The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

Monday 15 May 2017

Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, in a house full of food and fireplaces. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. Feodora's mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer: it is a person who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, and to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans.

When the murderous hostility of the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run. What follows is a story of revolution and adventure, about standing up for the things you love and fighting back. And, of course, wolves.

Like most children's books, The Wolf Wilder doesn't waste much time in getting to the point. Within the first few chapters, things are explained succinctly and we're introduced to Feo's newest project - Tenderfoot - and whisked away into the world where wolves are taught to be wild again. Only things don't quite go to plan...

Instantly, I fell in love with the wolves. They were as much a part of Feo's family as they were wild animals, retaining the wildness she'd given back to them but respecting her as the alpha, despite her young age. They're magical and whimsical and described perfectly for a children's story: loyal and fun yet vicious when threatened.

The whole book has a very fairy tale feel about it, most likely due to all the snow, the beautiful cover, and the simple illustrations throughout. However, don't be fooled, as this is - apparently - historical Russia. Or at least, there are still Tsar's ruling the country. The story does feel very magical, though, but if you're expecting something along the lines of A Game of Thrones then you might be disappointed. Mostly because this is a kid's book, so of course it's nothing like A Game of Thrones.

As for characters, Feo and her mother are both very fierce, independent women who are down to Earth, loyal and kind to each other, and extremely passionate about their wolves. I really appreciated the familial love between them, as it's so rarely seen in books these days. Most other characters were nicely rounded and created to, with the exceptions of the villains. They were clearly based off traditional bad guys - nasty, sallow, thin, old, aggressive. It fits the idea of this being similar to a fairy tale, but at the same time it would have been nice to see something else.

The plot is jam packed with action and moves very quickly, but I expected nothing less from a children's book. There are more bloody scenes than I anticipated, but nothing is too gory and there are no gruesome details or descriptions. The chapters are fairly long but nothing drags, and in fact, this little 300 page novel feels much, much longer.

Overall, this is a little gem and I'm so glad I picked it up and gave it the chance. If you like wolves, you'll more than likely love this.

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