the man in the high castle

Review: Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin

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Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: copy received from NetGalley and Hachette’s Children’s Group in exchange for an honest review**

Wolf by Wolf is the book you get if you mix motorcycles, The Book Thief, The Man in the High Castle… oh, and just a little sprinkling of shape-shifting. It is an alternate history in which the Nazis have won World War II, and the Holocaust has continued – and the experiments at one particular concentration camp have led to Yael, a young Jewish girl, developing the ability to shapeshift. Driven by the memories of the loved ones she has lost, Yael takes upon herself the task to shift into the only female winner of the Axis tour, a motorcycle race from Germania (Berlin) to Tokyo, so that she can get close to the Fuhrer… and kill him.

Yael, posing as Adele Wolfe, must keep her identity secret and battle against others seeking victory and glory – and make some difficult choices along the way.

I really enjoy alternate histories, especially realistic ones – and so this book was right up my street. I wasn’t too sure on the premise of a motorcycle race, but it works well, and it allows Yael to meet interesting characters and question herself. I loved the flashbacks to the people Yael had lost and her ‘origin’ story – it’s a little dark at times, but that should be expected in a book centered around the consequences of the continuing Holocaust.

I really loved the twists and turns in this novel, and it felt about the right length. There was a good story resolution, but a few loose ends were left – which will presumably resume in the second book, which deals with what happens after this story ends.

Overall, a fresh young adult take on World War II alternate history, and an original addition to the young adult genre. I look forward to the second book in the series, and I may need a physical edition of this book to add to my bookshelf.

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Will you be picking up Wolf by Wolf? If you have, what did you think? Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks!

Annalise x

Review: The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ok, so I read this because I wanted to watch the Amazon series, but also always want to read the source material first. I became so enamoured with the idea of the book, that I actually went to Waterstones Piccadilly after a job interview, with the sole intention of buying this book.

The book is set in an alternate universe where Germany and Japan won the Second World War. The United State of America has split into three sections – the Pacific States, controlled by Japan, the Reich Controlled Eastern States, and the neutral buffer zone of the Rocky Mountains in the middle. The Soviets have been obliterated, and a cold war is breaking out between the Germans and the Japanese.

I really like the world – this is a book which makes you think about the impact that wars have on society and real people, after the fighting and military action has supposedly come to an end. The world doesn’t end at the United States – what is going on all over the world (and on other worlds) is explored, and I enjoyed the politics of the novel.

The book is a mishmash of several characters – Frank Frink, a Jewish jewellery maker in the Japanese region of the US, his ex-wife, Juliana Frink, living in the buffer zone with an Italian fascist with a secret agenda. Nobusuke Tagomi, the ranking Trade Mission lead in Japanese San Francisco, who meets with Mr Baynes, a Swedish industrialist, in San Francisco. Robert Childan, owner of American Artistic Handicrafts, who sells Frank Frink’s jewellery to the Japanese.

So here’s the rub: the ideas are brilliant, but the characters are forgettable and the story just doesn’t click enough for me. The book follows these characters who don’t really do anything, and are strenuously connected. I expected the novel to end with them all meeting (in particular, Frank Frink and his ex-wife), but the character development just isn’t there for me. I didn’t become invested in these characters; I didn’t have to read on because I wanted to find out more.

There’s no meaningful ending to this novel, no real pay-off. The concept is there but the plot and characters aren’t – they are simply a means to showing off this world a little.

I’ll be really interested to see where the TV series takes this novel (I’ve heard it’s a little different) but this is a book that just didn’t have the wow factor I expected.
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