Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for The Wolf’s Curse by Jessica Vitalis.
Special thanks to Greenwillow Books for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
Be sure to click on the banner above to check out the rest of the amazing bloggers on tour!
Goodreads: The Wolf’s Curse
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: 21 September 2021
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
“The path ahead isn’t easy. It will be filled with darkness and despair, and you will almost certainly regret your decision, just as I regret mine.”
~Narrator, The Wolf’s Curse
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.
Content Warnings: Grief, Death
GET A COPY:
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.
- This is a beautifully written, well-paced and engaging story with an action-packed plot.
- It’s told with a unique narrative voice: death. Plus, in this story death is a wolf and a she!
- It’s a new fantasy world with well-developed local folklore, myths and customs, especially surrounding death and all the rituals accompanying it, such as the Sea-in-the-Sky and Releases.
- It’s a deeply emotional and heartfelt story about death and grief but also the bonds of family and new friendships. Vitalis shares some poignant and relatable truths about loss!
- This story is full of characters that are endearing and enraging but they are realistic, complex and human.
Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.
TL;DR: The Wolf’s Curse is a fantastic debut! This story was not at all what I expected and I mean that in the best way because it exceeded my expectations! This was an emotionally wrought and beautifully written debut with a unique narrator’s perspective, an engaging plot, and endearing main characters that you will wholeheartedly root for! Though the story deals with heavy themes, there is light after the dark in this story and it ends on a very hopeful and satisfying note. I’m so excited to see what else Jessica Vitalis writes in the future because I will definitely be happy to read it!
“You might find it easier to let go of those who have set sail if you learn to take comfort in the living.”
I can’t believe this was Jessica Vitalis’ debut because wow, what a fantastic debut! The story is so well written and immersive and it’s the perfect escapist read, albeit a slightly darker one. Vitalis creates a somewhat charming and simple fantasy world in this bustling seaside village. While the villagers weren’t my favourite as they were rather cruel, it wasn’t difficult to see how their superstitious belief in the well-developed local folklore about sorcery and magic caused them to live in perpetual fear. It was also easy to picture the mythical Sea-in-the-Sky where departed souls would sail to once they’ve passed and from where they’d light their lantern at night to watch over those they’ve left behind. It’s such a beautiful and magic-filled image! I also have to mention my appreciation for the few footnotes on pronunciation—I’m so glad they were included because I would’ve definitely butchered those words had the guides not existed 😂
The story does get heavier than anticipated even knowing it deals with topics such as death and grief. This is a deeply emotional story and the grief is so big and deep that it feels like not only are the characters drowning in it but you as the reader are swept up in those emotions too. However, just as one of our main characters discovers how there is always light that follows the dark, there is also an uplifting beauty to the darkness of this story. It might be about people so overcome with grief and feelings of anger and guilt, but at the same time, it’s about finding ways to deal with loss and learning to find joy in living while still being able to find comfort in the memories of those who are no longer here.
“Follow your heart. It’s as true as any compass out there.”
I haven’t read The Book Thief or any other book that’s narrated by death, so I found it refreshing that in this story death is a wolf and that wolf is a she. I really enjoyed the wolf’s narration and found her voice to be an entertaining mix of dry wisdom and humorous exasperation, especially at the silliness of humans! I wouldn’t consider her villainous despite what the villagers all think and I actually found it quite easy to sympathise with her once we know about her past and how she came to be the wolf. I really loved the complexity of thoughts and feelings that Vitalis developed in the wolf’s character and I also loved how her story intertwines with Gauge’s and Roux’s story, and how it all came full circle very nicely in the end!
Aside from the Wolf, most of the story focuses on Gauge and Roux. Gauge is such a brave young boy and he’s impossible to not root for! My heart ached so much for the sheltered and invisible life he has led and how the villagers treated him because he’s a Voyant. The pain he felt at the loss of his grandpapá was so visceral and Vitalis shares some honest and relatable truths about coping with loss and dealing with grief. His emotions cut me as deeply as it did him and I’m not at all ashamed to say this story made me shed a tear or a dozen! 🤷🏻♀️ Gauge was simply doing his best to get through each day in a place where he has been shunned for almost his whole life and has been made to feel like he doesn’t belong. But I’m so glad that he found a comforting and understanding friend in Roux, who was also a precious character who suffered a loss in this story. Together they made for a great team who were ready to do whatever it took to reveal the truth.
“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.”
Overall, this was such a refreshing and entertaining read despite the heavy tones of the story. It’s a story that will worm its way into your heart while you’re reading and it will stay with you long after you’re done. I’m so glad that it was put on my radar!
Have you read The Wolf’s Curse or is it on your TBR?