The cover of this book caught my eye in a bookshop a few months ago, but I held off reading it over the summer until the stormy weather in our part of the country last weekend gave me the perfect opportunity to settle down in front of the fire to read as the wind howled and the rain pattered against the windows.
The Wolf Wilder has something of a fairy tale quality and the story is beautifully illustrated throughout by Gelrev Ongbico. Set in Russia before the revolution, this is the tale of twelve-year-old Feo, who like her mother is a wolf-wilder, teaching wolves that were kept as pets by the aristocracy how to howl, hunt and live in the wilderness once their masters have bored of them. When her home is burned to the ground and her mother is arrested by the tyrannical and cruel General Rakov, Feo embarks on a quest to rescue her mother.
At times, Feo is hard to relate to, she can be reckless and coarse, and she much prefers the company of her wolves (simply named White, Grey and Black) to people. Yet over the course of the story, Feo softens as she makes friends with members of her own kind who offer her food, shelter and help when she needs it most. There is almost a sense of reversal as the wolf-wilder girl is not exactly tamed by the end of the story but regains some of her own humanity along the way.
The Wolf Wilder is a story that doesn’t shy away from describing cruelty, injustice and death, but also one that reminds us that sometimes we have to be braver than we feel, that challenges can be overcome and bullies can be defeated. This is a thrilling adventure ideal for dark and stormy nights. Have a lovely weekend.