Book Review: Don't Call the Wolf by Aleksandra Ross

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: no prompt used Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's publish...

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: no prompt used

Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in 2020, A book on a subject you know nothing about (Polish fairy tales),

TW: Animal harm or death, violence, bigotry

The first thing that really sold me on reading Don't Call the Wolf was the cover. I know, I know - "don't judge a book by its cover" and all, but I do. I definitely judge books by their covers. And this one gorgeous. And overall? The story was good, had a lot of potential, and the imagery vivid.

Lucasz is the last of the Wolf-Lords, a family of dwindling dragon slayers, but is convinced his last-seen brother is lost in the Mountains, and is bound to go rescue him. But the forest is dark and full of horrors. So he ventures into the forest alongside a group of newfound adventurers who each have their own reasons for heading into the terrifying unknown. Leading the group is Ren, the forest's young queen and also a human/lynx hybrid. Each member of the group has a different personal goal, and they must all face a series of obstacles and monsters to make it to their end goals. 

Eh, writing this review is difficult. Because I actually really liked the story, but I felt like it should have taken place over two novels. Everything was so cramped into 500 pages, but the potential for this as a series was so great. There are quite a few characters, there's a lot of backstory, and there are a terrifying amount of horrifying monsters. If I would've broken it down, I would have made the first book very much about character development and background information. I would have likely included all the main characters, but they could have been sprinkled in throughout the story. The second book would've been the true adventure, the big action scene, and the wrap-up.

But too much happened in this one book. There was a lot of build-up, a lot of different monsters to try to visualize and fear, some backstories for most of the characters (even the less prominent main characters), and then the ending felt so rushed and also too... happy? Think of it this way - seven seasons of death, brutality, and sadness in Game of Thrones, and then the entirely unexpected series finale that was wrapped up a little too nicely. It was like that. I mean, this book is dark and disturbing throughout, but the ending didn't match the rest of the story, which made it a bit disappointing and actually unsatisfying.

But again, the story is actually really good - I just didn't think it was executed in a way that made sense. I really liked all of Polish fairy tale inspiration. I was unfamiliar with the stories, but they were so interesting and beautiful. I'll also mention that the back of the book has some additional information about the inspiration for the story, as well as a pronunciation guide for the Polish words used throughout the book. Keep that in mind going in, because it wouldn't be as useful to see after finishing the story.

I liked the characters mostly. They were likable often, while other times being incredibly flawed which seemed to exhibit human (and non-human) nature. There's a big theme of making mistakes but meaning well, and I really enjoyed the stories based off that theme. Ren was a wonderful character who went through a pretty great development arc. But closer to the end, I felt she started making really horrible, dumb choices, and it kind of pissed me off. Other characters had storylines that seemed incomplete or not fully explored. There were also some big twists, and I found myself shocked several times during my reading experience. So I'd say a pretty balanced amount of things I really enjoyed, but also things that lowered my rating. This isn't a bad book at all, and I think it's definitely an enjoyable read. I just also found some things within that really irked me.

"I am animal. I am monster. I am human. I am queen." - Don't Call the Wolf, Aleksandra Ross

The story was really interesting, the Polish fairy tale inspiration was so cool to learn about, and I loved the fantasy elements interweaved throughout the book. The writing was also really beautiful. But the story was far too broad to be able to fit within its 500 pages. It should have been broken up into at least a duology to be able to expand upon the potential of the storytelling.

Goodreads rating: ★★★☆☆

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own.

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  1. Don’t Call the Wolf had me enchanted from the first chapter. The incredibly writing and wonderful characters help create a magical fairytale retelling that was so easy to fall in love with.

    1. I agree! I just wish I had gotten the story over two books. I was immersed straight from the get-go though!