The Wolf Wilder - Katherine Rundell

Genre: Middle-Grade/Historical Fiction
Synopsis: 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: This book reminded me somewhat of another book I loved as a child and still occasionally re-read - "Sasha and the Wolf Cub". The Wolf Wilder is aimed at a slightly older audience, but has the wolves, the Cossack dancing and the Russian setting of one of my beloved childhood favourites, so I was already a little biased going into it. The third book on my current 'Middle Grade' binge, it is, like the others I've read, of good length and of sufficient complexity and detail to hold the interest of even adult readers, despite the intended age group.

Katherine Rundell is a wonderful writer (if this novel is anything to go by) and I have every intention of checking out her other work. Right from the outset, The Wolf Wilder comes across as a more mature childrens book, which does not shy away from including a dose of reality amidst the childish fun and fantasy that also features. Being historical fiction, it contains broad references to Lenin and the Bolsheviks, and while nothing is explained in any great detail, it might be enough to get kids thinking and wondering about history.

There were some elements of the book I did not like - I felt the pacing was a little off, and that the complete incredibility of some of the events compared with the realism of others made it teeter between purely childish and a bit more mature, without ever properly settling into one or the other. That said, it's impossible not to love pretty much all the characters (Sergei is an absolute little legend!) including the wolves, and it's a positive story featuring a strong female protagonist and many exciting adventures. Definitely a great one for the kids, if not the grown ups.

Rating: 4/5

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