The Wolf’s Curse by Jessica Vitalis
Coming September 21, 2021 from Greenwillow/HarperCollins; 389 pages
Content Warnings: Death, grief, animal attack, self-harm, alcohol, violence, terminal illness, religious persecution.
About the Author: “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.” (Bio sent by publicist)
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The Wolf’s Curse is the story of 12-year-old Gauge, a Voyant capable of seeing the Wolf, a mysterious creature who accompanies death. In the superstitious village of Bouge-by-the-Sea, people believe that Voyants have the ability to call and control the Wolf, therefore they must be punished and put to death. Gauge’s life is forever altered when, after the death of his grandpapá, Gauge is accused of calling the Wolf. All alone, Gauge reluctantly joins forces with Roux, a clever young girl from his village. While learning to face their grief, the two orphans go on a fantastic adventure to uncover the truth about their town, death, and the Wolf.
The Wolf’s Curse is a potent and lyrical story that is both complex, moving, and entertaining. Gauge’s story is told from the omniscient perspective of the Wolf: a snarky but tortured narrator who slowly opens up to the reader. Vitalis does a wonderful job of exploring and developing her characters. This book is especially powerful because the characters are so genuine and relatable. The pain that Gauge and the Wolf experience is raw and honest, and readers of all ages will be able to connect to them. Gauge and the Wolf are not only emotionally complex characters, but the reader sees them learn and grow as the story progresses. The characters’ transformations stem from their shared grief of losing loved ones. The reader is able to see how the Wolf and Gauge move past their losses and experience the growth that allows for a beautiful ending to their story. The Wolf’s Curse really explores the idea of death and grief, and what exactly that looks like for people of all ages. Jessica Vitalis’ novel is a perfect addition to the middle-grade fantasy genre.
The Wolf’s Curse releases September 21, 2021.
(Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing us with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change upon final publication.)
PRR Writer, Frances Drye