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?
If there is one thing to say about Wolf by Wolf it is that it is unique. When I first heard about it I only heard that it is about Hitler still being alive and some motorcycle race. That alone made me want to read this book. Badly. I didn’t even know about the fantastical element, the skin shifting, but that combination is what makes this book so superb. Ryan Graudin has come up with a truly unique idea that kept me stuck between the pages.
I’m a huge fan of alternate history. On the one hand I get actual historical facts but then they are woven together with all these what-ifs and changes to create a whole new story. What if Hitler had won? This one what-if alone makes for such an interesting story. Changing such a drastic element in our history leads to a story that got me hooked real good.
To be honest, once I started reading I feared that the actual race might become somewhat boring. They are only on their bikes, driving across the country after all. At least that’s what I thought what’s going to happen. Wolf by Wolf is so much more though, has so much more depth. This race wasn’t boring but quite nerve wrecking at times. I had really no idea how it might end. There were so many unforeseen complications, realistic ones, which sometimes made me wonder if Yael is even going to make it until the end.
My favorite part of Wolf by Wolf was definitely the skin shifting. I’ve read other books, watched movies etc where people were imitating others and I always found it highly unrealistic how well that always worked out. I was pleasantly surprised how well done this part was done in Wolf by Wolf. You get to see Yael struggling with this. It is anything but easy for her and she is often close to being discovered and I loved how realistically Ryan Graudin wrote it.
On top of that, the skin shifting aspect brings forward a very important topic: identity. Yael is struggling so hard with finding her own identity, being just herself, finding out who she is, who she wants to be. This book might be set in the past but it deals with a topic that was important then and is just as important today: race and identity.
The whole skin shifting wasn’t perfect though. In the present, Yael is mostly trying to be someone else and almost only in the past do we actually get to know the real Yael. As a result I didn’t get as close to Yael as I would have wanted, I didn’t become as emotional about her tragic past as I wanted. I did connect with the character and I had a lot of feels, but I expected more.
Now there is just one thing that kept me from giving Wolf by Wolf the full five stars and that was the language. To be honest, I’m somewhat confused as to what was going on here. I just didn’t get why Ryan Graudin had to throw in German swear words here and there. Weren’t they basically talking German most of the time? Even if I assumed that they spoke English and used some German words in between,there is still the fact that Ryan Graudin didn’t always use the German terms right. It was very irritating and I’m sad that it had a negative impact on my reading experience.
Overall I still enjoyed Wolf by Wolf a whole lot and I can’t wait to see where it is going next. I wanted to read this book mainly because I like alternate history and because of the motorcycle race but I loved it for so many other reasons. Wolf by Wolf really surprised me with its ending because nothing was certain and the second book is definitely a must-read for me.