The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s ball.
Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?
I’ve read a lot of incredible WWII stories in the last year, from the awe-inspiring All the Light We Cannot See to the deeply saddening Between Shades of Gray. Where many of the stories revolving around the war focus on the tragedy and horrors everyone involved witnessed, this book imagines a world where Hitler lived, and one driven rebel spy plans to finish what the Resistance already started. Fast-paced and action-packed, Ryan Graudin cleverly weaves a redemption story like none other I’ve seen before. Yael is a cool-headed and quick thinking protagonist who manages to stay true to who she is even while immersing herself in a risky covert disguise mission, although it gets her into a pickle more than once when she realizes the victor she’s impersonating has more secrets than Yael was led to believe. I’m not usually drawn into journey stories – typically, they’re tied down with too much unnecessary descriptions of walking, or the plot gets lost and the story becomes uninteresting and tiresome – but this was captivating, with just the right amount of well-placed backstory to tie the whole thing together before a surprise cliffhanger ending.
All my criticisms of this book are relatively minor, and mostly have to do with the lack of detail that went into many of the other characters: not that they were two-dimensional, but I would have liked to see a bit more fleshing out of certain characters, such as Adele (not just through her brother!) and the rest of the members of the Resistance (not just in backstory form!!) The book was also very quick, maybe a little too quick, because I felt like I got to the ending much faster than I had anticipated. Either way, I will definitely be looking out for the sequel, Blood for Blood, when it hits the shelves on November 1st.