Blood for Blood 4.5 Stars

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Title: Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2)

Author: Ryan Graudin

Publication Date: November 1, 2016

Genre: Young Adult Alternate History, Fantasy/Science-Fiction

Note: An advanced copy was provided by the publisher (Little, Brown). Opinions are my own.

*This is the review of a sequel. For my review of the first book click here.

Synopsis: In an alternate 1956 where the Axis Powers won World War II Yael, a teenage Jewish concentration camp escapee, entered an ambitious cross-continent motorcycle race. The winner got to meet Hitler.

Her goal was to win the race, kill Hitler, and start a revolution. This book is the aftermath of that plan.

Thoughts: I didn’t know what to expect going into this book. I was worried with the way Wolf by Wolf ended this book would be all filler in an attempt to make a series out of a standalone.

I was wrong.

This book is one of the best dystopian revolution type books I’ve read. (Yes, I’m calling the government in this book “dystopian” even though it is based off of a form of government that once existed because this is alternate history, not actual history.)

What set this book apart from most other novels’ I’ve read centering around a revolution is that the main character, in this case Yael, still has an important message and roll to play in what is to come.

The world-building, something I didn’t feel was well executed in the first book, was better in this one. This is due in part to the fact that in the first book almost all the flashbacks were dedicated to showing Yael at the most devastating moments in her life, whereas these show a variety of circumstances.

This book put greater influence on Yael’s Jewish culture than the first one. Yael spent most of the last book pretending to be other people, and had trouble keeping herself from getting absorbed into the roll of the person she was pretending to be. That was not the case in this book. I enjoyed seeing Yael come into her own and embrace who she was. Though I can’t comment on the accuracy of the depiction as Jewish culture is not something I’m overly familiar with.

Our two leading side characters from the first book, Felix and Luka, play an even greater roll in this book than the first one. They get entire chapters from their point of views. I appreciated how, in spite of this choice, the author didn’t make the book all about romance.

I have a feeling Luka’s character arc in this book is going to be controversial. He accepted things rather quickly. Though the way he learned only part of what was going on at any given time made his actions more plausible.

Something else I noticed that I didn’t in the first one was that I’m not sure how accurately German words are used. I’m not anywhere near fluent in German, but when I read the first book my only exposure to German was spoken.

Between reading the first and second books of this series I decided to learn a little about the German writing system. Keeping in mind that the version I read was an ARC and I have only limited knowledge of German,  I think all of the German nouns in the book should have been capitalized but some weren’t. It seems to me like this is a very basic rule the author should have had a German speaker check for, but maybe I’m wrong since I’m not a fluent German speaker and this was not a finished copy.

Rating: A great sequel overall, though I had a few reservations.

4.5 blue jays

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Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin

24807186Title: Wolf by Wolf

Author: Ryan Graudin

Publication Date: October 20, 2015

Genre: Young Adult Alternate History, Fantasy/Science-Fiction

Synopsis: In an alternate 1956 where the Axis Powers won World War II Yael, a teenage Jewish concentration camp escapee, enters an ambitious cross-continent motorcycle race. The winner gets to meet Hitler. Her goal is to win the race, kill Hitler, and start a revolution.

Thoughts: I went into this book not expecting to like it much, but was pleasantly surprised. Historical fiction isn’t my genre of choice, but I think the speculative aspects of this book are what made it appeal to me much more than most historical fiction.

The book focuses on the race itself as opposed to the historical aspects of a world where the Axis powers won World War II, though we do get to see a fair amount of the world considering the immense amount of distance traveled by the racers.

The world-building towards the beginning of the novel felt a little like info-dumping in the way it was introduced and almost made me stop reading, but the book soon picks up the pace and becomes less info-dump heavy as soon as the race starts. This is due in a large part to the fact that the focus isn’t on the world either, but on the interactions between the characters.

Yael, the main character, is a very dedicated, driven character, and all the flashbacks to her horrible past make her easy to see where that drive comes from. That said, she could feel a little too good at everything at times. Yes, Yael spent a lot of time training and being educated, but she hadn’t been riding a motorcycle nearly as long as her competitors, who were supposed to be some of the best in their respective countries. Yet, somehow she manages to be better at riding a motorcycle than most of her competitors who are undeniably also very driven, though for entirely different reasons than Yael.

Adele, the character Yael spends most of the novel impersonating, proves far more interesting than I anticipated despite the true Adele’s brief appearance in the novel. I feel like it would have been easy for Graudin to brush over Adele’s character and past since she wasn’t featured much, but the way we learn about her though the characters who have interacted with Adele before Yael began impersonating her made her seem just about as fleshed out as other major characters’ in the novel.

Felix, Adele’s twin brother, is yet another character it might have been easy for the author to make one dimensional or demonize, but the devotion he showed to his sister, or the girl he thought was his sister, made him a lovable character even as you know he’d likely turn on the protagonist the instant he realized her true identity.

Luka was an interesting character. The author made it so the reader never knew what to expect from him. He has a history with Adele and throughout the novel Yael and the reader are left guessing what their relationship in the previous race was that left Felix wanting to attack Luka anytime he gets near the girl they believe is Adele. Their relationship is hinted to have been romantic in nature. This made for a crisis of trust not typically seen in most other books because most characters are well versed in details of their personal romantic history.

I got a little distracted at times trying to figure out where my ancestors would have been at the times it was taking place and how the changes would have affected them. I have come to the conclusion that my birth would be next to impossible in this alternate timeline, which was, of course, my least favorite part of this book, but I can hardly blame the author for that. 🙂

On a more serious note, I can’t say I would have wanted to be born in this novel’s reality. It’s that bad.

Rating: This book has left me thinking about it for weeks, and I had such a fun experience reading it. However, I cannot entirely overlook its flaws. For these reasons it is getting a four out of five.

4 blue jays