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Book Review: 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.'

Book Review:

The Wolf Wilder is a raw and compelling story about animal cruelty, classism, dictatorship and bravery. Set during the Russian revolution in 1917, main character Feo and her mother Marina face the wrath of Rakov sent by the Tsar to threaten them after a wolf kills one of the Tsar's elks. They are wolf wilders who rehabilitate wolves previously owned by aristocrats to reintroduce them to the wild where they belong, but the Tsar wishes these wolves gone altogether. A dead wolf is known to bring bad luck upon a household so shooting them is not an option, especially to Feo and Marina who see wolves as equals who cannot be tamed.

With over 1000 reviews on Goodreads, it isn't hard to see why children praise this book (Rundell has already had previous hits such as Rooftoppers and according to some, The Wolf Wilder is even better!). Feo and her mother have a beautiful relationship with a fierce love for each other, as we see Feo trying to protect Marina just as much as Marina protects Feo. Marina is the only person Feo is bonded to and is one of few humans she has ever seen in her life, so when Rakov and his soldiers bursts through the front door and turns their house upside down, we feel Feo's rage.

Heavily muscled and scarred, Marina is a tough woman who does not hesitate to threaten anyone who comes between her, Feo and the wolves. Throughout this book Rundell does a great job of handling sexism and does a great job of showing how being rugged, fierce and confident makes you more feminine, not less. Feo and Marina certainly make great role models for younger girls when it comes to normalising aspects of body image and making your voice heard.

The bond between other and daughter only becomes more apparent after the house is burned and Marina is captured by Rakov, leaving Feo with the wolves to hide and eventually plot her mother's rescue. Feo, merely 12, is completely fearless throughout her journey and makes a lot of interesting friendships along the way, learning for the first time how to navigate human relationships good and bad. However, she always has her wolf companions by her side. Full of danger, thrills and a burning compassion, this book is fantastic!

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