Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Book Review + Favourite Quotes (Blog Tour) | The Wolf's Curse by Jessica Vitalis


Publication Date: 21st September 2021 by Greenwillow Books
Format: Netgalley ARC
Target Audience: Middle Grade
Genre: Fantasy   
 

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Content warnings: Grief, death 

Synopsis

Twelve-year-old Gauge’s life has been cursed since the day he witnessed a 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. Narrated in a voice reminiscent of The Book Thief and Lemony Snicket, this fast-paced adventure is perfect for fans of literary fiction fantasy such as A Wish in the Dark and The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Rating


My Thoughts

"Follow your heart. It's as true as any compass out there."

The Wolf's Curse is a middle grade like none I've ever read. Twelve year old Gauge struggles with a curse that allows only him to see the wolf, a spectral creature that brings fear to the residents of Bouge as they believe it is the wolf behind untimely deaths and therefore fearing Gauge himself. With the help of an unlikely new friend he attempts to prove his innocence and discovers the real reason behind the curse along the way. 

Fantasy in the YA and adult demographics tend not to be what I usually reach for but middle grade fantasy is quickly becoming one of my favourite sub-genres of a sort. I love the imagery the author conjures up and the magical feelings it evokes. I've just finished this book and the way the author built this story around grief and losing a loved one mixed with the light fantasy of the wolf and the curse is nothing short of brilliant.

It took me maybe about 30% of the way in to get used to the narration and who was narrating as at the beginning it felt slightly odd and exaggerated. Trying not to spoil here but it's difficult! I'll just say that it's an interesting way of telling the story and the more I read the more I was convinced it worked perfectly in order to fully grasp how the characters are feeling and their thought processes. The synopsis mentions how it's similar to the narrators in The Book Thief and the Series of Unfortunate Events books so if you enjoyed how those stories were told then you'll probably enjoy it here too. 

Gauge, I just wanted to wrap up him up and give him a massive hug. He is burdened with so much throughout this book for someone so young and it's difficult at times to see him struggling with his grief after the loss of his grandfather and how much he blames himself. He's such a brave kid and fiercely loyal to his family and friends, he goes on a journey here not only to prove his innocence but to set right what he feels he has done wrong. I adored Roux as well, she's so kind and generous even when she has so little. The way she befriends Gauge and gives him safety purely because she knows it's the right thing to do was so heartening. 

This book tackles themes of death and grief so incredibly well. It managed to depict how we deal with losing a loved one and the traditions and practices we have that help us to move forward in a way that was realistic but at the same time exceptionally comforting. I'm not personally religious but the story relates well to how many view what the afterlife is and what it means, how believing that a soul has passed on can give solace to those grieving. It completely warmed my heart and will mean a lot to those who have gone through grief before. 

It's such a well executed fantasy adventure that has so much heart and rich world-building. The setting has a classic fantasy/historical feel to it, we're introduced to the town of Bouge and the different residents and their occupations such as the carpenter, healer, the blacksmith, rope-maker and mayor. It's reminiscent of a traditional village but is still rooted in a way that's true to life when it comes to the villager's superstitions and the customs that they believe in. Contemporary culture still has many beliefs and fears surrounding death that it's easy to feel connected to these characters and the plot itself. 

Whilst it was the cover that initially drew me in, this was ultimately a beautifully written, original story that will stay with me for a long time. Emotional but uplifting at the same time, it's reflection on death and how we process grief as well as it's strong themes of friendship and finding yourself were just superb. This is one of those middle grade books that should be read by audiences of all ages and I completely urge you to pick this one up!


Favourite Quotes

"Change is made in small increments, one right action at a time."
• "I'm saying it isn't easy to accept what we can't understand. But one thing I know to be true is that light always follows the dark."
"What if memories are like bruises - strong in the beginning but eventually fading away to nothing?"
• "He doesn't know what his own heart looks like, but it must be filled with dents and dings and boast a giant gash right down the middle. It can't be fixed with a grindstone. Maybe it can't be fixed at all."
"What is it about death, exactly, that makes living feel so hard?"   
• "Losing a loved one is hard enough when you believe they sailed on to somewhere safe, somewhere free of life's pain and struggles. The name's not important - whether you call it the Woods Beyond or the Sea-In-the-Sky, all that matters is the comfort that believing brings." 

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 non traditional 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.

Author Links:
• Website: https://jessicavitalis.com/
• Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessicavitalis
• Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jessicavauthor/
• Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20520269.Jessica_Vitalis
• Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/jessicavauthor

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I received an ARC copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes included in this review are subject to change. Massive thank you to Greenwillow Books for providing me with a review copy. A huge thank you to TBR and Beyond Tours for letting me take part in the blog tour as well. 
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