Hachette was kind enough to send me an Advance Reader Copy of Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin, the sequel to Wolf by Wolf. Thank you so much, guys! I was super excited to receive it as it was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016 and it did not disappoint in the least. Blood for Blood is the second book in an alternate history young adult series set in a world in which the Hitler and the Nazis won World War II. Our protagonist is a young Jewish death camp survivor with the ability to shape shift. The series consists of the two main novels, Wolf by Wolf and Blood for Blood as well as the prequel novella Iron to Iron.
The story starts immediately after the cliffhanger ending of Wolf by Wolf and expands the points of view to three. It continues the quest Yael was assigned in Wolf by Wolf and deals with the fallout of the events and discoveries of the book.
What I liked
The world. Once again I was completely drawn into the alternate history that Graudin has created. The world felt so real and fleshed out I could easily imagine our characters trying to navigate it. Once again, I found myself hearing the story in the voice of Christa Lewis, the narrator of Wolf by Wolf. I certainly intend to purchase the audiobook as soon as it is available in November. What was also nicely done was the way in which the world was impacted by the actions of our protagonists. The world has changed by what they achieved. I really hope we get to see more of it through short stories.
Character journeys. I really loved the journeys that all of our main characters go on. Each of our main three characters has a different journey and they were all beautifully developed. Instead of the single flashbacks to Yael’s life as in Wolf by Wolf, we are shown specific moments in the past experienced in unique ways by each of our three point of view characters. This serves to show where each of them is coming from, as well as to contrast their attitudes. While I did prefer the Yael flashbacks from Wolf by Wolf, tied thematically as they were with the wolf tattoos, the flashbacks in Blood for Blood did serve their purpose to give some understanding of the characters’ motivations. I very much disliked a certain character, but his actions were both logical and understandable.
Themes. I studied German at university and one of the books we studied was Erzählte Zeit, a collection of short stories written by Germans immediately after World War II as they attempted to come to terms with the horror of the Holocaust. These explored some fascinating themes of guilt and loss and I really enjoyed seeing similar themes explored in Blood for Blood.
Identity. Identity was another strong theme explored in the novel. The characters are constantly asking themselves what it means to be a death camp survivor, or Jewish, or a Third Reich poster boy, or a loyal citizen of the Reich or son or brother. They are constantly re-evaluating this as they progress through the narrative – beautifully done. I’m assuming this is where the title comes from.
What I didn’t like
The only minor quibble I had was that I didn’t quite buy the logic of what they were trying to do. I would have liked a bit more background into why they expected achieving their goal to have the effect it did. Sorry, I can’t say too much more without being too spoilery.
Blood for Blood is a fantastic end to a great duology. My only regret is that the series is now finished. Can we have some more short stories please?!? I gave Blood for Blood five stars out of five.