The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell (out on Wednesday!)

wolfwilder
Title: The Wolf Wilder
Author: Katherine Rundell
Series: N/A
Edition: Digital ARC, 256 pages
Publication Details: September 9th 2015 by Bloomsbury Children’s
Genre(s): Children’s Fiction
Disclosure? Yep! I received an advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

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

From appearance alone, The Wolf Wilder is everything I want in a book. The Wintery setting, a pack of wolves, revolution, and adventure…like, seriously everything, so I was pretty eager to start this.

But I’m sad to say it wasn’t quite everything I imagined.

It’s a really adorable story about Feo, who along with her mother is a Wolf Wilder out in the snowy wilderness of Russia. Wolf Wilders are almost like people of folklore, it is in their nature to help discarded domesticated wolves to revert back to their true nature, wild.

There was definitely a lot to like about this book. The setting was beautiful, and the writing matched it perfectly. It was also a really quick read, which is nice, but it just wasn’t very exciting.

If it wasn’t for the pretty setting and beautiful way Rundell has with words, I would have been truly bored. Such a shame! I also didn’t really get the whole Wolf Wilder thing. For one, the book wasn’t really about that at all, and secondly, Feo obviously wasn’t that great at it because her pack of wolves were tame to point where she and her new friend Illya (who has no experience with wolves) can even ride them.

And I guess that was my main problem with this book – it just wasn’t believable in the slightest. I’d love to believe a 12 year old girl could start a revolution because the Tsar asked her to shoot her wolves, and that the Tsar would then become obsessed on finding her, this little girl. Bit weird.

However, I did like the whimsical nature of The Wolf Wilder, and how strong Feo was as a protagonist; I think young girls will love her and she’s definitely a good character to look up to.

It might work for the age-group it’s aimed at, but for cynical adults like me (apparently) the plot was just too far fetched. This book tries to give a real, important voice to children though, which I found wonderful.

I’d love to see the illustrations as well, as they weren’t included in the advance copy – I’m sure they will make the book even more beautiful than it already is.

unicorn rating 3

The Barefoot Queen by Ildefonso Falcones

barefoot
Title: The Barefoot Queen
Author: Ildefonso Falcones
Series: N/A
Edition: Digital ARC, 656 pages
Publication Details: November 25th 2014 by Crown
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Disclosure? Yep! I received a copy from the publisher/author in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads
Purchase

It’s January of 1748. Caridad is a recently freed Cuban slave wondering the streets of Seville. Her master is dead and she has nowhere to go. When her path crosses with Milagros Carmona’s-a young, rebellious gypsy-the two women are instantly inseparable. Milagros introduces Caridad to the gypsy community, an exotic fringe society that will soon change her life forever.

Over time they each fall in love with men who are fiercely loyal and ready to fight to the death for their rights as a free people. When all gypsies are declared outlaws by royal mandate, life in their community becomes perilous. They soon find themselves in Madrid-a city of passion and dancing, but also a treacherous one full of smugglers and thieves. Caridad and Milagros must help in the gypsy’s struggle against society and its laws in order to stay together; it’s a dangerous battle that cannot, and will not, be easily won.

From the tumultuous bustle of Seville to the theatres of Madrid, The Barefoot Queen is a historical fresco filled with charaters that live, love, suffer, and fight for what they believe

Review

When I requested this from Netgalley I’d been reading YA after YA and felt like I needed to get stuck in to a grown-up book to break the monotony, but by the time I got round to starting this 600+ page book, I wasn’t really in the mood to be honest. Therefore I’m not sure if my enjoyment of it – or lack of- is down to that, or something more.

The Barefoot Queen started so promising. I flew through the first hundred pages eager to find out what would become of Caridad, a former slave whose master died on the ship The Queen, which took her to Cadiz.

I thought the writing was beautiful and it started off at a good pace…but then I got lost. It didn’t take me long to realise that Falcones was going to throw in unnecessary details, backstories and cultural observations that added nothing to the story in my opinion. It just got too bogged down and I struggled to get through.

I really agonised over what to rate this book because there were parts of it I loved, and in essence it’s a great story that deserved to be told. It was just a slog. I felt sorry for Caridad who finds herself in Seville completely clueless as to what to do with herself after a lifetime of slavery. She needs to find work, but only knows how to labour on a plantation, and who’s going to hire a negro woman with no master?

When she meets gypsy, Milagros, the two discover just how dangerous it is to be a woman in 1700’s Spain.

Again, I wanted to like this book. It’s an epic tale of two women’s bravery and is clearly well researched. I just wish Falcones had pulled it back a bit, and not got so bogged down in detail. The pace was too slow for me…that’s what binge-reading YA books does to you.

Overall, I wouldn’t want to put people off this book as it’s an important and interesting story if you don’t mind a bit of a slog. It’s also extremely violent in parts, and you won’t come away from this book without a twinge of sadness and despair for these poor characters who really go through the ringer.

unicorn rating 2

The Barefoot Queen is available in hardback and paperback from Waterstones now.