YA Weekend Audio: Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Alternate History
Series: Book 2 of Wolf by Wolf
Publisher: Hachette Audio (November 1, 2016)
Length: 12 hrs and 23 mins
Narrator: Christa Lewis
Well, I just finished Blood for Blood and now I need a hug.
By the way, if you haven’t started this series already, you really need to pick up Wolf by Wolf and read it right away. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Otherwise I can’t promise this review won’t spoil anything for the first book, since this sequel picks up right where the cliffhanger left off and it’d be hard to talk about the rest of the story without going into context.
If you have read Wolf by Wolf though, then you already know that our protagonist has failed in her mission. Years of preparation and training are about to go down in flames. It is 1956 in an alternate history where the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. After riding more than twenty thousand kilometers in a motorcycle race from Berlin to Tokyo, Resistance fighter and skinshifter Yael finally made it to the Victor’s Ball where she can finally get close enough to assassinate her target, Adolf Hitler.
But things don’t go as planned. Around the world, millions sitting in front of their television screens may have just witnessed a teenage girl shoot and kill Hitler, but only Yael knows the truth of what really happened. And now there’s no choice but to press onward, because too many lives are at stake for the Resistance to fall.
The Wolf by Wolf series really is a special duology. The first book was an exciting and masterful piece of storytelling, introducing the alternate timeline in which the Axis powers were never defeated, as well to our protagonist Yael who is a death camp survivor. Side effects from the horrific human experimentation by the Nazi scientists left her with a mysterious ability to skinshift and take on the appearance of anyone she wants. After joining the Resistance, she was made a central part of a plot to impersonate a contestant named Adele Wolfe to enter the Axis Tour, a transcontinental motorcycle race which Yael needed to win in order for their plans to succeed. At first, I was a little skeptical of the premise, unsure how it was all going to come together, but Ryan Graudin pulled it off marvelously by packing in a whole lot of action. Better yet, she also did it without sacrificing the character development or world-building—important ingredients for a story like that to work.
That’s why I think Wolf by Wolf was still the better book. It was just so well-told and constructed, and a uniquely interesting reading experience. There was definitely something rare and exceptional about it that puts it in a special place in my heart, but that said though, Blood for Blood was no slouch either. It gave me the conclusion I wanted, and for that and so many more reasons I am glad I read it.
For one thing, I must confess I was never all that into Yael’s love interest and fellow racer Luka in the first book, but Blood for Blood redeemed him in more ways than one. While I still wasn’t all that emotionally invested in their romance (the circumstances around it were too complicated for me to find it convincing), Graudin made me see there was more to Luka by fleshing out his background and letting us see the world from his perspective. I might not have enjoyed him as a love interest, but I sure loved him as one of the main characters. It was one reason why I found the events surrounding the ending so impactful.
We also get to learn so much more about Yael in this second book. After having lived through so much pain and suffering, and with more adversity and impossible odds ahead, she does not give up. The scope of the narrative expands to include a few more POVs, exploring the dynamics between them, making this one a bigger, more meaningful and emotional book. The way I see it, Wolf by Wolf gets the edge when it comes to heart-pounding action, but Blood for Blood gets it when it comes to character and relationship development. This series is just so imaginative, riveting, and moving. The two books may form a complete whole, but I also love that they complement each other in this way. I can’t recommend them enough.
Audiobook comments: I also opted to switch formats and listen to the Blood for Blood audiobook, even though I read the first book in print. Best decision ever. I find emotional stories are often more engaging and immersive in audio, and the producers chose an excellent narrator in Christa Lewis, who delivered a touching performance. She projected an overall tone that I felt was perfect for this novel, expressing just the right amount of feeling and inflection in all the right places to make all the most significant scenes stand out.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Wolf by Wolf (Book 1)