Quote of the book: ‘He doesn’t see the facts. The fact that there are more of us than there are of him. The fact that fire in your soul beats fire on the ground. The fact that love always beats fear. And the fact that it helps to have wolves on your side.’
Katherine Rundell seems to have the world at the tip of her pen. Her previous book, Rooftoppers, won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Blue Peter Award in 2014. She also has a three book deal with Bloomsbury and she is a Fellow of Souls College, Oxford. To say that I began this book with high expectations is an understatement.
I also came to this book after reading and being blown away by A Monster Calls. Soon after, I saw The Wolf Wilder receive high praise in my local Waterstones and the front cover seemed to attract me in the same way that Patrick Ness’ book did. In my opinion, illustrations are grossly underrated by the publishing industry and books like these become successful because they give readers both young and old a different kind of experience.
That’s not to say that the pictures take over here. Rundell writes a beautiful story that captivates the imagination from start to finish. Her story is about a young girl called Feo who lives with her mam in the depths of the Russian woodlands. Feo and her mam are wolf wilders. The aristocracy send them their unwanted wolves to ‘re-wild’ and release back into the wilderness. Her’s may be a unique childhood, but we come to see that Feo has grown up in loving, warm environment where the wolves teach her as much as she teaches them.
Like all good fairytales, once the happy family environment is established, a villain arrives. Enter General Rakov, a despicable man who will stop at nothing to terrorise the weak and pursue troublemakers in the name of the tsar. After several warnings, his course and Feo’s collide in a way that will change her forever. Her mother is arrested, her home burnt to the ground and she is left to survive alone with her wolves.
Reading this book reminded me a lot of Jack London’s work. When I was younger, I loved White Fang and The Call of the Wild. It is great to see a book like this almost echo his work and bring this type of story to a new generation.
Rundell also does well to carefully thread the political situation of early 20th century Russia into her tale. Lenin is referenced as well as the growing discontent with imperialism. However, this is done in way to provide context and does not become overbearing.
I really enjoyed the sense of innocence and adventure in this book as Feo and her newfound friends choose to take on the might of tsar’s army. Unlike many other children’s books, the author adds a sense of realism to the story by including some genuinely tender moments. This gives us a story with a beating heart.
While children will love this book for its exciting storyline, this reader did find the conclusion to be a tad rushed. The story does end with a satisfactory conclusion but I felt that the pay off came far too quickly and far too easily. But then again, when there are wolves and/or children involved, there is never anything less than a spectacular finish.
Would I recommend this book to a friend?
Yes. This book has great potential as bedtime story with a difference. Young bookworms would love the unique sense of adventure that this book gives.
Read the book then listen to this. If there ever is a film adaption, this will have to be on the soundtrack!