Cover Image: A Wolf for a Spell

A Wolf for a Spell

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Member Reviews

**ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for review**

An incredibly charming middle grade story that reads like a fairy tale centered on a witch (Baba Yaga), a young girl drawn to the woods, and a wolf that wants to protect its family and forest. There are wonderful illustrations inside, the writing is compelling, and I was delighted by this cute story from beginning to end. 
This is a 4-star read only because it was not very exciting, which I was hoping for at times, and middle grade tends to have a cap when you're a *26 year old lady*
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Since she was a pup, Zima has been taught to fear humans—especially witches—but when her family is threatened, she has no choice but to seek help from the witch Baba Yaga.

Baba Yaga never does magic for free, but it just so happens that she needs a wolf’s keen nose for a secret plan she’s brewing… Before Zima knows what’s happening, the witch has cast a switching spell and run off into the woods, while Zima is left behind in Baba Yaga’s hut—and Baba Yaga’s body!

Meanwhile, a young village girl named Nadya is also seeking the witch’s help, and when she meets Zima (in Baba Yaga’s form), they discover that they face a common enemy. With danger closing in, Zima must unite the wolves, the witches and the villagers against an evil that threatens them all.- Goodreads

I feel that I am going to mess up this review. This book was so damn good. It was 50 chapters and my ass sat and finished it within one day. All my plans went straight to trash as I read every word in this book. 

It is the perfect fairy tale about Baba Yaga if you really don't know anything about her.  Its also perfect for any reader not just a middle grader. It is told in three different point of views which adds a layer of complexity and tension to the overall novel. 

I loved how easily the author was able to blend their stories into a bigger picture and how each of them were able to get their shine in this fight. 

The magic, the fantasy in this novel is detailed but not dragged out where you feel as if the author is adding a bunch of fluff. The setting is dual and what I mean by that is you have a setting in the forest and one in a village. Just like her characters, there was a seamless flow between the two. 

I really enjoyed this book. Baba Yaga is one of my favorite fairy tales and this book did the best interpretation of it so far. The characters were enjoyable, the pace was great, I was invested from the beginning of the novel and loved the villain and the backstory of it. 

I was so happy to read this book and highly recommend it. 

5 Pickles
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This was a magical adventure with wolves and witches! I loved it! This book has everything I love in adventure stories. Zima, who is a wolf, was so cute and such an amazing character to follow! Will definitely pick up more by this author in the future!
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What I liked...
» First off this was a total cover ARC request. I just couldn’t help myself. Probably one of the most beautiful middle grade fantasy covers of 2020!

» Told in alternating perspectives of a young village orphan, a wolf, and a witch, A Wolf for a Spell is a Russian inspired fairy tale full of magic, friendship, heroics, and conquering evil.

» Sutton’s writing is lovely and deliciously atmospheric. This story was short and well-paced, making for a very quick read.

» I’m a sucker for a magical forest setting, so this was right up my alley. The forest setting added to the ambiance of the story.

» The illustrations were a lovely addition and enhanced the fairy tale vibes.

» This book reminded me of a cross between a Grace Lin book and The Girl Who Drank the Moon, so if you are a fan of these things, I think it’s safe to say you’ll enjoy this book too.

What I didn't like...
» While I did enjoy the alternating perspectives, I would have liked to have seen Katerina’s perspective included since she was such an integral part of the story. It fell off that her point of view was not included.

› Recommended to ⇒ fairy tale fans

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ For a MG book that feels like a fairy tale, try When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin

*Thank you to NetGalley for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review.*

**The release date for this book was originally scheduled for September 22, 2020, but has been pushed back to December 1, 2020.**
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This book is really fascinating. In the beginning, all three main characters are from opposing groups- wolves, humans or witches. Throughout the story they end up working together to face a common threat. It's really clever how the author creates all these interconnections between the characters. I enjoy that is has the energy of a folktale retelling.
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I received an electronic ARC from Random House Children's Publishing through NetGalley.
Readers meet a rather different Baba Yaga when she tries to right a mistake she made in first dealing with the current Tsar. To do this, she needs to trade places with a gray wolf. Zima also makes a mistake when she does not attack a human who has come into their forest. This leads to her brother being severely injured. A bargain is struck and wolf and witch trade places. The story spins out as both characters do what they can to save their forest from destruction. 
Sutton created her fantasy with rich characters who show their flaws and needs along with their strengths. Each is finding their way to save others and figure out how to adapt to new ways.
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I'm a sucker for anything involving fairytales being retold, and this middle grade debut did not disappoint! It read in the tone of an old folktale being told and I loved the magical illustrations adding to the story. It gives a new twist to the old tale of Baba Yaga while still feeling classic.
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A charming twist on the tale of the Baba Yaga that celebrates the forest and its creatures, told from the point of view of a young wolf, an orphan girl, and the witch herself. Zima, the wolf, must find the courage to take a stand and protect her family, even when it may mean being ostracized from her pack. Nadya, the girl, must overcome envy and the expectations of society to save the forest she loves.  And the Baba Yaga? Well, she’s been at this an awful long time, and she must engage with the world around her when it is easier just to retreat to that splendid hut with chicken legs. And, oh yeah, there’s a talking, pain-in-the-rear raven. Can’t have enough of those! This will interest fans of fairy-tale based fantasy as well as those who like stories told from the animal’s point of view.
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Rarely do I read a book for Middle Grade and think immediately about gifting it to everyone I know. The Russian folktale pulls the reader through a high staked multiple viewpoint adventure through the woods. Kids who haven't read any of the Baba Yaga myths are in for a treat. The animal POV reminded me of a bit of Pax by Sara Pennypacker if that book had magic. In this book, You get three rotating points of view, a girl, a wolf, and a witch. All of them have significant problems that they need to solve, and the background of the Russian forest is just ideal when they join together. The magical forest and the quirky witches home keep the scariness to a minimum, all the while building up to a satisfying conclusion. It is on my holiday shortlist as a perfect gift book this year.
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I was so excited to receive this ARC from Netgalley and Random House Children’s because it has so many things that I love: Russian mythology, an animal narrator, and a spooky forest. One of my favorite ARCS I’ve ever gotten from Netgalley was Bear and the Nightingale, a YA historical fantasy based in Russia. A Wolf for a Spell is even more exciting to me to a certain extent (despite my lack of experience with middle grade books), because of Baba Yaga!!

What I Loved:

The Split Narrative. Normally, I am not a fan of split narrative. It distracts the reader, gets confusing, and often, writers use it as a tool to have the reader be omniscient. It also usually results in weird time gaps that make no sense, so the reader has no idea how far along in the story they are. In Wolf for a Spell, Sutton does a really good job of showing instead of telling. Nadya, Zima, and Baba Yaga all have a role in a larger plot, and each of them is equally important. The satisfying conclusion could not have happened if not for each of these strong female characters doing exactly what they did when they did it.

Strong Female Characters. Without being redundant, I think that Zima, Baba Yaga, and Nadya each deserve a call out for being really well-written, flawed but relatable. Zima is a wolf who has the wellbeing of her pack at the forefront, who is willing to risk losing herself to Baba Yaga to save her brother, and who can recognize that humans are not the ultimate enemy. Baba Yaga wants to save the forest at all costs, but learns that she hasn’t been listening to the forest’s needs until she meets other people. And Nadya is a brave little girl who saves her friend and the forest, and does so despite being neglected. I also love her goal of learning the forest in and out.

The Worldbuild. Sutton sets the stage for the reader to enter medieval Russia, a cold place where tsars are made through bloodshed and the forests seem all consuming. The snowstorms are fierce, the people are gritty, and things can kill you quite easily. However, Sutton also keeps it light in that these things are shown, without the characters being adversely affected by it (no one dies in the snow, or gets eaten by wolves in-page). This strikes a good balance for a middle grade book, so the reader can get the ambiance without being scarred for life.

What Didn’t Work as Well:

The Pacing. This is a minor problem, since I think overall Wolf for a Spell was paced well, but I did think that the beginning to middle of the book flew by, while the last half was slower. For me, it was fine, but for a younger reader, it may make more sense to space the action sequences further apart to keep interest engaged. I would have also made each section a little longer so the reader gets to spend time with each character more.

That is really it as far as negatives go. I am unused to reviewing middle grade books, but from the perspective of a younger reader, this hits all the right notes.

Bottom Line:

I would buy this for my niece in a heartbeat if she was old enough. Wolf for a Spell is a great way to introduce younger readers to Russian mythology and a kid-friendly way to bring in Baba Yaga, who has a bit of an infamous legacy in Russian canon. I loved the animal narrator, since it teaches children empathy for other creatures, and also has some good lessons about the environment and nature. 

Favorite quote:

I am the forest. It flows through me. And now, I will flow through it.
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This was a fun and adventurous MG! Plus, I really enjoy the illustration of the cover as well as the artwork that was included in the book throughout.

A Wolf for a Spell has different point-of-views that we follow throughout the book: a wolf named Zima, Baba Yaga, and a girl named Nadya. Each of their story connects to one bigger plot that involves the tsar.

I liked each character that was introduced, especially the ones with the PoV. Each one has to make certain choices and some of those choices don't have great consequences. I liked that Zima was willing to sacrifice a lot for the sake of keeping one of her friends alive. It shows great bravery and friendship to do that.

There are definitely many Baba Yaga retellings throughout the year. I don't remember reading one so I can't say how it compares to others but I did enjoy who she was in this particular story.

The plot is very adventurous and the pacing was nice. It wasn't too fast nor too slow. The setting was pretty enchanting but I do wish there was a bit more setting development.

Overall, I liked this one. It was a good MG and I can see many loving this story especially if they are familiar with Baba Yaga, enjoy a good MG, or like multiple PoVs.
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What a beautiful, magical, and heartwarming book. I really enjoyed the main character a lot and really appreciated reading about Russian folklore as that is not a subject I know well. I think this is a great book for all ages!
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Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf Books for Young Readers for sending me a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

A Wolf For A Spell is a magical tale perfect for middle grade readers who enjoy fairytales and/or animal POVs. I really enjoyed Sutton’s style of writing and the illustrations throughout the story. Along with the Russian folklore, there are some beautiful lessons on environmentalism, believing in yourself, bravery, accepting yourself as you grow and change, and found family.

Thank you again to NetGalley and Knopf Books for Young Readers for the privilege of reviewing an ARC.
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A Wolf For a Spell is a captivating and beautiful book. My daughters and I absolutely loved it. The story is told from three different character viewpoints. We highly recommend this delightful and enchanting book.
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It’s a bit to young for the library but I personally loved it and will add it to my home library. The cover is beautiful! Really I love everything about this book. The fairytale setting is lovely and the characters are well developed.
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Wow. This book. How gorgeous. I kept having to remind myself that this book is actually geared towards children because I was so captivated by the story and the writing. The writing especially was stunning. The story itself was also very well done and incredibly entertaining. I'm a big fan of fairy tales retellings and books heavily influenced by fairy tales, so this was right up my alley. I have yet to find a Baba Yaga story that really stuck with me, but that has changed now. This is a book that will stick with me for a long time to come and one I can see myself sharing with my future children one day.

Nadya was also such a well-crafted character. She just felt so real. What an amazing, strong female protagonist. As a librarian who often works with kids, I can see myself recommending this book to many a child.
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A absolutely stunning and enchanting story about a girl, a wolf, and Baba Yaga. I fell in love with the beautiful artwork within this story and found the plot to be just fantastic. I really enjoyed reading this and know that its perfect for anyone who likes a good fairytale. The story is told from three perspectives and I liked reading from each of them. Overall this was a great read and I would highly recommend this for everyone.
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Lyrical writing and the seamless incorporation of multiple perspectives elevate this phenomenal novel. Sutton draws from Russian folklore in a way that will fascinate and draw in young readers. Highly recommend this title for students who love magical stories.
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This is an adorable middle grade fantasy novel with Eastern European fairytales! Recced for fans of Stephanie Burgis and for kids interested in magic.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this arc. A Wolf for a Spell was such a cute read. I’ve always been interested in various lore and mythology, especially when it comes to Baba Yaga. It’s the aspect that drew me into wanting this in the first place. Once I was approved, I realized it was a middle grade book. I thought I’d at least give it a shot though. I’m glad I did. It was such a nice, fast read. As an adult, I loved the chance of pace. It was almost like a palate cleanse for me. I enjoyed the various magic and the way everything tied together. I would love a more mature type book like this, because it definitely has potential. It was honestly lore mature than I was expecting. Overall, great story. I would highly recommend for middle grade fans.
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