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Review: Wolf by Alma Alexander

Review: Wolf by Alma Alexander published on

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My name is Mal Marsh.

I was the oldest unTurned Were of my generation, waiting Turn after Turn for my own time… which never came.

Until the day, driven by desperation and by the guilt I still carried concerning my sister Celia’s tragic death, I decided it was time to stop waiting… and made a dangerous choice in the name of pride and fury. Instead of remaining the Random Were that I was born… I enlisted the help of a friend, a creature beyond the strictly drawn boundaries of Were-kind, and chose to become a Lycan, a true wolf.

I thought it would give me a chance to take my revenge on those I believed to be responsible for what had happened to my sister.

Right until the moment I realized that things were much more complicated that I had ever believed possible… and that my choice might have far more repercussions than I had thought.

One thing was clear.

Everything I thought I knew about my family was wrong.

wolf

This book ignores the path most taken.

Alma Alexander switches her narrator of this next book in her Were Chronicles trilogy, and Mal’s voice is like a rumble of thunder compared to his sister’s. He is a completely different person in every way, and this is a completely different book. Many YA series are constrained to one narrator, and the series overreaches itself. Instead of following this trend, Alexander ignores it and switches things up. The main character, Jazz, in Random is now a tertiary character in Wolf, and it’s fitting.

She also makes the unusual choice to rewrite scenes from Random from Mal’s perspective. I’ve seen this done before, and often it is boring, repetitious, and makes readers think – oh, the author is just trying to increase her word count. This is absolutely not the case in Wolf. Yes, some of the scenes are familiar, but told from Mal’s perspective there is an underlying context to them that we were not privy to in the first book. It also creates incredible tension after the first couple dual scenes – it jogged my memory of the first book, and made me worry over what some of Jazz’s choices had led Mal to do.

The main character is refreshingly full of vigor.

Mal is a take-charge kind of person. He is slightly cautious – he’s a wolf, scouting new territory, and attempting to learn his new surroundings. But he is not fearful. Jazz was very afraid – understandable, since her life was in such turmoil, her body and her life were changing with a rapidity that would leave anyone’s head spinning. But Mal is older, more assured, and more… animalistic in his approach to life philosophy. While it is true that his reasoning for getting the Shifter to turn him into a wolf was to infiltrate the pack and find answers, he displayed wolfy characteristics from the very first pages of the first book. It was not so much that he was stealing someone else’s destiny, or that he was creating a false destiny of his own. He was a wolf, through and through.

There is a little bit of romance in this one, and it moves forward in such a way that will surprise any longtime-reader of YA.

At every turn, this novel does the unexpected.

The scientific explanations have increased in detail.

It was appropriate in the first book for the science of shifting to be limited to what Jazz, a teenager, could understand. In Were, Mal is given a job in a science laboratory, and his love interest is a scientist in her own right. That means we are given the opportunity to learn more about the world Alexander has created – she’s gone into such detail it’s breath-taking.

Wolf is one of the best second novels in a series I have read in a very long time.

Read our wampus review of Random here. Our review of the last book in the series, Shifter, is forthcoming!

J Wilbanks

J Wilbanks

Reviewer and Columnist at Galleywampus
She has a cat.
J Wilbanks

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