Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf #2 (2/2)
Published by Little, Brown Books on November 1, 2016
Genres: [Young Adult] Science Fiction, Historical Fiction
Buddy Read With: Lois at My Midnight Musings
3.5 Stars, Completed November 8, 2016
– read only the bold text to avoid major SPOILERS –
Blood for Blood is the second and final installment to the Wolf by Wolf duology. It begins with Yael on the run after having just assassinated Adolf Hitler on live television. But it seems like the truth of what happened at the Victors’ ball is much more complicated than what the world saw. The man Yael shot was only another skinshifter, like herself, that took up Hitler’s face as a guise. The consequences for treason and murder is inescapable, and the Resistance is unable to recover after having started Operation Valkyrie too soon. The only way in saving the few people Yael has left in her life is for her to travel across enemy territory in hope of reversing the New Order and completing this last mission without fail.
“There will blood. There will be more than enough. The world is about to drown in it.”
The title foreshadowed blood was going to be spilled, but I was still unprepared for what was going to go down.
This sequel was as action-packed as the first installment if not more. Unlike Wolf by Wolf and Iron to Iron, a novella that served as a prequel for the series, an Axis Tour does not take place. Instead, there’s a greater focus on war, strategy, and politics. Readers get insight on the opposing sides of war, the perspectives of captors and prisoners, and the depravity (with the perpetrators) and despair (with the victims) wartime induces. However, most importantly it realistically portrays that there’s a fine line between the corrupt and innocent. It reminds readers that with war, alliances and loyalties are tough because on both sides of battle there are humans alike.
Yael wanted to be like the Valkyrie maidens in the old Norse lore. Winged women who rode to war on the backs of wolves, choosing which soldiers lived and died. She’d thought she could make death mean something, if she wielded it right. (A death to end this death.)
I loved Yael’s narrative in Wolf by Wolf and didn’t think I could like her more, but I was proven wrong. She remains as a fearsome heroine similar to the last book, and I so enjoyed that in this installment Yael poses as no one but herself. Lois and I agreed that identity is again a central theme with Yael’s character development as well as other members of the cast. (I am mainly thinking of Luka).
I was certainly charmed by Luka in the previous book and novella, but I really fell for him with this sequel. The added complexity to his character might be my favorite aspect of Blood for Blood. His horrified realization about the camps and experiments and the compassion he had for Yael and the Resistance were beautiful moments to witness. His ability to accept and admit to his past cowardliness and courage to see the world differently even if that meant overturning all that he was taught was so commendable. His devotion to doing what’s right made my heart melt and view him as a hero. Luka is book boyfriend material, I tell you.
Yael was not a monster. Luka was not the next generation of National Socialism. They were what the Reich would come to fear the most. A jewish girl and a German boy holding the future and the past in their hands-together.
It’s been over a week since I’ve finished this thrilling sequel, but my heart still aches because of that ending though. I literally went through an abbreviated period of the five stages of grief because of it. When I reached the moment with Luka, I had to stop reading and take a breather because I wasn’t expecting his death at all. Naturally after the shock, denial was the first emotion to hit. I thought that this could not be the end. I even hoped that he was going to be brought back to life miraculously (even though I had no idea how this could happen reasonably). But eventually I reached the final stage of acceptance. (However, when I went to Yallfest I did “demand” an apology from Ryan Graudin. She was so nice to go along with it. THIS IS A MAJOR SPOILER. DO NOT OPEN THIS LINK IF YOU HAVEN’T READ BLOOD FOR BLOOD)
However, this doesn’t change the fact that I’m still in mourning and want an alternate ending. The hurt I feel is kind of irreparable at this point. So I’m sorry to reveal that I’m that annoying (and butthurt) reader that docked off stars because I didn’t get the ending I wanted. But I do have my reasons for being so salty and unforgiving:
There have been countless of other books where main characters have died (I’m not going to name them for spoilers sake), but I could reason the authors’ decisions despite my heartbreak. This time I could not. Mainly because these characters deserved a happily ever after more than anyone. It’s not like Yael hasn’t lost enough already, and Luka still had so much to live for because he was so young. (Also, I was extremely unpleased that Luka’s body was just left there even with the circumstances considered. That’s too tragic and lonely of an ending.) It was also especially maddening that the undeserving (the Wolfe twins) found happiness instead. Ugh, I am still so disgruntled that this OTP didn’t go canon. Yael and Luka complimented each other perfectly, and I thought surely what happened to Luka would permanently break Yael. But even with all that being said, I’m relieved that Yael seemed like she was on the mend as the book digressed into its closing, and that she made the right choice with the Wolfe family in the end. That last scene with Yael and Felix exhibits mercy at one of the highest levels.
Speaking of Felix, I can’t end this review without discussing him and his role in the story. Of course, with so much bitterness in his heart I knew he wouldn’t be a likable character as he was in the first book, but I found great relief that he struggled with the choices he made. And as much as I wish he didn’t go through with the decisions he chose, I did try putting myself in his shoes. Honestly, I also think that I wouldn’t have chosen any differently or have any less of a hard time from Felix-no risks would be taken if I knew my dad’s life was on the line. Fear can be a nasty, controlling emotion that blinds us from seeing the truth.
Anyhow, I’m really conflicted with this rating; it has fluctuated all over the place since I’ve last put down the book. In regards to entertainment, Blood for Blood wasn’t really short of anything that I hoped it’d be. It kept me on my toes after the abundance of twists and I remained engaged until the very end. (Lois can attest to this because I truly flew through this. I was a terrible buddy reading partner.) The intense action and plot twists were definitely this book’s strengths. However, I did decide to knock off half a star because I did find the lengthier descriptions weren’t exactly for me at times, despite the fact I was on a roll with my reading speed and liked the action. I can imagine those moments would drag for some readers, too. And as previously confessed, I’m going to deduct a whole star because of the ending as fickle as that sounds. (Reading this book after Crooked Kingdom was not a smart move.) But the problems I had, doesn’t change the fact that I really felt for the characters and loved this sequel. So I think it’s safe to say that this’ll be a satisfying conclusion for most Wolf by Wolf fans.