City? Do you like Ryan Graudin’s writing?