Off the Shelf: A Review of Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

Almost a year ago, I was receiving Wolf by Wolf as my first book of my Uppercase YA lit subscription box. The book really opened my eyes to something I thought I hated – alternate historical fiction. It gave me Yael, a bloodthirsty, skinshifting survivor of the death camps, and a heroine that really kept me entranced in her story. I read her story in a matter of hours one day, and I’ve been waiting not-so-patiently to find out what happens to her. Luckily, I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, and by the time you read this review, you’ll hardly have to wait for the book at all! Blood for Blood will hit shelves November 1st, and here’s why you need to pick it up:

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Release date: November 1, 2016

Summary (via Goodreads)
There would be blood.
Blood for blood.
Blood to pay.
An entire world of it.

For the resistance in 1950s Germany, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun.

Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against the New Order, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But dark secrets reveal dark truths, and one question hangs over them all: how far can you go for the ones you love?

Things I Liked:

At the end of Wolf by Wolf, we know that the whole world believes that Yael has succeeded in killing Hitler. Only the reader and Yael know that isn’t true. She’s killed a skinshifter pretending to be Hitler, rather than the man himself. So, in Blood for Blood, we are launched immediately into the heat of the action. Sprinkled in, you’ll also find flashbacks that reveal pieces of Luka and Felix’s pasts this time, showing how all of the characters had very different yet torturous upbringings that helped shape who they are in the present and gives light to their motivations. I remember being so wrapped up in Yael during Wolf by Wolf that I didn’t quite give the other characters a whole lot of thought. Now, I’m especially smitten with Luka. He’s reckless, dangerous, too ridiculously charismatic to ignore, but we also see a softer side that’s going to make the fangirls swoon.

You might recall that in my review of Wolf by Wolf, I said that I enjoyed that it wasn’t a love story. That changes in this book, and I’m actually quite happy about it. Love can be a powerful motivator, and I enjoyed watching it develop slowly at all of the right moments.

There’s one moment in particular that Yael witnesses that will stop you in your tracks. Literally. I like to walk the library stacks on my lunch hour whenever I’m in one of those crazy Fitbit challenges, so I’m usually pacing back and forth between the books carrying my Kindle out in front of me. I was reading Blood for Blood, reached the moment in the story I’m referring to, and I just had to stop. I didn’t cry, but it was like a wave of emotion washed over me. I understood why that moment needed to happen, but I can tell you one thing – I was not prepared for it. Brace yourself. This book will grab you out of nowhere and crush you…crush you like a certain character’s fingers. Just you wait and see.

I think the best way to describe Blood for Blood is INTENSE. The action never stops.  At some points, I was reminded of V for Vendetta (in a very, very good way), and I’d love it if one day we could see this story play out either in graphic or film form.

Things I Didn’t Like:

Just like with Wolf by Wolf, I’m going to struggle to find something wrong with this book because I enjoyed it so thoroughly. If I have to pick something, I’d say that some parts were somewhat predictable. I had Hitler and the skinshifters figured out pretty early and a few other small parts, but I failed to put all of the pieces together before the big reveal. That’s not even a bad thing because the choices Graudin made in telling this story made it exactly the story that I wanted to read. I think the only thing I really missed were the post its from Uppercase that gave readers access to bonus materials that helped illustrate certain plot points. I would have loved to have had those for this book, and probably for every book that I read.

Oh – I know one thing I didn’t like! It doesn’t have any bearing on the book, but it needs mentioned just in case there’s some other person out there who has this in their mind the way I did. This series will not be a trilogy! Correct me if I’m just crazy, but I distinctly remember checking Goodreads after finishing the first book and seeing that there were three books planned in the series. I had this in mind while reading Blood for Blood, and as things started to wrap up and the loose ends became tied up, all I wanted to do was scream, “No! There has to be more!”I’ve since checked Goodreads and found that Wolf by Wolf #3 no longer exists. Now, there’s just Wolf by Wolf, Blood for Blood, and Iron to Iron (a small novella that is meant to be read between the two). Am I crazy? Was I imagining a trilogy all along? Maybe so. Either way, I’m so sad that this series has come to an end. I’ll definitely be reading more from Ryan Graudin in the future.

Overall Rating:

This book deserves a solid 5/5. I gave Wolf by Wolf a 4.5/5, and this book definitely surpassed the first. Pick this series up, you won’t be sorry. It’s ready and waiting to take you on one of the most intense adventures you can experience in between the pages of a book. Don’t miss out!

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Off the Shelf: A Review of Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

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“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.
Her story begins on a train.”

I’d always considered myself not such a fan of alternate history. Something always made my stomach a bit nervous when people toyed with real people in a book just like they would a fictional character straight from their mind. That being said, Wolf by Wolf actually made me a fan of an alternate history story. There was just enough fantasy slipped in to ease my mind out of established history and into Graudin’s new world.

I received Wolf by Wolf as part of my very first subscription box with Uppercase. (I also am receiving my first Owlcrate this month as well, so keep checking the blog for a side by side comparison.) I’m so thrilled that it was picked for this month’s book because, otherwise, the thought of reading an alternate history might have lessened my chances of picking it up on my own… Then, I really would have missed out. It also came at just the right time – day four of being stuck in bed, sick, with nothing to do. I devoured this book in under six hours.

This story is set in 1956, in a world where the Axis Powers actually won WWII. Each year, to celebrate their victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour – a treacherous motorcycle race from Berlin (now Germania) to Tokyo – with the victor receiving a ball in their honor attended by both Hirohito and Hitler.

Yael is a survivor of the death camps, one who hides the numbers on her wrist with a fresh tattoo of five wolves, four for the memories of people she has lost and one as a reminder. As a small child, she was the subject of an experiment that granted her the ability to skinshift, transform her appearance into that of any other female. It is with this skill that she becomes the resistance’s best hope. Yael uses her ability to skinshift into the Axis Tour’s only female victor, Adele Wolfe, in order to win the race, dance with Hitler, and be the one who murders him on live television.

The story switches between Yael’s present day fight to succeed and her struggle-filled past that tells the story of each wolf permanently etched on her arm. Keeping up appearances gets complicated for Yael as she races alongside Adele’s twin brother and her former fling, Luka. No amount of research has prepared her to slip into these relationships without arousing some suspicion. She has to balance her lies with certain degrees of truth if she hopes to make it to the finish line first.

Things I enjoyed:

Yael – She’s strong, resilient, and a true heroine. The stories from her past are what truly shape this character and how she thinks, feels, and acts. It was very easy to get lost in her mind and race right alongside her.

It’s not a love story – Too often good stories with strong female leads get side tracked by a love interest. This one does not. It reminds me more of the first Hunger Games book in the sense that “yes, male character, you’re charming and all, but there’s quite a bit of death and destruction happening right now, and a relationship doesn’t really take priority over my mission”.

Graudin’s writing style: Simply beautiful wording and imagery. It makes me want to scrap all of my current projects and start over, in hopes that one day I will be able to write with that level of showing-not-telling skill.

Things I didn’t enjoy:

There wasn’t anything I outright didn’t like about this book. It was well paced and interesting. I even enjoyed the alternate history, something I was originally wary of. I suppose if I have to pick something, it’s that I didn’t look at the back cover closely enough to realize this would be a series. At least it’s one that I will gladly wait for though.

Overall rating:

4.5/5

This story is compelling, and it’s rare in my busy schedule anymore that I get to make my way through a book entirely in one sitting. While my review of the Uppercase box is forthcoming, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the Uppercase bonus feature post its, as they really drove me forward to reach the next one as I read. The moment I finished, I started recommending it to friends. It’s definitely worth a read, and it has been one of the most thrilling adventures I’ve read recently.

Add Wolf by Wolf to your shelf on Goodreads

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Check out Uppercase box subscriptions here!