hachette

Book Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Title: Wolf by Wolf

Author: Ryan Graudin

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers [imprint of Hachette]

Date Published: October 20, 2015

Format: ARC {Received in exchange of a fair review}

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Yael wants Hitler dead. She is willing to do anything to see this man pay for what he has done to the world and her people. When she was a little girl she was taken to a death camp and after a being subjected to horrible experiments, she managed to escape. It’s now 1956 and Germany and Japan have carved up the world between them. A rebel group sees their chance to execute the Führer by entering Yael into the annual motorcycle race that crosses Asia, from Europe to Japan, which if she wins, we get her close enough to end him. The Nazi experiments left Yael with the ability to change her appearance. She must imitate last year’s female victor (Adele) to try to win again, but she does not anticipate Adele’s twin brother and a jilted boyfriend to also be in the race testing her cover at every moment.

I’m not usually into alternate histories. Alternate WWII stories, especially, tend to be everywhere and after a while they just seem to have more fun playing with ‘what-ifs’ than actually telling a good story and developing intriguing characters. Wolf by Wolf does an excellent job of not falling into that trap. It is original, clever, fast-paced, and the world is very well-developed.

Yael is a well-crafted character. She is damaged and because of her abilities she has spent most of her teenage life pretending to be the enemy. She can’t even remember what she used to look like before the experiments erased her identity, but Yael still manages to have a strong sense of self. The one thing that she cannot erase when she changes skin are the numbers stamped into her skin. She decides to hide these with elaborate wolf tattoos to represent people she has lost and what she is fighting for. It helps her remember who she is and even though it would be so easy, she doesn’t just run away from it all and blend in with the population. While racing and interacting with other racers we see her world expand and her character grow more and more.

Cover Critique: It looks like a WWII propaganda poster (what a surprise! 😛 ). I think it works perfectly for this book. I like it.

Quick Version: Really interesting and entertaining take on the Axis powers had winning WWII. The world is interesting and thought-provoking, the motorcycle race is entertaining, and the protagonist, Yael, made you want to keep reading and rooting for her. I didn’t know until I was at the end of the book that this was part of a series and while that lead to this ending being a bit anti-climatic, I still really enjoyed it and will definitely be reading the sequel.

Score: 4.5/5 stars

You can buy it here: Amazon

Thief’s Magic, Trudi Canavan

Title: Thief’s Magic

Series: Millennium’s Rule #1

Author: Trudi Canavan

Publisher: Orbit, imprint of Hachette

Date Published: May 13, 2014

Format: ARC– received in exchange of a fair review

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Tyen is crouched in an ancient tomb when he comes across someone who will change his life forever. This someone is Vella. She isn’t exactly a person, but rather a book that was a young woman many millennia ago. She holds the secrets of fantastic sorcerers who have become little more than legends in Tyen’s time, and he has no clue what to do with her. He is a student at the Academy, studying archaeology and magic. He knows that his professors would love to see this book and use the knowledge it contains, but is afraid that they won’t understand it. He fears Vella will be locked up in the archives or destroyed from expressing ideas considered heresy in their current age of industry. When his worst fears are proven correct, he decides he must do whatever it takes to protect her and the knowledge she contains.

Trudi Canavan’s Thief’s Magic alternates POV between Tyen and Fielle, who lives in a world were magic is only used by the Priests. To practice magic is to steal from the Angels, and it’s a major crime. She can see the Stain, a dark mark that shows the area where magic has been drained from the air, but must keep this skill a secret, as it’s a sign that a person can use magic and will send her into exile.

Fielle has begrudgingly accepted that she will never be able to use her latent skill and is trying to focus on being a good daughter. She comes from a family of fabric dyers, and even though they have significant wealth, they don’t have great social standing. An advantageous match could give them the respect they desire, but Fielle cannot help but fall in love with a talented, struggling artist. While she is concerned about her personal life, there is a corrupter making their way around the city putting them all in danger. This person is teaching people magic and creating issues for the Priests.

In Thief’s Magic, Trudi Canavan crafts worlds were magic is a non-renewable resource like oil or coal. Whenever someone uses magic, it leaves behind a stain, which is later filled in by more magic. The authorities of these worlds deal with this issue differently.

Tyen’s world is in the midst of an industrial and scientific revolution. Inventions are powered by magic, which is drained rapidly from the air. Authorities have responded by conquering other lands and stealing their magic, but it is still only a matter of time before it’s all gone. There are rumors that magic can be replenished, but these are dismissed as backwards conjecture.

In Fielle’s land, magic is more plentiful – but only because no one is allowed to use it. Readers are led to believe a war long ago drained almost all the magic from the land, so now only the Priests are permitted to steal it from the Angels.

Canavan does an amazing job creating the worlds these characters live in. The magic system in the novel is fascinating and unique. There’s no way to hide that magic has been used and at times the characters’ “reach” is not long enough to access it.

While the worlds are interesting, the pacing is a little slow. The first part of the book doesn’t have a lot of action, particularly Fielle’s half of the story. Tyen’s journey was more interesting throughout. The stakes felt much higher, and Vella is such an enchanting character. Her presence really elevates his story and their interactions are some of the best moments in the novel. As Fielle meets different people, her story improves greatly.

Another issue I had early on is that Tyen and Fielle are just so… good. They have a really hard time questioning, much less rebelling against, authority. To the reader, the Academy and Priests come across as corrupt and despicable the second we see them, so it’s hard to suspend disbelief that they would blindly believe in these systems. When their eyes finally do open, it’s such a relief. I could stop thinking about how naive they were, and start taking them seriously.

Cover Critique: The cover is pretty standard. Any book that has a thief or an assassin for some reason always has a hooded guy/girl on the cover, even if it has nothing to do with the story. It’s just a little boring. Those flames, though… those are really dumb looking. It just takes it down a notch.

Quick Version: Thief’s Magic is a beautifully written novel about what happens when magic is not in infinite supply and corrupt governments and churches control the use of the resource. Tyen and Fielle both notice this injustice — even though it takes them a while — and try to find ways to improve the situation. Tyen’s companion, Vella, is the most fascinating character and this book only scratches the surface of the secrets she contains. Even though it was slow to start, Thief’s Magic was a very engaging and entertaining read. I’m really looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.

Score: 4/5 stars 😀

I reviewed this book last week for Girls in Capes! You should go check out their site; they are really awesome. They are also hosting a giveaway for a hardcover copy of this book until 5/16!

Hey, it’s worth a shot! Free books are the best 😎