A Wolf for a Spell
by Karah Sutton
Pauliina Hannuniemi (Illustrations)
The Girl Who Drank the Moon meets Pax in this fantastical tale of a wolf who forms an unlikely alliance with Baba Yaga to save the forest from a wicked tsar.
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.
A Wolf for a Spell is a deliciously magical adventure involving wolves, witches, and villagers—all of whom must work together to defeat an evil tsar.
The story begins with Zima, a wolf who’s dealing with issues within her own pack. She’s always been told to fear humans, but she isn’t sure what to believe anymore. One thing Zima knows for sure is that it’s not safe to converse with witches, and she’s been given strict orders. After an unforeseen event, Zima is forced to communicate with the forest witch, Baba Yaga, and discovers there’s real danger on the horizon for all who live in the forest.
Concurrently, a young girl named Nadya from a nearby orphanage is puzzled about her friend, Katerina. Katerina has recently left their orphanage to marry, but something just isn’t right, and Nadya knows it. The mystery must be solved, and it’s going to be up to her and some other brave characters to put the pieces together and save their forest.
This is such a fascinating story; I could easily read it over and over. I love fairy tales and that’s exactly what this story feels like: a Russian fairy tale. There are multiple points of view throughout the story, and for the longest time I couldn’t figure out how these paths were going to converge. All the characters have something to learn and it comes together beautifully in the end. There are themes of friendship, trust, heroism, good vs. evil, and overcoming.
The illustrations were unexpected and added a nice touch. Even though they were quite simple—just black and white—they were perfect for the story.
Overall, A Wolf for a Spell is a beautifully crafted tale that captivated me from beginning to finish. Middle-grade readers who love fantasy, especially Slavic fairy/folk tales, will fall in love with this book. Honestly, it’s a story for any age. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about it, and I’m excited to share it with my readers.
I’d like to thank NetGalley for sharing this book with me in exchange for my honest review.
- Age Range: 8 – 12 years
- Grade Level: 3 – 7
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (September 22, 2020)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0593121651
- ISBN-13: 978-0593121658
Thanks for reading my review of A Wolf for a Spell. Do you like Slavic fairy tales and folklore? Do you have any recommendations? You can leave comments and suggestions below if you’d like.