Book Review: Ice Wolves

Ice Wolves (Elementals #1)
Published By: HarperCollins
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Page Count: 326
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Middle Grades - Fantasy, Paranormal

OMG - this might be one of the best middle grades books I have ever read. It took me awhile to get it finished, but that was no fault of the book. Work, illness, and an injury kept me from reading as fast as I wanted, but I finally savored the final chapter of this beauty and couldn't wait to sit down and write the review. I'm ready for the remaining books in the series to be in my hands.

The main character, Anders, has lived on the streets for as long as he can remember with his twin sister, Rayna. The pair has been through everything together and even survived a war, but they have no memories of life before the orphanage. Living on the streets in the cold is bad, but the twins feel lucky that they have one another. They are devoted to one another and committed to making sure the other finds food and warmth at the end of each long day. As one would expect, the pair has to turn to more criminal methods to keep themselves fed. A routine pickpocketing excursion shows the twins that everything they thought was true may just be a lie.

Anders and Rayna live in a world where shapeshifting is an exceptional, but normal occurrence. Not everyone is able to change forms, but kids learn their fate when they turn twelve. Anders and Rayna never imagined that they could be shapeshifters, but they learn that they are destined to fight on opposing sides. Rayna transforms into a scorch dragon, the mortal enemy of their home, while Anders transforms into an ice wolf, the pack that is tasked with protecting the city of Holbard and its surrounding areas within the country of Vallen. Anders can't begin to see his sister as an enemy and he forges a plan to learn all he can about the scorch dragons so that he can rescue his sister from their clutches. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that the story about the history between the dragons and the wolves may not be entirely accurate.

I loved the diverse cast of characters and the Nordic feel of the setting. I kept imagining a world that resembled a town in Iceland or Sweden while reading this one. I also loved the interactions between Anders and the other students at Ulfar Academy, but the relationship that most intrigued me was the bond between the twins. Sibling relationships are complex and fascinating; this one certainly delivers.

I also would be remiss if I didn't mention the fire and ice symbolism in this one. It was constantly running through my head along with the Robert Frost poem and a few random scenes from the Twilight series. Aside from some characters turning into wolves, this has nothing to do with Twilight, but fire and ice themes always conjure up conflict between Edward and Jacob for me.

I loved that while this novel felt new and fresh in many ways, it also had some elements of other great middle grades and YA series I adore. Fans of J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, and Suzanne Collins will enjoy this read. I also loved that there was a male protagonist. There are so many elements of this novel that would appeal to middle grades readers as well as older readers. I'm not a huge fan of middle grades, but this one was well worth my time.

One Last Gripe: The pacing threw me off at times. It would go from action packed to a bit of a lull and then back to action.

Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved the lore surrounding the wolves and dragons.

First Sentence: Rayna was confidently leading them in the wrong direction.

Favorite Character: Lisabet

Least Favorite Character: I didn't have one, but I have a few that could take this spot depending on how the series plays out.

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.