The Wolf Wilder was, for me, one of those books that is entirely BEAUTIFUL and also devastatingly BORING. Such a quandary. I really expected to be howling in wolfish joy right now because I have such an infatuation with Russian fantasies — but alas. Also, it’s a middle-grade morsel, which is fabulous. And it had a lot of elements I’m 99% in love with. But the execution of the story was…slow. I nap at slow, peoples. I am a high speed humanoid.
Also this will be a listly review because I LOVE LISTS. And we haven’t had one for a while.
- It’s set in Russia. YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU. (I have a weird obsession with Russia. Don’t even ask.) I was super excited when the surprise ARC arrived in the mail because I adored Shadow and Bone (which is a YA Russiany fantasy) and also Egg & Spoon. I always need more Russia in my life.
- It’s a very cold and snowy book. Always fun since I, unfortunately, have never seen snow.
- THERE BE WOLVES. I like wolves! I like ones that do
n’t necessarily shapeshift, but just running around being genuinely wolfish.
- The protagonist is kind of spunky and bubbly and rather endearing. Plus her name is Feo, and isn’t that awesome? IT JUST IS. Although her full name is Feodora, which reminded me of the hat. I’m sorry. But it happened.
- It promises illustrations. I had an ARC so there were just these big blank spots that says “ILLUSTRATIONS HERE” which allowed my imagination to envision icicles and snowballs and wolves dancing the polka. Normal stuff. If the cover is anything to go of, I trust the pictures will be spectacular.
- THE COVER IS GORGEOUS. Enough said.
- It is not a “comfortable” book. People get shot, wolves bite things, the occasional house burns down. It’s definitely not “overly” violent, but it doesn’t play it safe. YAY. I like to be on the edge of my seat and if 12-year-old-me had read it, she would be happy too.
THINGS I DID NOT ENJOY AT ALL:
- They rode on the wolves. UM??? Is this possible??? Or realistic??? Um.
- The middle is melted puddle of mediocrity. The beginning was exciting! I loved how the story set up and wove in the Russian setting and introduced us to what a “Wolf Wilder” is (basically Russians like to keep pet wolves, but when they get sick of them, they give them to the Wolf Wilders, who get the wolves wild again and set them off into the big wide world to, I don’t know, kill things presumably). BUT! After that? The book was just about running through the snow with wolves and occasionally eating food and having no character development whatsoever.
- And then it got rather political. Which felt like a completely wild (har har) deviation from the wolf story line. There were “HUZZAH! FREEDOM! SMITE THE OPPRESSIVE GOVERNMENT” speeches. Feo sat there saying how bored she was. So, naturally, I was bored too.
- The villain aspect of the story took a BIG STRETCH of the imagination. The captain of the Tsar’s army says that the Wolf Wilders have to kill their wolves and if they don’t, he’ll come back and kill their wolves and kidnap Feo. (The purpose is? Who would know.) As the story unravels, this captain turns into a regular psychopath, who quickly dedicates ALL this time and soldiers to hunting down Feo. LIKE WHY?! She’s a 12 year old who’s running around with wolves. She wasn’t causing rebellions. She wasn’t doing anything. The obsessive revenge plot required a LOT of suspension of disbelief.
- Not enough Russian culture. I wanted to know moooore about RUSSIA.
I think the key is: Enjoy this as a whimsical Russian-ish wolfish children’s story and put your logical brain on mute. It’s about wolves and friendship and adventure and saving-mothers and outwitting-adults and running wild-and-free-with-wolves. It’s COOL. And I really like the thought of it. Reading? Not so much. (I do adore the author’s note though, where she tells how she grew up in, like, two million different countries, and her dad always told her Russian folklore stories.)
I also highly approve of this quote:
“It’s inhuman to take your books away before you know the end.”
THANK YOU TO BLOOMSBURY FOR THE ARC! The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell was published in September, 2015.
Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, in a house full of food and fireplaces. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. Feodora’s mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer: it is a person who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, and to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans.
When the murderous hostility of the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run. What follows is a story of revolution and adventure, about standing up for the things you love and fighting back. And, of course, wolves.
all right my little icicle pops, who has seen snow before? RAISE THINE HANDS. and do you ever read books set in Russia? (any recommendations for me??) and do you think MG books should stretch the imagination, or do you like your fantasy with a large dose of realism?! TELL ME ALL.