Ice Wolves by Amy Kaufman
Summary from Goodreads:
Everyone in Vallen knows that ice wolves and scorch dragons are sworn enemies who live deeply separate lives.
So when twelve-year-old orphan Anders takes one elemental form and his twin sister, Rayna, takes another, he wonders whether they are even related. Still, whether or not they’re family, Rayna is Anders’s only true friend. She’s nothing like the brutal, cruel dragons who claimed her as one of their own and stole her away.
In order to rescue her, Anders must enlist at the foreboding Ulfar Academy, a school for young wolves that values loyalty to the pack above all else. But for Anders, loyalty is more complicated than obedience, and friendship is the most powerful shapeshifting force of all.
I just love it when one of my favorite YA authors writes a book for the middle-grades. That means I get to share an author I like with the kids I currently work with and that they can look forward to reading their YA books in the future.
This an amazing world that will captivate it’s audience pretty quickly, with a fast paced story and a great diverse cast of characters. The focus of this first book was the Ice Wolves, but we do get to meet some dragons. I hope to see more of them in the next book.
Anders is the sole narrator of this story. He and his sister are very close, having grown up in an orphanage and having only each other for love and support. Anders is the quiet one and the follower, letting his sister dictate what they do and controlling most situations. He often thinks about what she would do when he finds himself in difficult circumstances. When she disappears, he has no choice but to join the ice wolves in the hopes that they will lead him to her. We don’t see much of Rayna in this book, only at the start and near the end. But Anders thinks about her so much, you get a real sense of who she is. She is a strong and tough girl who can handle herself and take care of her softer and meeker twin.
Once Anders finds himself at the Ulfar Academy, he meets a lot of other kids like himself and he learns how to make friends and work as a team. The Academy is full of kids who transform into ice wolves. Anders quickly learns to trust his roommates, especially Lisbet. I liked Lisbet a lot and she is the one that we learn the most about. She is a strong and determined young lady with opinions of her own that don’t necessarily match the other ice wolves. The other students are not as well fleshed out, but you do get a sense of who they are and how they think.
The world created in this book is very intriguing. I liked the fact that there are both dragons and wolves that people can transform into. The ice wolves are an interesting culture. They have the ability to design things, but not the ability to create them. The dragons were always the ones who created. This was an interesting back story to the world and one that I hope is explored more in the next books. Some of the things designed lent the world a bit of a steampunk atmosphere, which was interesting. I also liked the Scandinavian feel to the world, but there is a diversity of skin tones and hair color. I loved that when a child first transforms into a wolf or dragon, they lose their clothes. Very amusing scene when Anders transformed back into a human. This issue is dealt with by them wearing amulets that allows them to transform their clothes as well, which was a nice touch.
Overall the plot is wonderful. There are some slowish spots, but I don’t think enough that a child will loose interest in the story. The way the wolves do battles with ice spears is also something that I think will have kids interested in learning more. There is some mystery involved in the story as well, such as why Anders and Rayna transform into a wolf and dragon when they are siblings. Supposedly this is impossible, families are one or they other. There is also some interesting things going on with why the dragons and wolves don’t work together any more. So much to look forward to learning in the next books.
This is a great story about friendship and family, and about saving the ones you love no matter the cost.