'Once upon a time, a hundred years ago, there was a dark and stormy girl.'
and so begins The Wolf Wilder, an exquisitely written novel from Katherine Rundell. Full of drama and atmosphere this is a wonderfuly fast paced novel.
The Wolf Wilder is set against the cold, harsh Russian landscape. Feo and her mother live a simple, isolated life, they dedicate themselves to returning wolves to the wild. Rescuing the wolves the Russian aristocracy have discarded after tiring of them as pets Feo and her mother retrain them. They enable the animals to rediscover their wolf instincts.
When Feo's mother is captured by the Russian soldiers and placed in jail, Feo faces a race against time to rescue her. Feo is a strong and feisty heroine, determined to let nothing and no-one stand in her way, including the despot Rakov. During the course of the novel it is people she must learn to trust - amongst them Ilya, a young Russian soldier.
Ilya is a wonderfully drawn character. He has much respect and admiration for Feo, however we watch Rundell nurture his character quite magically as he tentatively finds his own voice, and his own heart. The author deftly weaves in to the narrative his love of ballet, his attraction to Alexei. It's delicate, subtle and wonderfully handled.
Gelrev Ongbico's stunning pencil illustrations are delicately placed as the narrative progresses - a tree here, a footprint there, followed by stunning headers crossing pages. Their atmospheric nature builds the tone beautifully, reminiscent of Jim Kay's illustrations for A Monster Calls.
Rundell's writing is uniquely beautiful, yet full of adventure and energy as the narrative gallops towards its conclusion. As with Rooftoppers, she has created a novel that will have a lasting impact on her readers.
'he's taking our future. And the future needs our protection: it's a fragile thing. The future needs all the help it can get.'