As far as setting the scene goes the opening lines of Katherine Rundell’s ‘The Wolf WIlder’ is just perfect, as we are introduced to our heroine Feodara,
“Once upon a time, a hundred years ago, there was a dark and stormy girl. The girl was Russian, and although her hair and eyes and fingernails were dark all of the time, she was stormy only when she thought it absolutely necessary. Which was fairly often”
Feo’s mother is a wolf wilder and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. They train tame wolves – who have been discarded by their rich owners – to fend for themselves so that they can be returned to the wild. The wolves who live nearby are the nearest thing they have to a family. They live contentedly in a house in the woods, in a seemingly unending deep winter, surrounded by snow. Until one day a knock on the door disturbs their peaceful and solitary existence and their lives are changed forever. After refusing to obey the Russian Army, Feo is forced to run for her life when her mother is taken prisoner and their house is burned down by the evil General Rakov and his soldiers.
I found it really difficult to read this story as I became so swept up in events unfolding that I had to force myself to put it down rather than devour quickly as I really didn’t want it to come to an end, It has the feeling of a timeless classic and I found myself transported into this snowy world which I didn’t want to leave. There are so many engaging elements to enjoy it is a truly magical tale. However it is also filled with dark moments , heavy superstition and drama which make it totally compelling.
Katherine Rundell has managed to create these amazing characters who are brave, strong and yet still manage to be vunerable. Feo is feisty, loyal and passionate and is thrust out of her isolation into an unknown world of danger and uncertainty. Ilya the child soldier who has been forced to join the Army but inside has the longing to dance but has had to supress his true desires. There is also Alexei who can be foolhardy but leads the children in their quest for justice showing conviction for what is right whilst the adults are filled with fear. We also see Feo’s relationship with others develop throughout the story so that Feo learns to trust and depend on people and realise the importance of fighting together for what you believe in.
The wolves are an integral part of the story and you find yourself as involved with them as any of the other characters. As you turn each page you can feel the bond strengthen between them which is emotional and heart breaking as they both strive to provide comfort and protection to each other. It provides moment of tenderness, fear and astonishment as the story progresses.
It is a fantastic tale which will have you and is full of hope, joy and sadness which will stay with me for a long time. I really recommend that you add this to your to read list because it a unique, captivating and brilliant story.
To find out more about this book, there is a fantastic interview at Books For Keeps.