Wolf by Wolf
by Graudin, Ryan

In a world where the Axis powers won WWII, the Axis Tour, an annual motorcycle race across the continents, gives death camp survivor Yael the chance to win the race and assassinate Hitler in the process.

Ryan Graudin was born in Charleston, SC with a severe case of wanderlust. When she's not traveling, she's busy photographing weddings, writing, and spending time with her husband and wolf-dog. She is the author of The Walled City, Wolf by Wolf, and Blood for Blood. You can visit her online at ryangraudin.com.

Inmate 121358?X. That's the designation Yael was given in a concentration camp as a child. She still has those numbers, but Experiment 85 also gave her shape-shifting ­abilities-and a powerful desire to seek revenge on the Führer. In an effort to both remember and forget her horrid past, Yael works for the Resistance and gets wolves tattooed up and down her arm for the people she has lost. When she has a solid chance to kill Hitler during a cross-continent race, she shifts into the shape of famed motorcycle racer Adele Wolf as a disguise, but when Adele's brother and her former lover join the race, Yael's mission is made ever harder. Can one girl, even one with the face of many, prevail over the Third Reich? Alternate histories can be risky gambits, but in Graudin's capable hands, it pays off in spades. Yael is a compelling protagonist, both strong and flawed, and, even imbued as it is with sci-fi elements, seeing both WWII and the concentration camp experience through her eyes is a terrifying adventure. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Mixing fantasy elements into an alternative, what-if-Hitler-won historical setting, Graudin delivers a wildly oscillating tale. It's 1956: Germany and Japan have split the world (the isolationist U.S. is still sitting it out). An annual motorcycle race, a sort of peaceful war, with contestants from each of their empires is the biggest media moment of the year. For Yael, a Jewish camp escapee and survivor of horrific medical experimentation, the race is a chance to strike a blow for the resistance that has raised her. Her ability to "skinshift" means she can assume any female form, including that of Adele Wolfe, perfect Aryan and the only girl to previously compete. Graudin's strange sentence constructions, clearly deliberate but grammatically idiosyncratic ("Smelled the stick of his blood"; "clinging to life and bright"), will distract some readers; others will overlook the cluttered writing and weak character development, particularly Yael's, for those moments when pulse-pou nding action takes over and propels the narrative forward with a rush. Lofty ideas about race and identity (helpfully detailed in the author's note) and deep-seated personal anguish and self-examination compete with action-adventure tropes and even a bit of star-crossed romantic tension. This unevenness makes this novel less than the sum of its parts, although it's still an intriguing read. For those who stay in it through the finish, there is a promise of more to come; here's hoping it's better balanced. (Historical fiction/fantasy. 12-16) Copyright Kirkus 2015 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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