Book Review

Pyotra and the Wolf

Pyotra and the Wolf

  • Author: Elna Holst
  • Genre: Fantasy/Retellings
  • Publication Date: February 15, 2021
  • Publisher: NineStar Press

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: death of a parent, addiction, murder, mention of cancer, sexual content

Rating: 4 out of 5.

For the space of a breath or two, that wolf had entranced her, mesmerized her, made her believe—the impossible. And that was all it took.

Nothing about this wolf was as it should be.

Pyotra Nikolayevna Kulakova lives in a small Russian settlement in the northern Siberian taiga, where the polar night lasts for a good month out of the year and the temperature rarely reaches above freezing point. Pyotra’s days, too, seem congealed and unchanging, laden with grief, until her baby brother’s close encounter with a tundra wolf upends the lives of the three members of the Kulakov family in one fell swoop.

Pyotra and the Wolf is a queer retelling of Sergei Prokofiev’s symphonic fairy tale, structurally influenced by matryoshka dolls and memory castles. This is a story of darkness and light, love and loss, beast and human. Whichever way the spinning kopek falls.

So let me start this by saying I have no idea what led me to think that this was going to be a YA book, but it most certainly was NOT. It’s a queer retelling of Peter and the Wolf, but the beginning gave me some serious The Bear and the Nightingale vibes. It’s set in Siberia, and it was the perfect winter story to read while sipping a hot cup of tea while wrapped in a fuzzy blanket. 

A chance encounter between Pyotra’s little brother and a tundra wolf sets off a chain reaction with massive consequences for the whole family. Pyotra winds up going after the wolf and playing a game of cat and mouse in the first part of the book, except that it isn’t exactly clear who is the cat and who is the mouse. And Volk, the wolf, isn’t what she appears to be either. 

I loved how the perspective shifted between Pyotra and Volk. It kept me from getting bored, even though there wasn’t a ton of action. I still found it intriguing and seeing how their characters interacted. There were some graphic sexual scenes in the story, so be prepared! I wasn’t expecting it, but the queer romance was well-developed and slow-burning.

The second part of the story shifts perspective to that of Pyotra’s brother Sergei. I was truly invested in the story by this time, and was super curious about what was going on with him. But in the third (and final) part of the story, there were some additional POVs added. I didn’t get to know these characters as well, so I wasn’t as invested in them. Those characters and the ending itself all felt a bit rushed, but all in all, I enjoyed the story.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 8

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