The Wolf Wilder – a review

Once again, I’m catching up with my book reviews – by not reading but writing. And I’m still ahead in my 2019 Goodreads Challenge– 22 books read from my target of 35 with a few part-finished books in the read-line. Whether I can stay ahead depends on my ability to write. After this, I’ll only be three book reviews behind – if I ignore the backlog from 2018 and earlier.

Anyway, on to the Thursday Creation Review for today – a novel that was a change for me. It’s been a while since I read a Middle Grade book, but research for the IWSG Anthology competition led me here.

And I’m ecstatic.

The Wolf Wilder

by Katherine Rundell

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.

Review 5 stars

This was magical. A story that resonated with me – wolves, Russia, revolution, adventure, and the wolves. Plus, prose that was masterful.

12-year-old Feo Petrovna and her mother, Marina, live in the snowbound Russian woods with a pack of wolves nearby. A pack of wolves that were once aristocrats’ tamed pets. But wolf wilder Marina, with Feo’s help, has helped the creatures discover how to be wolves. They all bear the scars – human and wolf –  but these make them stronger and more prepared to face what is coming.

“Wolves, like children, are not meant to lead calm lives.” 

Katherine Rundell, The Wolf Wilder

This is 1917 and revolution is coming. It arrives in their lives, and Marina is arrested by the local commanding officer Rakov. Dislikeable from the moment he appears and exerts his twisted authority, he becomes Feo’s foe as she attempts to save her mother – and the wolves.

In her attempt, she is aided by the pack, who are complex and formidable characters – and tragic. Each has distinctive appearances and traits. Katherine Rundell excels not only in portraying multi-dimensional people in clear language but also creatures that are mysterious and faithful – faithful to the pack and those like Feo they trust.

Feo’s escape with the wolves gains an unexpected ally – Ilya, a 13-year-old soldier boy. A reason to be wary, but Feo can sense his true nature – a skill she must have learnt as a wolf wilder-in-training. But are the wolves so trusting?

“Wolves are the witches of the animal world.” 

Katherine Rundell, The Wolf Wilder

Will the children and wolves survive to save Marina before Rakov can execute her in the face of the revolution aimed at him?

I couldn’t stop reading the beautiful words of this unfolding story. I knew the history, but that was just a setting like the woods and weather, so lives were still at risk. The escape only set up more – more encounters, more conflict, more character, and a climax which ties everything together.

The opening and the ending are beautiful bookends – crafted to perfection. This is a true ‘once upon a time’ about ‘a dark and stormy girl’.

Wolf wilders may be a fiction, yet they are rooted in fact and in places might exist. Feo’s family feel real so that’s what matters.

Another enjoyable read – suitably illustrated by Gelrev Ongbico – and highly recommended for anyone who likes entertaining historical fiction with strong MG protagonists.

“Stories can start revolutions.” 

Katherine Rundell, The Wolf Wilder

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

9 thoughts on “The Wolf Wilder – a review

  1. Thank you Roland for this … five star review. Definitely a very good want to read book. My daughter Emma also on Goodreads will love this one. Have you read the snow child ? I’m sure you would enjoy it. The Bear and the Nightingale is also on my pile, one of Emma’s favourite.
    Have a restful weekend …. all the best Susan.

    Liked by 1 person

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