* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Release Date: November 5th 2015
Summary (from Goodreads):
Over ten years since the Nazis won the war, 18 yr old Yael has one mission: to kill Hitler – a captivating second novel from Walled City author, Ryan Graudin.
Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them-made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.Her story begins on a train.
Germania, 1956. Over ten years since the Nazis won the war. 18-year-old Yael is part of the resistance, and she has just one mission: to kill Hitler.
But first she’s got to get close enough to him to do it.
Experimented on during her time at Auschwitz, Yael has the unique ability to change her appearance at will. The only part of her which always remains are the five tattooed wolves on her arm; one for each of the people she’s lost. Using her abilities, she must transform into Adele Wolfe, Germany’s most famous female rider and winner of the legendary Axis Tour; an epic long distance motorcycle race from Berlin to Tokyo, where only the strongest (and wiliest) riders survive. If she can win this, she will be able to get close enough to kill the Fuhrer and change history forever.
But with other riders sabotaging her chances at every turn, Yael’s mission won’t be easy. . .
I made a comment recently in a review about typical ‘what if Hitler had won the war’ re-imaginings and this book falls firmly in that category. Except it’s not typical, it’s brilliant and I loved it.
In this alternate universe, Hitler won and is still alive, Jews and non-Aryans are persecuted in the worst ways, and there appears to be no hope for any kind of resistance. Except for Yael and her remarkable shape shifting abilities, and a daring plan to kill Hitler.
I loved the fantastical elements mixed in with this alternate history type story. When so much of the awfulness of the story is based on identity – Jewish, Aryan and otherwise – it’s fascinating to have a character able to change their appearance at will. It would be so easy for Yael to live a normal life in Hitler’s regime: all she has to do is change to a blonde haired, blue eyed Aryan beauty and the Nazi’s would leave her alone. But that’s not who she is as a character, and Yael wants to use her abilities to change the world, not just blend into it.
There is a feel of The Hunger Games to the Axis race, only a little less dramatic – although riders may die during the race, it’s aim isn’t to kill everyone off until there’s one winner. I was worried there would be a lot of race description, which didn’t really interest me as I’m not that into motorbikes, but there was plenty of other action to go with it. While Yael may have thought her biggest challenge would be driving the fastest to win the race, she has a lot more to contend with: the twin brother of the girl she is impersonating and his attempts to get her home, and a previous winner of the race with a history with ‘her’ that she has no idea about.
This is a fantastic book based on two interesting ‘what ifs’: what if Hitler won the war, and what if the medical experiments performed in concentration camps actually could change someone’s appearance? While the ending – which is definitely not what you expect – concludes this part of the story nicely, it also sets the way for another in the series, which I hope will come out very soon!