Cover Image: A Wolf for a Spell

A Wolf for a Spell

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

A Wolf for a Spell by Karah Sutton is the magical tale of a brave little girl Nadya, the witch Baba Yaga, and the wolf Zima - all of whom loved the forest very much and were willing to risk everything to protect it. 

This story is very engrossing, from the beautiful descriptive writing to all the main characters - each representing and dealing with different issues. This book deals with family, the bonds and love between these characters as well as found family. It deals with perception, fear of the unknown, and the will to make a change, and fight for what's right. I loved the message. 

And I found that I particularly enjoyed Zima's chapters. It was interesting to read from the perspective of a wolf, who somehow seemed the most mature and logical character in the book. 

The writing style of this book was just lovely. It was so easy to imagine everything going on and thanks to the beautiful little illustrations, I'd sometimes picture it in my head like an animation movie. 

I have to admit, this book wasn't quite what I was expecting. It felt more like a children's book more than a middle-grade fantasy story. The plot and conflict were a bit too simple and obvious, I didn't quite feel excited or thrilled. 

Overall, I enjoyed A Wolf for a Spell. It was whimsical, lovely and I loved the sentiment. But it was a bit too young for me to completely love it. In a way, this book really reminded me of Uprooted by Naomi Novik so if you liked this one and enjoy YA fantasy, I would recommend this one. (And of Howl's Moving Castle as well!)
Was this review helpful?
If A Wolf for a Spell had existed when I was a kid, it probably would have been one of my favorites. This Middle Grade novel based on Russian fairy tales has everything I could possibly want: wolves, magic, a plucky young heroine, and (did I mention?) fairy tales. It's a story that will entrance any fantasy loving child and that's equally enjoyable for adults. It also features gorgeous illustrations by Finnish artist Pauliina Hannuniemi. I am officially obsessed with her art. It's so beautiful! Look at that cover! The illustrations match the story perfectly. I'd love to see what they look like in a print edition instead of on an e-reader.

My favorite thing about the book was, of course, all the fairy tale elements. Readers familiar with even just the most basic Russian fairy tales will recognize Baba Yaga, her hut, the gray wolf, and Ivan. There's also a slight nod to "Vasilisa the Beautiful" with Katerina's magic doll. However, I wouldn't quite call this book a retelling. From what I can tell, the plot is entirely original, and Sutton puts her own take on the familiar characters. Zima is entirely different from the Gray Wolf who appears in Russian fairy tales, and Sutton opts to use Baba Yaga as a magical helper rather than as a villain. This isn't unprecedented in fairy tales; she appears as a helper in several tales, but it seems she's more well-known as a villain. 

The story is told in the limited third person, and we rotate between Zima, Nadya, and Baba Yaga as the point of view characters. It was great to see three strong female characters working together due to their love for the forest. Zima was my favorite, mainly because I love wolves but also because of her dedication to protecting her family and home. I also loved that Baba Yaga is included as one of the three major protagonists. A character like her would usually be a side character, someone to give the heroine information and help her out of a few scrapes. Having her as a point of view character was fantastic.

I did feel the development of certain characters was lacking a bit. By the end, I knew Zima and Nadya and even Katerina quite well. I never quite felt the same way about Baba Yaga; I wanted to know more about her. But the lack of development was most noticeable in the villain, Tsar Aleksander. He feels flat and just evil for the sake of being evil. I never got a good idea of his motivations. This didn't bother me too much because it is in keeping with the fairy tale feel of the novel, but I would have liked to see a little more.

Overall, A Wolf for a Spell is a beautifully illustrated fairy tale that is perfect for any fantasy loving child and can be enjoyed just as much by an adult.
Was this review helpful?
The tsar is hatching a plan to destroy the forest that is home to animals and the witch, Baba Yaga. To stop him, Baba Yaga must secure the help of a wolf. Zima is destined for the role, and trades bodies with Baba Yaga to keep both their homes from being burned to the ground. The plan becomes more complicated when Zima learns how to use the witch's powers and two girls from the local orphanage get involved. Each must play their part in the complicated plan to save the forest and stop the tsar. 

This might be my favorite Baba Yaga story in a while. The story was fast paced, even though some of the chapters were long. The perspective changed to follow different characters at different times, which added to the drama and excitement.
Was this review helpful?
This book is AMAZING. I was a little leery about reading a middle grade book (at the ripe old age of 35...), but I adore Baba Yaga and when I read the back cover blurb I knew I needed to read this book. I can't believe this is Karah Sutton's debut novel!! This intriguing, magical story of a wolf, a girl, and and a witch is written for middle grade readers, and is so well told and that it's enjoyable for audiences of all ages.

Told in the limited third-person past tense, A Wolf For A Spell alternates between the point of view of Zima (a young female wolf), Nadya (a young orphan girl), and Baba Yaga (a notorious witch, whom you may have heard of...). The threads of their stories are so intricately woven to create a beautiful tapestry of a tale that is, at heart, about finding the courage within yourself.

If this is what Karah Sutton brings to the table for her debut, I can't wait to see what she writes next! This is definitely a debut author to watch.
Was this review helpful?
I just loved this Baba Yaga story with a slightly kinder witch and several strong female characters to help her save the forrest and their homes.

This version of Baba Yaga is slightly different in that she can be kind when she wants to be, and she has a strong commitment to save the forrest in which she lives. Of course part of the issue is that she is the one who put it in danger to begin with, but she was tricked into it, so we can perhaps forgive her. I did enjoy watching her figure out how to make every thing come together.

I think Zima was my favorite character. She is the wolf, and she has such a sense of loyalty and duty to her family and to the forrest that she doesn’t let much get in her way to protect it. She was also pretty funny when she switches places with Baba Yaga as she has no idea how to behave as human should. The author did a good job with this idea.

Nadya was also a character that I could get behind. She was a self reliant orphan who didn’t really like that she was expected to obey, and become someones wife or housekeeper just because she was a girl. She was a very brave character as well, and also has a great sense of loyalty to those she loves and to the forrest.

This was such a lovely modern day fairytale with lots of Russian touches and nods to the original stories. There are lots of good twists and turns to the story and enough action to keep kids turning the pages. A really nice addition to the Baba Yaga stories and one that kids will enjoy!
Was this review helpful?
A very fascinating, wonderful book filled with magic! This book will be great for our library's collection. I highly recommend it.
Was this review helpful?
A Wolf for a Spell is an entertaining read about clever orphans, loyal wolves, and scheming rulers. The story of Baba Yaga - or witches in the woods in general - are always captivating to the imagination. A Wolf for a Spell is no exception - from the first page the reader is immersed into the story. It's a quick attention grab and easy to read. The shift between three main characters can be a little difficult for younger readers to follow, but otherwise the three stories weaving together works well for the delivery of the conclusion: We must work together.

Overall a good and entertaining read.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to the publisher and author, Karah Sutton, for the opportunity to read A Wolf for a Spell. I found that I could not put this book down! I loved the themes of selflessness, friendship, and family that appeared throughout the whole story were fantastic. Zima, even though she is a wolf, is such a relatable character. She loves her pack (family) and will do anything to protect them! Though she is not perfect, her imperfections come from wanting to do good for all those around her. I can't stop telling everyone about this captivating story. I will be recommending that my school librarian purchase this book for our library. The students will love it!
Was this review helpful?
This book intrigued me from the very beginning. I enjoyed this fairytale/folklore story and it is a great fantasy read for young readers.
Was this review helpful?
This books is so magical! The writting was whimsical, characters were amazing and the story was fantastic. I wouldn't change a thing. I cannot wait to read a next book by this author!
Was this review helpful?
3.5/5

I'm a sucker for Baba Yaga tales, so this one was right up my alley. Luckily though this wasn't as terrifying as most Baba Yaga tales can go and it's perfect for older kids/younger MG. It's delightful and has the feel of a traditional fairytale and not to mention it also has a huge case of wonderfully strong, kind, and grave female characters, both 2-legged and 4-legged! The pacing was good, not too slow but enough chapters that a lot developed over the course of time. A fun read!

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
My attention was drawn to this book because of its stellar cover art. Illustrator Pauliina Hannuniemi elevates this wonderful adventure to an entire new level, lending a classic fairy tale ambience to old characters.

Many of the characters in this story are borrowed from Russian Folklore, and Sutton breathes a bit of new life into them for a spell.
Was this review helpful?
This is a beautiful book full of rich adventures and exciting characters. I loved the portrayal of Baba Yaga. This magical fantasy will invite readers to explore a new world full of wolves and witches. It was delightful to have the story told in alternating voices, both the wolf's and Baba Yaga's. I love that this book will help readers discover the wealth of Russian folklore.
Was this review helpful?
In the beginning the book reads like 2 parallel stories. Nadya, an orphan that lives in the orphanage and loves to explore the forest even though she has been warned how dangerous it can be and Zima, a wolf that has been taught to fear humans and wishes to help lead her pack but does not feel brave enough. When the evil tsar threatens what they love most, they must overcome their fears and work together. This is a wonderful story about finding courage and the importance of friendship and family.
Was this review helpful?
i really enjoyed reading this book, it was a cute read for children and young adults. The characters were great and I really enjoyed going on this journey.
Was this review helpful?
I received this as an advance copy via NetGalley.

A Wolf for a Spell spins Russian folklore around Baba Yaga into a fun new middle grade book. It follows a number of strong characters: Zima, a young wolf desperate for respect from her pack; Nadya, a young orphan who is sad her dear friend is marrying the tsar and yearns for a family of her own; and Baba Yaga, the magic-wielding old woman who is trying to save the woods before all is lost.

Zima strikes a deal the Baba Yaga, and the two end up switching bodies. Nadya goes to find Baba Yaga for help, and ends up working with the changed-wolf to confront the tsar and save the woods.

This is a tale with lots of twists and turns. I found it pretty fun, though the number of names left me confused at times. The tsar also came across as a very one-note bad guy; I wish he’d had more nuance. Still, a fun read, and a good way to introduce kids to Baba Yaga and her delightful chicken-footed house.
Was this review helpful?
A Wolf for a Spell is everything a folk-tale inspired fantasy should be.  This novel is a wonderful addition to a recent spate of books drawing on Russian folklore for inspiration.  Atmospheric and fast-paced with complimentary illustrations, this story will have the reader on the edge of their seat as characters try, misstep, and then try again in a race against the full moon.  It is part of the charm and appeal that all the characters are imperfect and at times make things worse.  As all good fairy tales should, this one ends on a hopeful note, which is oh, so satisfying.

This book will appeal to both fairy tale fans and animal lovers.  Utterly charming!

Review of a Digital Advance Reading Copy
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely loved this tale of Baba Yaga, a brave wolf and a young village girl! This was such a fairytale/folklore rich book. Not only because of the background but because of the way it was told. There's magic and mayhem and villains and heroes. This Russian folk tale story is a middle grade novel, but anyone who loves a good tale of a witch, a wolf and a villager will enjoy this whimsical and timeless tale!
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley, Karah Sutton (author), Pauliina Hannuniemi (illustrator), Random House Children's, and Knopf Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read A Wolf for a Spell in exchange for an honest review. 

This book is full of Russian lore, mythology, and fairy tale elements. It almost has a "Little Red Riding Hood" feel to it in the beginning, as wolf Zima sees a girl with a red hood in the forest and chooses not to kill her, despite what Zima's pack leader orders.

Nadya, the girl with the red hood, lives at an orphanage in a nearby village. An older orphan girl that Nadya looks up to as a sister is being taken by the tsar to be wed. Nadya is hoping to be a good girl, to stay away from the forest so she can prove herself and join Katerina at the palace. When Katerina is taken, Nadya decides to visit Baba Yaga, a witch who lives in the forest, to get a gift to take to the tsar so she will be accepted.

Meanwhile, Baba Yaga made a terrible mistake with the tsars of the past and needs to fix it before it is too late. The current tsar is not the true heir, and he has some shady plans in the works when it comes to Katerina and Baba Yaga. In order for Baba Yaga to fix her mistake, she must switch bodies with a wolf, and Zima just happens to need help, thus offering herself for exchange. 

Zima knows nothing of being human. When Nadya seeks Baba Yaga's help, she has no clue that the Baba Yaga she sees is actually a wolf inside the witch's body! Despite not knowing how she can help, Zima, in Baba Yaga's body, offers to help Nadya if Nadya can promise to call off the big wedding hunt the tsar has planned.

Zima must unite the forest witch, the wolves, and the people of the villages to bring light and happiness back to the land.

This is a very cute story that is easy to read and full of fairy tale magic. It is perfect for middle grade readers, but can be enjoyed by high school age, as well as adults who just need a touch of whimsy in their day. I enjoyed the magical feel of this book, the bit of nostalgia it brings to known fairy tales, and the way it provides its own new fairy tale to tell.
Was this review helpful?
I love Baba Yaga stories, and this one is fantastic! Definitely one of my favorite middle grades. I loved the characters and the message of this book. And the cover is so beautiful.
I have already ordered a finished copy.
Was this review helpful?