Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

In the conclusion to Wolf by Wolf, set in an alternate 1956 where Germany won WWII, Yael must deal with the consequences of her mission to assassinate the Führer, Adolf Hitler. After racing over 20,000 miles across Europe, Africa and Asia whilst wearing a face that isn’t hers, she must return to Germania without being caught by the SS and discovered as the skinshifter they are searching for. With resistance groups starting revolutions across the continent and SS members determined to keep control of the Third Reich, Yael must fight to see her mission through to the end, at whatever cost.
Since finishing Wolf By Wolf with it’s ever so slightly evil cliffhanger, I always knew Blood For Blood would be a heartbreaker. How right I was. 
Blood For Blood kicks off immediately where Wolf By Wolf left off, with Yael attempting to flee Japan and return to Germania (the Berlin of this alternate Europe). I fould Wolf By Wolf to be a very fast paced, plot based book, and Blood For Blood is quite the opposite – the plot is much slower for the majority of the book, and focuses a lot more on character and relationship building. However, this definitely isn’t a bad thing! 
Yael has always been a mysterious character, and remained so throughout Blood For Blood – I do feel as though I got to know her a lot better than I did in Wolf By Wolf though, and learning more and more details about her backstory in the labour camp was just heartbreaking. Not only did you learn more about Yael in this book, but she matured so much and learned how to control her emotions more. I adored her rash braveness in Wolf By Wolf, but the way she behaved in this book seemed much more fitting with everything that she went through in it. Although Yael faced so many challenges in Wolf By Wolf, none of them were really her facing her true fears, and in Blood For Blood she is confronted with challenges that are so much closer to her heart. Yael opens up to people so much and slowly starts to learn how to trust and love again and hey, even though she’s fictional, I am so proud of her.
There isn’t all that much of an authentic romance in Wolf By Wolf (considering that Yael is impersonating someone else for the majority of it) but there is one in Blood For Blood, which after the events of Wolf By Wolf, does just seem to make sense. I’m so grateful that the romance was slow-burning, as well – it wasn’t forced or rushed into, and it developed at the right pace considering the events going on around the characters. 
Some new alliances are made in Yael’s quest to overthrow the Nazi’s, and new characters are introduced. I won’t say much about them so I don’t slip into spoiler territory, but I love Comrade Mnogolikiy. You’ll get to know them by other names once you read the book 😉 
As well as new characters, we’ve still got point of view chapters from characters from the previous book – Luka, everyone’s favourite badboy, and Felix, the grumpy German teddy bear. Both are fighting their own moral battles throughout and I just love how each character’s story played out and the way in which they all intertwined. 
I won’t say much about the ending apart from this – it broke me in more than just a couple of ways. This book just wouldn’t stop playing with my emotions, and I know that that ending will stick with me for a long time.
If you’ve read Wolf By Wolf, you need to go and read this sequel right this second – and if you haven’t read Wolf By Wolf yet, what are you waiting for?
What do you think of the Wolf By Wolf series? Let us know in the comments!


The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Imagine, and it shall be.
There are no limits.

In an alternate Imperialist Russia of 1825, the Tsar has been surrounded by threats from all sides. Facing the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs, he decides to begin the Crown’s Game – a fight to the death between Russia’s two enchanters, with the winner receiving the title of Imperial Enchanter, as well as their life.

Enchanter One, Nikolai, has grown up in Saint Petersburg and is best friends with the Tsarevich, Pasha. He has ultimate control over mechanical objects. Enchanter Two, Vika, can manipulate and control the elements around her. When both Pasha and Nikolai find themselves falling for Vika, they both have decisions to make – can Pasha go against his Father’s and his country’s expectations by courting a mysterious girl who isn’t royalty? Can Nikolai save her life, only to condemn his own?


3.5/5 stars.

Lately, all that I’ve been in the mood for is books that are set in Russia or inspired by Russian culture, so needless to say, The Crown’s Game was perfect for me in that aspect. I loved the setting – I’ve read a few novels set in Russia recently, but none from this time period. It was really interesting to see the beginnings of rebellion hinted at throughout the novel after Russia’s victory over Napoleon, and the Tsar failing to live up to his promises of equality to the common people. In the authors note, Evelyn Skye mentions that she has studied Russian culture and Slavic languages for years, and you can really tell – she pays attention to all of the little details, and I could easily picture the historical based world that she was building.
I also liked the characters – Vika’s character was really interesting and I’m hoping to learn more of her back story in The Crown’s Heir. I loved Pasha – he was so feisty and adventurous, and I couldn’t help but be drawn to him. Nikolai was definitely my least favourite of the trio, and I do think that I would have connected with him a lot more if his story had been built on and he wasn’t so melancholy when it came to Vika; he often chastised Pasha for barely knowing her yet claiming to love her, yet he had had even less interactions with her and was claiming the exact same thing. 
Since the blurb of the book makes it clear that there will be a love triangle, I was expecting it, and it definitely wasn’t the worst love triangle I’ve ever seen (hello, Twilight). However, it was more of a love-square or something – Pasha and Nikolai are both after Vika, and a servant girl is also madly in love with Nikolai. I didn’t care much for either of Nikolai’s possible relationships, and if I had to pick a ship, it would definitely be Pasha and Vika who I’d want to end up together.
Anyway, less on love, more on magic. This book truly was enchanting, and I loved watching the way that the competition played out between Vika and Nikolai. I loved how the magic was infused into what I assume to be average daily life in Saint Petersburg in 1825, and the way that the city was used in the magic. 
I was very surprised by the ending, but not in a bad way at all. I couldn’t say much about it without giving away the entire plot, but I will say, it is not typical of a YA ending, and I was so happy about that!
So, onto the reasons why I knocked a few stars off my rating. 
Firstly, this book was very slow-paced. I’d find myself reading it, wondering when it would start to pick up from the initial slowness that many novels have, and realised I was already over halfway through. The pace didn’t ruin the book for me in any way, I just wasn’t expecting it.
Secondly, the antagonist. I won’t say much about this to avoid spoilers, but I do think there was a missed opportunity here. There’s a character in the book that I thought would definitely end up being after revenge, but then they just didn’t really do anything? That might happen in the sequel, though.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Crown’s Game – it was a lovely debut, with only a couple of small things that I would have liked to have been different, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.
Have you read The Crown’s Game? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments!


And I Darken by Kiersten White

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the ARC!

And I Darken was all I wanted it to be and more. It’s a deep, dark and unique alternate history novel, set in the Ottoman Empire of the 1400’s, just before the fall of Constantinople. Kiersten White takes Vlad the Impaler and replaces him with Lada, Princess of Wallachia. 
Previously, I didn’t know much at all about this era in history, especially from an Eastern European perspective, so the setting of this book was so refreshing. It took facts from history and brought them to life with complex characters, political intrigue, wars, and intricate relationships. 
I absolutely loved Lada as a heroine, and the way that Kiersten White slotted her into the history of Wallachia and the Ottoman empire was flawless. The secondary characters – especially Lada’s brother, Radu, and Mehmed, the sultan’s son, also added so much to the story and I think the third person narrative worked so well in this book, as it meant that these characters thoughts and feelings weren’t overlooked. The plot constantly kept me on the edge of my seat with its twists and sudden revelations, as well as the culturally relevant issues that it presents throughout, such as the way that Lada is constantly overlooked by everyone just because she is a woman. 
And I Darken is definitely one of my favourite books of this year so far – I loved it so much that, despite having the ARC on my kindle, I had to order the hardback today – and the only negative thing I can say about it is that I almost wish I hadn’t read it so fast, as now I have to wait even longer for the sequel!

Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin

“Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them–made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.”
Wolf by Wolf takes place in 1956 and is a book set in an alternative history in which Hitler won the war. The story follows Yael, a girl with the unique gift, she can shape shift as a result of being experimented on in a death camp as a young child. She accepts a mission to compete in the annual Axis Tour: a motorcycle race across the continents but in order to do so, she must impersonate Adele Wolfe, last year’s only female winner. Armed with her ability and a mind filled with revenge, she sets out to win the race and ultimately, kill Hitler.

I was immediately drawn to this book as I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, however, I’ve never really read any alternative history. The premise was amazing, what would have happened if Hitler and the Nazis had won the war? What would become of the world and its people? Yael for me is one of my favourite characters. She is strong and clever and uses her tragic past and her reminding ability to achieve good. She doesn’t let anything get in the way of her goal, not even Adele’s twin brother, Felix and fellow competitor and former love interest, Luka.

The story switches between ‘then’ and ‘now.’ We learn of Yael’s past and all the people she lost along the way who are symbolised by the wolf tattoos on her arm, the only part of her appearance she can’t change.

The race itself has you on the edge of your seat. It is filled with obstacles and plot twists and moments that make you stare and whisper, “shit.” I love that Yael constantly has to be on guard and she isn’t afraid to do what needs to be done in order to win. The ending had me shocked but ten times more excited for the sequel.

Overall, I loved this book. My only criticism is that I wish the ending hadn’t of been so quick but it did make it all the more sudden. Read this book if you are a fan of historical fiction, especially with a twist and a love for action-packed journeys. If neither of those things grab your attention, read it for Yael.

I loved this book so much that I started and finished it in just a couple of hours. As soon as I was recommended it, I knew it was just my sort of thing – a WWII era setting but with a twist on what we know actually happened after the war and an amazing, badass girl for a protagonist with an interesting back story. 

The book begins with Yael’s experiences as a young girl, which allows you to be plunged into her world straight away. Graudin takes Josef Mengele, Hitler’s infamous Angel of Death, and creates from him the nightmare that will both haunt Yael’s dreams and will change her into the weapon for the resistance that she becomes. Obviously, there are so many books and films that portray the awful things that happened inside Auschwitz and other death and labour camps during WWII. However, I’ve never read or seen anything that focuses on a character inspired by one of Mengele’s victims, and although Yael’s story is fictional, it really did bring to mind the horrifying reality that real people actually went through the things that Yael experiences, to an extent. The “Then” chapters of the book, which focus on Yael’s past and her path to where she is in 1956, really are chilling and at times left me on the edge of my seat. 

I think many people who didn’t experience WWII first hand have been told the stories of how our lives could have been today if Hitler had won the war, and Wolf by Wolf plunges you straight into those imagined horrors. What I really love about this premise, besides how unique and fascinating it is, is how the horrors really are hidden at times. Yael, the main character, will be walking down the street and be stopped by some German officers. All seems fairly average, until they make some throwaway comments that truly set the scene:

“Stray bitches make good target practice. Almost as much as commies and Jews.” The soldier laughed and slapped the butt of his Mauser.

It was, in a way, parts like this that really topped the book off for me. 

Wolf by Wolf was definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year so far – everything about it from beginning to end was action packed and completely drew me in. The ending took a huge, unexpected twist, leaving everything in the balance. 

I honestly can’t think of anything I disliked about this book – the one “problem” I had with it was that I wished it could have been longer, and although there was a lot of back story in there, I definitely wouldn’t have complained if there had been more!