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A Wolf for a Spell

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon meets Pax in this fantastical tale of a wolf who forms an unlikely alliance with Baba Yaga to save the forest from a wicked tsar.

Since she was a pup, Zima has been taught to fear humans—especially witches—but when her family is threatened, she has no choice but to seek help from the witch Baba Yaga.

Baba Yaga never does magic for free, but it just so happens that she needs a wolf’s keen nose for a secret plan she’s brewing… Before Zima knows what’s happening, the witch has cast a switching spell and run off into the woods, while Zima is left behind in Baba Yaga’s hut—and Baba Yaga’s body!

Meanwhile, a young village girl named Nadya is also seeking the witch’s help, and when she meets Zima (in Baba Yaga’s form), they discover that they face a common enemy. With danger closing in, Zima must unite the wolves, the witches and the villagers against an evil that threatens them all.

“Karah Sutton has crafted a vivid and rollicking adventure that proves a wolf doesn’t have to be big or bad to win the day!" —Rosanne Parry, New York Times bestselling author of A Wolf Called Wander

320 pages, Hardcover

First published December 1, 2020

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About the author

Karah Sutton is a New Zealand/American author and former bookseller whose debut children's book A Wolf for a Spell was an American Booksellers Association Indies Introduce selection, an Indie Next List Top 10 selection, a Junior Library Guild selection, a Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, and a Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Best Children's & Middle Grade for 2021.

Karah also works in marketing for the video game industry, and has had the pleasure of working with some of the world’s most respected and well-loved entertainment companies including Disney, Netflix, Fox, and DreamWorks.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 303 reviews
Profile Image for Mischenko.
1,014 reviews97 followers
June 6, 2020
A Wolf for a Spell is a deliciously magical adventure involving wolves, witches, and villagers—all of whom must work together to defeat an evil tsar.

The story begins with Zima, a wolf who’s dealing with issues within her own pack. She’s always been told to fear humans, but she isn’t sure what to believe anymore. One thing Zima knows for sure is that it’s not safe to converse with witches, and she’s been given strict orders. After an unforeseen event, Zima is forced to communicate with the forest witch, Baba Yaga, and discovers there’s real danger on the horizon for all who live in the forest.

Concurrently, a young girl named Nadya from a nearby orphanage is puzzled about her friend, Katerina. Katerina has recently left their orphanage to marry, but something just isn’t right, and Nadya knows it. The mystery must be solved, and it’s going to be up to her and some other brave characters to put the pieces together and save their forest.

This is such a fascinating story; I could easily read it over and over. I love fairy tales and that’s exactly what this story feels like: a Russian fairy tale. There are multiple points of view throughout the story, and for the longest time I couldn’t figure out how these paths were going to converge. All the characters have something to learn and it comes together beautifully in the end. There are themes of friendship, trust, heroism, good vs. evil, and overcoming.

The illustrations were unexpected and added a nice touch. Even though they were quite simple—just black and white—they were perfect for the story.

Overall, A Wolf for a Spell is a beautifully crafted tale that captivated me from beginning to finish. Middle-grade readers who love fantasy, especially Slavic fairy/folk tales, will fall in love with this book. Honestly, it’s a story for any age. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about it, and I can’t wait to share it with my readers.


I’d like to thank NetGalley for sharing this book with me in exchange for my honest review.

You can also see this review and others @www.readrantrockandroll.com
Profile Image for Karah Sutton.
Author 2 books117 followers
February 19, 2022
Thank you everyone who has read, borrowed, bought, or shared A Wolf for a Spell! I hope it's a warm cozy read for readers young and old.

If you enjoyed it, I'd also be forever grateful if you would also share your review on Amazon. You aren't required to have purchased on Amazon in order to review.

Thank you, and happy reading!

[Updated Feb 28, 2021]

One week until WOLF is out in the world!! Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed so far. I would love for you all to join me and Gail Carson Levine (author of Ella Enchanted) in talking about the book on Dec 1, at 7pm ET: https://www.josephbeth.com/event/kara...

Also I will be chatting with Rediscovered Books on Dec 3 at 4:30pm MT! They have been huge supporters of WOLF, so I hope to have you there: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rediscov...

[Updated Nov 24, 2020]

Hi everyone! This book is like a window into my 11 year old brain and a love letter to the Russian fairytales, animals, and adventures I loved then and now. I hope you and your young ones enjoy, and thank you so much for reading.

[Posted Feb 7, 2020]
April 2, 2021
I loved this book. I’m always nervous reading animal focused books(& I don’t pick up many), especially one’s like this w/wolves-since everything that’s happened w/my pup I just wouldn’t be able to handle anything sad w/wolves(animals). So happy I had nothing to worry about. Wolves are my favorite animal, & I’m so protective of them. So to see such a beautiful story of wolves & animals trying to find a way to live peacefully-loved it. Wolves are SO misunderstood..probably b/c how they are portrayed usually on tv & in some stories. Wolves are rarely aggressive towards people. When around people, wolves are actually timid & shy. They need our protection against idiots who hunt & kill them. So I instantly fell in love w/all of these wolves. I loved Zima so much, & everything she does. I think Veter has my heart though. Along w/Nadya, who I could relate w/a lot. I also loved the Baba Yaga/House w/Chicken Legs/Russian folklore of the story. Russian folklore is always so fascinating to me. In the author’s note, she says that 1 that heavily inspired this story is Tsarevich Ivan, the firebird, & the Gray Wolf-so definitely looking that 1 up. She also, I just noticed, says something similar to what I said above about wolves. Makes me love this book even more, & want to support her as an author even more. I highly recommend this. It’s a magical adventure that has wolves, Baba Yaga w/a house w/chicken legs, & villagers who all have to come together to defeat the evil that wants to destroy the forest forever. I can see this being a classic fairytale 1 day-that’s exactly how it reads. A beautiful fairytale w/so much heart. Absolutely FULL of stunning illustrations throughout by Pauliina Hannuniemi to go w/the beautiful cover. LOVED THIS!💜
Profile Image for Pris.
421 reviews304 followers
February 3, 2021
This is everything I love. Polar, magical, animals and slavic folklore. To me this is perfection! 💙❄️
Profile Image for Jacki.
1,137 reviews47 followers
August 19, 2021
This book has Baba Yaga, a talking raven, talking wolves, body-swapping, and groups who distrust each other coming together to overthrow the man, so basically all the things I love. It's like The Bear and the Nightingale's sassy, earnest baby sister. Also I appreciate the message that if a man tells you he'll solve all your problems by taking away your power, you should NOT marry him because he will drain your life force.

Profile Image for Yesha- Books Teacup and Reviews.
634 reviews128 followers
May 29, 2021
*** Note: I received e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to PRHGlobal for free copy. ***

A Wolf for a Spell was great middle grade fantasy based on Russian folklore that revolved around a wolf-Zima, a human-Nadya, and a witch-Baba Yaga. It was about facing fears and not let it overpower you, doing right things, it’s okay to be different, friendship, belongingness, family, trust, and good vs evil.

Plot was interesting. It had Red Riding Hood feel. All three main female characters were flawed, realistic, and relatable and they all developed wonderfully throughout the story. They all were my favourite but I loved Zima and Nadya’s story more.

World was fascinating with witches, animals and villagers all living in and around the magical forest. I enjoyed reading how the forest seemed all consuming and dangerous with deadly streams, poisonous plants, and hidden dark holes to caves in ground that could trap anyone for days and yet it helped everybody living in and around it, gave power and protection to all creatures. Baba Yaga’s loyal egoistic hut was fun to read. Snow storms, evil villain and forbidding palace and its corridors added tension to story. Despite of this dark world it never felt heavy and gloomy as characters were not affected or harmed by it which made it perfect for middle grade readers.

Overall, A Wolf for a Spell magical, beautiful, imaginative, and well written fantasy based on Russian folklore with classic good vs evil theme and perfect middle grade and young readers.

Read full review on my book blog by following the link- https://booksteacupreviews.com/2021/0...
Profile Image for Elizabeth☮ .
1,511 reviews11 followers
May 7, 2021
Zima is a wolf that has always been taught to fear Baba Yaga - the witch in the forest. But, when Zima's brother is gravely injured and may die, Zima must take him to Baba Yaga as her magic is all that may save him. The wolf and the witch then strike a bargain that will have mutual benefits.

This is a lovely fairy tale of which I was unfamiliar. I love Sutton's notes in the back on Baba Yaga in various iterations.
Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 4 books77 followers
September 11, 2020
Thank you to NetGalley, Karah Sutton (author), Pauliina Hannuniemi (illustrator), Random House Children's, and Knopf Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read A Wolf for a Spell in exchange for an honest review.

This book is full of Russian lore, mythology, and fairy tale elements. It almost has a "Little Red Riding Hood" feel to it in the beginning, as wolf Zima sees a girl with a red hood in the forest and chooses not to kill her, despite what Zima's pack leader orders.

Nadya, the girl with the red hood, lives at an orphanage in a nearby village. An older orphan girl that Nadya looks up to as a sister is being taken by the tsar to be wed. Nadya is hoping to be a good girl, to stay away from the forest so she can prove herself and join Katerina at the palace. When Katerina is taken, Nadya decides to visit Baba Yaga, a witch who lives in the forest, to get a gift to take to the tsar so she will be accepted.

Meanwhile, Baba Yaga made a terrible mistake with the tsars of the past and needs to fix it before it is too late. The current tsar is not the true heir, and he has some shady plans in the works when it comes to Katerina and Baba Yaga. In order for Baba Yaga to fix her mistake, she must switch bodies with a wolf, and Zima just happens to need help, thus offering herself for exchange.

Zima knows nothing of being human. When Nadya seeks Baba Yaga's help, she has no clue that the Baba Yaga she sees is actually a wolf inside the witch's body! Despite not knowing how she can help, Zima, in Baba Yaga's body, offers to help Nadya if Nadya can promise to call off the big wedding hunt the tsar has planned.

Zima must unite the forest witch, the wolves, and the people of the villages to bring light and happiness back to the land.

This is a very cute story that is easy to read and full of fairy tale magic. It is perfect for middle grade readers, but can be enjoyed by high school age, as well as adults who just need a touch of whimsy in their day. I enjoyed the magical feel of this book, the bit of nostalgia it brings to known fairy tales, and the way it provides its own new fairy tale to tell.
Profile Image for Beth Cato.
Author 108 books488 followers
October 11, 2020
I received this as an advance copy via NetGalley.

A Wolf for a Spell spins Russian folklore around Baba Yaga into a fun new middle grade book. It follows a number of strong characters: Zima, a young wolf desperate for respect from her pack; Nadya, a young orphan who is sad her dear friend is marrying the tsar and yearns for a family of her own; and Baba Yaga, the magic-wielding old woman who is trying to save the woods before all is lost.

Zima strikes a deal the Baba Yaga, and the two end up switching bodies. Nadya goes to find Baba Yaga for help, and ends up working with the changed-wolf to confront the tsar and save the woods.

This is a tale with lots of twists and turns. I found it pretty fun, though the number of names left me confused at times. The tsar also came across as a very one-note bad guy; I wish he’d had more nuance. Still, a fun read, and a good way to introduce kids to Baba Yaga and her delightful chicken-footed house.
Profile Image for Sherry.
612 reviews64 followers
April 24, 2022
Charming little book that managed to balance 3 povs which kept a nice little tension simmering until all the threads come together nicely. Lovely message about caring for nature, for others and for self. Also Baba Yaga’s hut has chicken legs that make the hut move. I really want one of those!
Profile Image for Danielle.
Author 2 books223 followers
March 1, 2022
"Of all the evils in the world, the greatest was the temptation of the easy path over the right one." (p.230).

"Was this how humans acted all the time? Zima tried to imagine a world where she only did things for others when they gave her something, and we're she was only worried about what was best for herself instead of her pack. It left a foul taste on her tongue." (p.101)
Profile Image for KTReads.
189 reviews12 followers
February 1, 2021
This was a lot of fun! I really loved the folklore and Russian mythology incorporated in the story and I think that was my favorite part. I loved the atmosphere and I think that having an animal as a main character was really interesting. My main problem was following the plot. The plot took a while to kick off and be clear and once it got going it was a bit hard to follow. I also thought that because two of the characters switched bodies at some point in this book it was hard to determine who was who. There is a difference at the beginning of the chapters but because they are referred to as who they are and not their body I got confused a lot.
Profile Image for The BookSnom.
89 reviews15 followers
December 4, 2020
I am not a big reader of middle grade, but I decided to give this one a try mostly because it’s a retelling of Baba Yaga, a character from Slavic folklore. For those who don’t know me, I come from Romania, which is between a bunch of East European Slavic countries so we do share part of those myths and legends.

I haven’t grown up with stories of Baba Yaga, mostly because my Grandma had her own original stories, that she knew from her grandma and so on. But this book made me go back to those cold winters when I would sneak with my little brother in her room and she will start telling us fantastic stories half asleep after a day of hard work.

The characters are completely amazing and well written, I enjoyed, in particular, Zima’s POV in Baba Yaga’s body and that somehow it gave me exactly the feeling of a wolf experiencing the human world for the first time.

Baba Yaga personifies here one of my favorite tropes, the morally grey character, who’s done some bad, looking to fix it, and you are not sure if you should root from them or not.

I do really have trouble finding any kind of faults to this story, while I had a hard time at the beginning with Zima’s POV, and the fact that you are thrown right into it doesn’t help a bit after I got used to it the story had an amazing flow.

I honesty was caught up completely, this book has that timeless placeless feeling that fairytales usually have. It does also has a very straightforward plot common to the genre, where the good always triumphs at the end. This was not a problem for me, as I expected it, and is honestly part of the charm with fairytales.

In the end, this was a very enjoyable read, and will probably recommend this in the future to middle-grade kids and adults alike.
Profile Image for hannah ♡.
237 reviews43 followers
February 11, 2022
i adore books that feel like cozy fairytales. this book brought me back to the type of joy i got when in fifth grade reading books with a flashlight under my covers <3 and as someone with slavic heritage, it was so nice to read a story that connected me to that!! if you really enjoy the winternight trilogy by katherine arden, this is another good pick for you!!
Profile Image for Paige Marie.
538 reviews18 followers
January 6, 2021
This book was amazing from start to finish. The illustrations were so beautiful! A favorite so far this year!! Highly recommend!!
Profile Image for Heather - hturningpages.
382 reviews94 followers
January 30, 2021
Rating: 4/5 grumpy ravens

Format: E-book/Audiobook. I’d like to thank Karah Sutton and Random House Children’s for a copy of the ebook in exchange for an honest review! I went back and forth with the ebook and audiobook while reading.

To sum up:
In this is a reimagining of Baba Yaga, a wolf makes an unlikely bargain with the witch to save her brother. This bargain has a price, however, which requires the wolf, Zima, and Baba Yaga to switch physical forms temporarily. This leaves Zima in a position she never thought she would find herself in, but she quickly becomes involved in a quest to save her pack and to save the forest she lives in. Woven through this tale, Baba Yaga attempts to fix an old mistake, and protect a boy that saved her in the forest. Lastly, this is also the tale of a young girl in the village, Nadya, who just wants to run away from the orphanage she grew up in, but her best friend Katarina, and the Tsar’s betrothed, has promised her a place in the palace if she can behave herself (easier said than done!). When Katarina falls ill before her wedding, Nadya is determined to figure out what has happened to her friend and nurse her back to health. These stories are woven together so that by the end, all of them will be needed in order to save Baba Yaga’s magic and to restore peace between the forest and humankind.

This was such a sweet and whimsical story. The POVs were rich, funny, and unique, and the way that they all became woven together in the plot was beautiful! I loved how the story unfolded and how the characters came together. The setting was also richly detailed and beautifully rendered. I felt like I was being told this tale at a fireside as snow fell outside! Lastly, I loved the themes in this book, the search for belonging, standing up for your sense of home and family, new unlikely friendships, and confronting old prejudices and fear.

Overall, I thought this was a really sweet and engaging tale! I think all ages would enjoy this one (MG-adult) and it would be a fun one to read as a family.
Profile Image for DeAnne.
647 reviews15 followers
December 7, 2020
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

While I knew a little about Baba Yaga and some of her attributes, I have never really read a story involving her and I'm so glad this was my first. We follow a few different perspectives in this story with Baba Yaga being one of them, the others being Zima (a wolf) and Nadya (a young girl). At the surface this could certainly be framed as a fairy tale, but I felt it went much deeper than that. The three characters we follow as well as other characters go through transformations. There's a lot of narrative about not taking things at face value and forming their own opinions/decisions. There's also a lot about learning to face your fears or rise above fear when you feel it.

I absolutely flew through this story and was engrossed the entire time I was reading it. I did not want to put it down since I was so absorbed. The style of writing was easy to read and just kept me hooked the whole time.
Profile Image for Jess d'Artagnan.
311 reviews15 followers
February 18, 2021
This book read like a classic fairy tale in that the characters were a bit surface level and the main purpose of the story seemed to be to teach important lessons about life. It was definitely plot-driven and the story built nicely to an exciting resolution at the end. The prose was lovely and also very reminiscent of a classic fairy tale. I loved the magic and whimsy of the forest setting and baba yaga's hut was just perfection. This was well worth reading and the illustrations are gorgeous.
Profile Image for Mags.
49 reviews1 follower
December 31, 2022
Now we’re talking, baby. Wolves, Baba Yaga, tsars, dangerous forest, epic weird little girls. This is very good stuff. I will say the writing is somewhat more neutral in tone even for a children’s book, but not overall detrimental to the reading experience. Illustrations are gorgeous and the story is uplifting but not unrealistically so (as much as fantasy can be realistic).
Profile Image for Elley Murray.
1,073 reviews138 followers
November 27, 2020
This book is AMAZING. I was a little leery about reading a middle grade book (at the ripe old age of 35...), but I adore Baba Yaga and when I read the back cover blurb I knew I needed to read this book. I can't believe this is Karah Sutton's debut novel!! This intriguing, magical story of a wolf, a girl, and and a witch is written for middle grade readers, and is so well told and that it's enjoyable for audiences of all ages.

Told in the limited third-person past tense, A Wolf For A Spell alternates between the point of view of Zima (a young female wolf), Nadya (a young orphan girl), and Baba Yaga (a notorious witch, whom you may have heard of...). The threads of their stories are so intricately woven to create a beautiful tapestry of a tale that is, at heart, about finding the courage within yourself.

If this is what Karah Sutton brings to the table for her debut, I can't wait to see what she writes next! This is definitely a debut author to watch.

A digital ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review. All opinions are unbiased and my own.

Like this review?
Check out more of my reviews on my blog, Elley the Book Otter

Profile Image for Dir Mud 9999.
132 reviews4 followers
August 15, 2022
I love how the adventure in this book went on. From the start, it was difficult for me to get this book out of my hands. This is a magical story portrayed by beautiful characters.
The story was told in three points of view, Nadia the orphanage girl, Zima the wolf and Baba Yaga the witch, each of the three main characters have an ambition to save what most essential thing in their life, but in the end, they would be in a same purpose and got tighted together in against a vicious tsar (king).
Reading this book was making me imagining all the element of the story very well, especially when Zima and Baba yaga bodytransformed for a trade exchange, It was a moment needed a bit focus stritcly, so I could see who talking was.
It is true that throughout this story i literally could've felt the atmosphere of both "The Girl Who Drank the Moon" and "Pax" story, so if you are the fan of that stories both, then give a shot for this amazing story as well.

Instagram : @edirbooks
Profile Image for Sylwia.
1,133 reviews27 followers
January 9, 2022
DNF at Chapter 6. I wanted to love this but something is missing for me. I might need to give it another try in a different mood with the ebook.
Profile Image for Dana.
416 reviews
October 13, 2022
A simple book, but very sweet story and characters.
Profile Image for Nannette McMurtry.
163 reviews6 followers
June 21, 2022
I wish I had waited until winter to read this story of magic and hope. It’s such a simple fable weaving together many folk tales and would be so powerful with a warm cup of tea or cocoa alongside it (and simple is a compliment here). Recommend for fantasy lovers and also people who appreciate a good bedtime story, that’s what this feels like most of all!
Profile Image for Sam Sigelakis-Minski.
677 reviews35 followers
July 23, 2020
See full review on my blog, Sam's Beach Reads.

I was so excited to receive this ARC from Netgalley and Random House Children’s because it has so many things that I love: Russian mythology, an animal narrator, and a spooky forest. One of my favorite ARCS I’ve ever gotten from Netgalley was Bear and the Nightingale, a YA historical fantasy based in Russia. A Wolf for a Spell is even more exciting to me to a certain extent (despite my lack of experience with middle grade books), because of Baba Yaga!!

What I Loved:

The Split Narrative. Normally, I am not a fan of split narrative. It distracts the reader, gets confusing, and often, writers use it as a tool to have the reader be omniscient. It also usually results in weird time gaps that make no sense, so the reader has no idea how far along in the story they are. In Wolf for a Spell, Sutton does a really good job of showing instead of telling. Nadya, Zima, and Baba Yaga all have a role in a larger plot, and each of them is equally important. The satisfying conclusion could not have happened if not for each of these strong female characters doing exactly what they did when they did it.

Strong Female Characters. Without being redundant, I think that Zima, Baba Yaga, and Nadya each deserve a call out for being really well-written, flawed but relatable. Zima is a wolf who has the wellbeing of her pack at the forefront, who is willing to risk losing herself to Baba Yaga to save her brother, and who can recognize that humans are not the ultimate enemy. Baba Yaga wants to save the forest at all costs, but learns that she hasn’t been listening to the forest’s needs until she meets other people. And Nadya is a brave little girl who saves her friend and the forest, and does so despite being neglected. I also love her goal of learning the forest in and out.

The Worldbuild. Sutton sets the stage for the reader to enter medieval Russia, a cold place where tsars are made through bloodshed and the forests seem all consuming. The snowstorms are fierce, the people are gritty, and things can kill you quite easily. However, Sutton also keeps it light in that these things are shown, without the characters being adversely affected by it (no one dies in the snow, or gets eaten by wolves in-page). This strikes a good balance for a middle grade book, so the reader can get the ambiance without being scarred for life.

What Didn’t Work as Well:

The Pacing. This is a minor problem, since I think overall Wolf for a Spell was paced well, but I did think that the beginning to middle of the book flew by, while the last half was slower. For me, it was fine, but for a younger reader, it may make more sense to space the action sequences further apart to keep interest engaged. I would have also made each section a little longer so the reader gets to spend time with each character more.

That is really it as far as negatives go. I am unused to reviewing middle grade books, but from the perspective of a younger reader, this hits all the right notes.

Bottom Line:

I would buy this for my niece in a heartbeat if she was old enough. Wolf for a Spell is a great way to introduce younger readers to Russian mythology and a kid-friendly way to bring in Baba Yaga, who has a bit of an infamous legacy in Russian canon. I loved the animal narrator, since it teaches children empathy for other creatures, and also has some good lessons about the environment and nature. Bonus, it comes with some gorgeous illustrations.

Favorite quote:

I am the forest. It flows through me. And now, I will flow through it.
Profile Image for Heather.
319 reviews287 followers
February 19, 2021
I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

A Wolf for a Spell

3.5 stars

What I like

This story was a truly wonderful fairytale read that is great for all ages. This reads more middle grade than YA, but that didn't stop me from enjoying it. I thought this book grazed some important and inspiring topics while also crafting a mildly dark and unique fairytale. This book was easy to read and easy to enjoy.

What I did not like

There is nothing in particular that I didn't like about this book. Not specifically. It was enjoyable but there was nothing truly fascinating about it.

In Conclusion

A fun easy fairytale that I would recommend especially for middle grade or even for children who are not easily frightened by stories that take place in the dark woods at night.
Profile Image for Sasha .
292 reviews285 followers
May 17, 2021
I mean you have Baba Yaga, so obviously Russian Folklore, you have a wolf and a retelling of Ivan Tsarevitch and the Firebird and the Gray Wolf... what do you want more???
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