Review: The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Wolf Wilder by Katherine RundellThe Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell
Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR on August 25, 2015
Genres: Adventure, Historical
Pages: 240
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book Depository

A girl and the wolves who love her embark on a rescue mission through Russian wilderness in this lyrical tale from the author of the acclaimed Rooftoppers and Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms.

Feo’s life is extraordinary. Her mother trains domesticated wolves to be able to fend for themselves in the snowy wilderness of Russia, and Feo is following in her footsteps to become a wolf wilder. She loves taking care of the wolves, especially the three who stay at the house because they refuse to leave Feo, even though they’ve already been wilded. But not everyone is enamored with the wolves, or with the fact that Feo and her mother are turning them wild. And when her mother is taken captive, Feo must travel through the cold, harsh woods to save her—and learn from her wolves how to survive.

From the author of Rooftoppers, which Booklist called “a glorious adventure,” and Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, which VOYA called “a treasure of a book,” comes an enchanting novel about love and resilience.

I’d noted The Wolf Wilder for its beautiful covers. Both the UK and US covers are simply gorgeous. Despite my love of wolves and of beautiful covers, I hadn’t really marked the book down to actually read. As anyone who reads my blog regularly knows, I’m super picky about middle grade, so I’m rather hesitant to add them to my to-read list. When a copy of The Wolf Wilder showed up on my doorstep unsolicited, there was no doubt I would be giving this gorgeous book a try. And, you know, turns out The Wolf Wilder is beautiful both inside and out. I read it in one night because I couldn’t put it down.

As a title, The Wolf Wilder intrigued me. I wasn’t quite sure what it meant, and I hadn’t bothered to read the blurb, which is also my style. Wolf wilding was apparently a real thing in Russia. Turns out nobles would have wolves trained up as pets/toys/status symbols. However, when the wolf got too fat or injured someone, they would get rid of them. Luckily for the wolves, killing a wolf was considered bad luck, so they were sent to wolf wilders, who would teach them how to fend for themselves in the wild.

Feodora (though she’ll ignore you if you call her that—she only answers to Feo) and her mother are wolf wilders. Feo’s done all of her growing up with wolves as best friends. The rumors about them are that Feo’s half wild herself. Though that’s going a bit far, Feo does have a lot that’s wolfish in her way of thinking, which means that she’s fiercely loyal to her pack but very dangerous to those who mess with her pack.

Enter General Rakov, there to mess with her pack. The Tsar and/or Rakov are sick of the wolves in the area killing the Tsar’s animals. Rakov shows up one night threatening all sorts of terrible stuff if he catches Feo and her mom with another wolf; all wolves must be killed. Obviously, since Feo and her mom aren’t psychopaths, they don’t kill the next wolf to arrive, a sweet girl Feo dubs Tenderfoot. You can probably tell where this is heading.

The story alone is beautiful, but what brings it to the next level for me is the history. Learning about wolf wilding is awesome and man was that a profession in need of a novel if there ever was one. Even more, The Wolf Wilder is set in the waning period of Tsar Nicolas II’s reign. Without feeling remotely textbooky or infodumpy, there’s a lot of history laid out really subtly in The Wolf Wilder.

In Rakov, it’s clear that the Romanovs weren’t doing a good job running the country. Corruption was everywhere, and the common folk were suffering. In Alexei, the hope of the revolution is visible. It’s no wonder Lenin seemed like a hero when he spoke of something different for Russia. It’s really well done. I’d also not read much set in this era that wasn’t about the Romanovs themselves or high society, so The Wolf Wilder really does some wonderful and original stuff.

Obviously, I love the wolves a lot. Warning: some terrible stuff will happen to the wolves and they’re not all going to survive the book. It does hurt a lot. I think I’d be more mad about that if not for Feo’s relationship with them; they truly are her family and she views them as equals. I’m a big sucker for the love and trust between humans and other animals, so this really got me in my black heart.

The ending is a bit outlandish, but it’s done in such a way that I really want to believe in it. Certainly the kids are resourceful and clever. Plus, there’s a lot of incompetence in the system. That aside, I could not be more in love with Ilya’s dreams of becoming a ballet dancer.

I know I would have loved The Wolf Wilder just as much (or possibly more as a kid). It’s totally a book my dad would have read to me. It’s on the darker side of middle grade for sure, but I think it’s a great choice for kids and adults alike.

Favorite Quote:

“Feo is my child. For God’s sake, do you not know what that means?” Marina shook her head incredulously. “She’s worth an entire army of men like you, and my love for her is a thing you should underestimate only if you have a particularly powerful death wish. The love of a parent for a child—it burns.”

“How inconvenient for you!” Rakov ran a hand along his chin. “What is your point?” He wiped his boot on the bed. “And make it quick, you’re becoming tedious.”

“My point is that you will keep your hands off my daughter if you value their current position at the ends of your arms.”

Rakov snorted. “That is somewhat unfeminine.”

“Not at all. It seems profoundly feminine to me.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif arya hugging direwolf got

One response to “Review: The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell”

  1. Gillian says:

    Gillian recently posted…Review: First & Then by Emma MillsMy Profile

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