The Wolf’s Curse by Jessica Vitalis beautiful, atmospheric, touching and well written middle grade fantasy perfect for fans of The Book Thief.
The Wolf’s Curse by Jessica Vitalis
Publication Date : September 21st 2021
Publisher : Greenwillow Books
Genre : Fantasy / Middle Grade
Pages : 336
Disclaimer – I received e-copy of this book from the author, as part of blog tour. Many thanks to TBR and Beyond Tours for tour invite and author for review copy.
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Twelve-year-old Gauge’s life has been cursed since the day he witnessed an invisible Great White Wolf steal his grandpapá’s soul, preventing it from reaching the Sea-in-the-Sky and sailing into eternity.
When the superstitious residents of Bouge-by-the-Sea accuse the boy of crying wolf, he joins forces with another orphan to prove his innocence. They navigate their shared grief in a journey that ultimately reveals life-changing truths about the wolf––and death.
Written in a voice reminiscent of the narrators in The Book Thief and Lemony Snicket, this fast-paced adventure will also be appreciated by fans of historical fantasy such as The Book of Boy.
Wolf’s Curse was beautifully written middle grade fantasy that revolved around Twelve-year-old boy who could see the Death and how that changed his life. The story was about death, grief, superstitions, family, friendship, loneliness, and kindness.
Writing was mesmerising, spell-binding, vivid, and heartfelt with fast pace. Wolf’s Curse was written in distant third person narration from Wolf’s (death/reaper) perspective which was best part of the book. The narration was inspired from The Book Thief and it sure brought back the feel of death’s narration that I haven’t read in any other book until this one. And I tell you it was really well done. I loved Wolf’s sarcastic voice written in round brackets providing her own thoughts to the events happening, main character’s thoughts, and also introducing world. It was genius and it made the style and narration both more original and refreshing. Oh and there were footnotes for pronunciations of words of this world.
Plot was interesting and so unique. That synopsis is perfect. It didn’t give away much detail and it honestly worked best for this. This was kind of book that one can enjoy most going in blind and I’m going to keep it that way. I loved initial chapters introducing the Wolf, the world, superstitions and Gauge whose life changed twice, one when people got to know about his curse of seeing the Wolf and when his grandpa dies. It was interesting to read how Gauge would survive alone in the world of superstitions and people who wanted him dead right after his grandpa’s death, how would he navigate his grief and anger towards Wolf, how would he prove himself innocent, why Wolf wanted to offer him a job, would Gauge take the offer or would die trying to prove himself.
Characters were amazing. Many characters were introduced as the story progressed and and they all were interesting but Gauge, Roux and the Wolf were the best of all. Kids were most relatable and author perfectly showed what it’s like for kids to be in adults’ world. There wasn’t exactly a character development but development in their grief, the way they learn to accept death, share grief, and get over the pain of losing loved ones.
Gauge was great throughout the book. He was nice kid. It was easy to empathise with him. I could see how terrible it must be to be stuck at home all the time like prisoner in his own home for five years with only company of his grandpa- no friends, no playing outside or going out, not being seen by anyone, hiding whenever customer comes to shop… No kid can live like that, hell even adult can’t live like that. It was no surprise he was miserable, terribly lonely and very much angry at Wolf who caused this. It was genuine he felt lost and even more angry when he saw the Wolf steal his grandpa and the blacksmith’s soul. He wasn’t smartest but he was determined and brave kid who would do anything to make things right. I liked him the way he risked life for his grandpa’s release ceremony, helped Roux and supported her with their shared grief of loss, and opened his mind to things going around related to death, ceremony and Wolf and tried to get at the bottom of it all. I loved him even more for what he did at the end.
Roux was smart, logical, practical, brave and strong girl. I loved her for not believing in rumours and helping Gauge without thinking about consequences. I liked how she handled loss of her father and helped Gauge in finding the truth about things to prove his innocence than dwelling on grief.
The Wolf was 700 years old woman who was deceived into being wolf, tasked with fetching souls but now she was getting tired and old and she was desperate to find replacement that could only be a person who could see her and that was Gauge here. She had the mysterious air. As story progressed we see why she was desperate to hand over her job to Gauge and that was really touching. As mother I could feel her pain and could understand her action. What I liked most was, even after centuries handling death and souls, she was still human, a mother suffering from grief and I liked the way she confessed and what she decided to do at the end.
The world was another best part. It made the story atmospheric. I enjoyed reading about Gatineau, superstitious community of Bouge-by-the-Sea, all the superstitions related to death and funeral ceremony, power hungry mayor and his schemes, and vocabulary of this world- ‘Voyants’ (person who could see the Wolf, like Gauge) and how they become the Wolf (yes, you get it the Wolf was once a voyant), ‘setting sail’ is death. ‘set out to sea’ means sentenced to death by setting preparator on boat without oars and letting it drift (they might die hungry or eaten by shark in trying to swim to shore) – it was all interesting.
I loved the way author handled the topic of death and grief and depicted how death is inevitable and yet everyone fears it, how everyone deals with their grief and how it can feel intense, overwhelming and cloud judgement. I liked the layer of poverty, oppressive ruler, superstitions, importance of memories, time we spend with loved ones, and how eternity isn’t bliss when one can’t spend it with loved ones.
Twist and turns were good. They weren’t big surprise, I could see them coming and yet I enjoyed reading them. Climax was interesting. I couldn’t guess what kids would do about what they discovered. I expected the capture but I couldn’t guess what would happen next and how they will get out of their situation. I enjoyed this part most. I loved how they all learned to accept death and got over their pain and grief. End was perfect.
Overall, The Wolf’s Curse was beautiful, atmospheric, touching and well written middle grade fantasy that dealt with heavy topic and complex emotions and yet felt feel good at the end.
I highly recommend this if you love,
Narration reminiscent of The Book Thief
Topic of death and grief
unique plot and world
layer of superstitions
kids in the world of adult
About the Author
JESSICA VITALIS is a Columbia MBA-wielding writer. After leaving home at 16, Vitalis explored several careers before turning her talents to middle grade literature. She brings her experience growing up in a nontraditional childhood to her stories, exploring themes such as death and grief, domestic violence, and socio-economic disparities. With a mission to write entertaining and thought-provoking literature, she often includes magic and fantastical settings. As an active volunteer in the kidlit community, she’s also passionate about using her privilege to lift up other voices. In addition to volunteering with We Need Diverse Books and Pitch Wars, she founded Magic in the Middle, a series of free monthly recorded book talks, to help educators introduce young readers to new stories. She was recently named a 2021 Canada Council of the Arts Grant Recipient. An American expat, she now lives in Canada with her husband and two precocious daughters. She loves traveling, sailing and scuba diving, but when she’s at home, she can usually be found reading a book or changing the batteries in her heated socks.
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