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Pyotra and the Wolf

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For the space of a breath or two, that wolf had entranced her, mesmerised 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.

382 pages, Paperback

First published February 15, 2021

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About the author

Elna Holst

23 books46 followers
Often quirky, always queer, Elna Holst is an unapologetic genre bender who writes anything from lesbian lust and love stories to the odd existentialist horror piece. Find her on Instagram (@elnaholstwrites) or Goodreads (yes, you're right here).

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5 stars
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25 (37%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 44 reviews
Profile Image for Lex Kent.
1,682 reviews8,614 followers
February 18, 2021
This one was a bit of a mixed bag for me. There were parts and concepts that I really liked, and then there were some things I didn’t really care for. I was really excited to read this because the musical tale, Peter and the Wolf, was an important part of my childhood. As a child of the 80’s, my parents imparted on me the importance of vinyl since cassettes had such awful sound. I had an early childhood musical education that taught me things like why the Beatles and Stones were two names everyone knew, and I learned why Stevie Nicks and Debbie Harry were goddesses. While my parents were teaching me this important rock education, I think they realized they needed music that was for children too. That is where Peter and the Wolf came in and I believe it was one of the versions by the Boston Pops Orchestra that my parents got me. The music was incredible, especially on vinyl, and I remember getting so swept up in the fantasy of the story. So to get to read a sapphic version of this tale, that meant so much to me as a kid, well I was really excited. I wish I could say that my expectations met my enjoyment level.

I would have never even thought of someone writing a sapphic version of this tale so I give Holst a lot of credit for that. While this story felt quite different over all, there were a few touches that brought back some memories for me. This book was actually broken up into three parts. The first part was all about Pyotra, the wolf, the small village Pyotra lived in, and the arctic tundra of Siberia. This is where the book really shined for me. The setting was wonderful. I almost had to get up and turn the space heater on since it seemed so deliciously cold. I also loved the relationship between Pyotra and her wolf. I loved watching it evolve and turn into something more. This was a sapphic werewolf tale with a different spin and I was really enjoying it. If there was maybe one or two chapters added to the end of part one, just to tie things up, so the story would end as a novella instead of a full book, I would have loved this and rated it at least 4 stars and probably even higher. The problem I had is when the story changed in part two.

In part two, the story really seemed different. And to be honest, it gets a little weird. If you read my reviews you will know how much I love weird, but this was more like unsettling-weird then different/unique-weird. One of the main issues is we go from being in the POV of two really great and dynamic characters, to being in the POV of a villain and a bunch of secondary characters. For one, some characters actually had 3 different names they could be called, most had at least 2, so I had to stop reading to figure out, or just actually guess, whose head I was in. Anything that stops me from reading, that breaks my flow and makes me backtrack, I very much dislike. I get sucked out of the story and it ruins the whole fantasy of it so it’s a big reading pet peeve of mine. The other big issue is I just didn’t care for any of the secondary characters at all. They all seemed really bland to me, even the duck which was disappointing, so I just wanted to get back to Pyotra and her wolf.

There is a good romance in this book for the most part. Like I mentioned, part one was really great. However, when the romance progresses to just a lot of passionate sex, I started to feel a tad off. I love shifter books, any animal but especially werewolves, but there is a bit of a line to watch between a human having sex with another human, and not an animal. To be clear, I’m not saying this book had animal/human sex, but at times it felt like it went right up to that line and started to put a foot across. I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but instead of the sex scenes always feeling steamy, they felt a tad off as the book went on.

I think in the end this really is the tale of two different books. Part one, is great and just really well written. If the rest of the story had followed in a similar vein, this would have been such a positive and gushing review. The rest of the book just didn’t work for me and I spent more time confused, and bewildered, then I wanted to. Holst really can write, and I give her such props for taking on a retelling of this wonderful tale. I just wish that this would have been a better fit for me. I really wanted to love this.

A copy was given to me for a honest review.
Profile Image for Jude in the Stars.
832 reviews448 followers
February 8, 2021
Elna Holst is a chameleon. She’s like a talented forger (albeit with honest intentions), dressing up her writing in the original author’s. In a couple of strokes, she carried me away into Jane Austen’s world with Lucas , and just as easily I just spent a few days in Siberia with Pyotra and her wolf. The way Holst describes the scenery, the sounds, the lights (or lack thereof, in the constant night), the pervasive cold. That last one in particular, the cold, which only highlights how warm Volk (the wolf) is.

Pyotra and the Wolf is a sapphic retelling of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, one of the musical tales I have listened to most, first as a child, then as a parent. I loved all the ways Holst made the story hers. In her version, Pyotra lives in a remote settlement in Siberia. Since wolves killed her mother and sorrow took her father, it’s been her, her grandfather Boris and her much younger brother Sergei. When she arrives home to find a wolf holding her brother’s neck in their jaw, fury takes over and she gets ready to shoot, only to be inexplicably moved by the wolf’s eyes. The wolf runs away and Pyotra goes after it. She finds out soon enough that this wolf is no ordinary wolf.

I’m late to the Elna Holst party. I read one of her Tinsel and Spruce Needles Romance novellas a couple of years ago, which I enjoyed, but I wasn’t wowed at the time. Since then, and in rather quick succession, I’ve read In the Palm, Lucas and now this latest novel, and Holst is now definitely in my favourite authors’ hall of fame.

Each book I read becomes my new favourite. They’re so brilliant I’m not sure I have the words to explain why. They delight me, they disturb me, they make me feel smart. I wrote in my review for Lucas that it made my brain cells dance with joy and Holst did it again.

Both Pyotra and Volk are delightful characters. Pyotra is a badass, a young woman who won’t let fear dictate her life, especially not when it comes to taking care of and protecting her brother. I loved seeing her character grow, question what she thought she knew about life, family, duty. She’s stubborn and driven in the best way, ultimately. Volk is fascinating for completely different reasons. Who would have thought dual personalities, human and wolf coexisting, could be so sexy? That’s another thing I loved about this book, how sensual and sexual it is.

On a side note, as someone with sensory issues, I’ve been very surprised recently – first in Aurora’s Angel by Emily Noon, now in this book (both about shapeshifters) – to realise that an overdeveloped sense of smell can be sexy, like really really sexy.

When they first meet, Volk is in wolf form and I know this will sound weird but the chemistry is already palpable. There’s a reason Volk was close to Pyotra’s house, and it has everything to do with chemistry. As they get to know each other, the chemistry keeps growing, taking many forms. Volk wants Pyotra in different yet similar ways depending on whether she’s in her human body or in her wolf. Pyotra loves both the wolf and the woman.

While the pace didn’t work as well for me in the last third (approximately) of the story and the thrill wasn’t as high, it picked up again towards the end, bringing the story to a close on an ideal high note.

The ease with which Elna Holst plays with the English language fills me with glee. That she does so while telling compelling stories makes it even more perfect.

ARC provided to Les Rêveur for an honest review.
Profile Image for Menestrella.
211 reviews7 followers
May 20, 2022
Homo homini lupus: when the wolf has more humanity than humans themselves. You'll fall in love with the wolf.

Pyotra, orphan of mother and father, lives alone in the coldest place on earth, Siberia, with her grandfather Boris and little brother Sergej, and her constant anxiety that something could happen to them, leaving her all alone in the world. Her mother died at the fangs of a wolf pack, and her father drowned himself with alcohol as he couldn’t cope with the sorrow. Pyotra’s hate for wolves is something that is now part of herself. The wolves cannot be trusted, the wolves are murderers, the wolves are to be feared. The wolves are all that is considered evil in this part of the world. When one day Pyotra discovers that her brother has disobeyed her and decided to go fish alone, her eyes cannot believe what she’s seeing. A wolf has its fangs around Sergej’s neck. The wolf tried to kill his brother, just like what happened with her mother. A shot had been fired. Pyotra had a mission. Leaving the wounded brother being taken care by their grandfather, she sets on a journey to find and kill the mysterious wolf, who seemed to stare into her soul when they first met.

Pyotra and the Wolf is loosely based on the fairy tale for children Peter and the Wolf by S. Prokofiev, but in reality it couldn’t be different from it, for its moral.

While in Prokofiev’s fairy tale the wolf symbolized Evil and when succumbed and defeated, humanity rejoiced, Elna Holst’ modern fairy tale teaches you that humanity is just a term created by humans in order to separate them from animals. But what if, using our own human vocabulary, there was more humanity in an animal than a human? What if, what they always taught us about Good and Evil was just a story to keep children under control?

The truth is that there’s a bit of Evil and Good in each of us. Sometimes one of the two prevails. Sometimes a sheep is a wolf in disguise and vice versa. Sometimes, what everybody thinks is Evil ends up being worthier of respect that those who always profess their goodness.

A shapeshifter story with the stunning Russian taiga and tundra as background. I marveled at the depiction of the Aurora Borealis and at the gloomy darkness of the day that never rises. The emptiness of sounds of the taiga, the never-ending chase between Pyotra and Volk/Evane. The 50% animal-like and 50% spiritual bond of the two, the mating dance and their steamy encounters: all scents, feelings, desires and 100% pure need. A need to claim/to be claimed. The possessiveness of the: “You are no mine”, “You belong to me” and the consciousness of letting yourself be wanted, be needed, be touched, be saved from yourself.

The whole book is a fabulous journey of discovery, acceptation of the other and acceptation of the duality of the soul. As much as Pyotra lets herself be loved by Volk, at the same time Volk finally reconcile herself with who she is. She’s no monster. Pyotra loves her as Evane as much as she loves her as Volk, the wolf.

I learnt so much reading this book, so many Russian terms that I had no idea what they meant (I had googled them, but I was happy to see that Elna Holst created a glossary of them at the end of the book).

There’s a lot of action in Pyotra and the Wolf. There are also many twists.
Homo homini lupus. The wolf here is not the monster. The monster is human. Humankind with its thirst for power.

But Nature… will always prevail.

I adored Pyotra and Volk characters. Pyotra is so impulsive and stubborn, while Volk is so mysterious and so charismatic and magnetic.

The novel doesn’t have only action packed scenes, but also tender moments, steamy sexy encounters and even funny happenings. I really, really enjoyed it. Plus, the cover is amazing.
Profile Image for Carolyn McBride.
Author 5 books96 followers
February 9, 2021
From reading “In The Hand”, I knew Elna Holst was a talented and skilled author, but I was unprepared for the deft ways she made the legend of Peter and The Wolf her own. Her novel is the first time I’ve read a story set in Siberia, which I found to be a refreshing change. I felt as though I was truly there, out on the snow and ice and under the Aurora Borealis. Holst’s description of the wolves (both “hers” and the attacker) were like word paintings. She’s so good at it, I’d say she’s almost a master at scene-setting.

Pyotra and Volk were fascinating, deep characters that I felt were so well-drawn, I could almost hear them breathing as they travelled across the snowy landscape. Their chemistry was obvious and palpable and grew as the story progressed. (I was less entranced with the secondary characters, but that’s okay. We aren’t supposed to love secondary characters as much.)
The charm of this novel is the way the author brings her characters to life and the way her words hold us tight.

I’m honored to have been given an ARC in exchange for my honest review. I’m thrilled I was able to read this novel. If fairy tale re-tellings are your thing, you definitely want to read this one!
Profile Image for lauraღ.
1,397 reviews58 followers
February 6, 2021
No tale had ever told her she could rely on the generosity of wolves, the eaters of grandmothers and lambs and piglets, the trickers of blue-eyed girls in carmine riding hoods.

But she had a debt to pay, and she would pay it.

2.5 stars. I'm so sad that I didn't enjoy this the way the first half of the book made me think I would. Because it was a really good first half! But unfortunately, the story really fell apart for me in the latter half, there were some storytelling choices that I just personally really dislike, some things that made me ??, and just generally, I didn't get the story that I thought I was getting from the synopsis.

First, the good. Really lovely writing and atmosphere. The little I know about the original story comes from Wikipedia, but I immediately fell in love with the setting, the story and the protagonists. It's rooted in the real world, but like any good retelling, there were glimmers of fairy-tale-esque details. I felt firmly rooted in the Siberian taiga. I flew through those first several chapters. Pyotra's first meeting with Volk, the chase, the push and pull, and kind of back and forth they had as they slowly began to learn about each other? I loved it. I would have adored it if the entire book was about them in the forest, developing a romance and understanding one another.

That isn't to say I dislike the actual plot of the book, which has to do with family and bonds and a rescue mission. What I didn't gel with was how it was told. Starting in Part Two, we began to get a lot of other POVs, and it felt super clumsy and strange, and I just wasn't as interested in those characters as I was in Pyotra and Volk. I rarely enjoy getting the villain's POV in books; letting the reader know everything the villain is doing while the heroes search them out is not a narrative choice I love. And that was what we got here. Not only the villain, but a bunch of secondary characters as well. I feel like if they were going to take up so much of the story, they should have been on page from the beginning, or we should have known of their existence sooner. As it was, it felt so tonally weird, to just have that shifts. I did end up liking a couple of those characters, so it wasn't all bad, but again: they took up so much space and time. A lot of the plot things were a bit muddled and confusing, and it lost me several times. I ended up being too confused to actually enjoy myself. :/

Romance makes up a big part of the story, though idk if this would actually be classified as a romance. Which is a shame; for me, at least. I really liked Pyotra and Volk's relationship, and I have a feeling I'd have enjoyed this more if it was a straight up dark fairy-tale romance. The fast pace of the relationship didn't really bother me (I tend not to mind insta-love in fairy-tale/fantasy settings) and they had some great moments. It did get a little... intense? I can enjoy shifter romances, but abo is my least favourite trope of all time, and while it didn't go there, it didn't not go there? Aha.

Definitely not a bad book; just not quite what I thought it would be, and not totally for me.

☆ Review copy provided via the author. Thank you!
February 25, 2021
A very, very, very, very steamy sapphic retelling of Peter and the Wolf, with an odd second half.

The Good
– Sympathetic lead
– Descriptive, lyrical prose
– Strong opening chapters
– Nenets / Siberian Indigenous rep
– Lots of steamy sex scenes
– Strong characterization
– Strong setting descriptions

The Bad

Lots of reiterating
– Slow first section
– Uneven pacing
– Second half feels completely different from first

(I received an advanced copy of Pyotra and the Wolf in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Elna Holst and NineStar Press for this opportunity!)

Story—★★☆☆☆ (2.5 Stars)
Wolves orphaned Pyotra. First, a pack of wolves killed her mother. Then, her father drank himself to death in his grief, leaving Pyotra to raise her young brother and care for her blind, ageing grandfather alone. When she finds Sergei in the jaws of a wolf, Pyotra decides the wolf must die, even if it saved her brother. A wolf who’s tasted human blood cannot be left alive. So, Pyotra sets out, trailing the strange wolf through frigid weather toward the tundra.

The first few chapters establishing Pyotra’s situation and launching her on the wolf’s trail are rock solid. However, the next section drags. Pyotra and Volk (the wolf), only have fleeting interactions as they travel, and Volk doesn’t talk for most of them, which means we spend a lot of time alone with one or the other and their inner monologue. It’s a lot of thinking about how fantastic the other one smells or how unusual she is. Then they meet, realize Pyotra has left a potential crisis at home, head back, fall in love very fast, and then the plot changes entirely. Now there's a kidnapping and a creepy billionaire. Logically, the complication makes sense, and I enjoyed the upping of the stakes. But the switch from sapphic werewolf sex to an unhinged rich guy and his flaccid member is, uh, jarring.

Pyotra and the Wolf is tonally confusing in this way. Although Holst hits all the right plot beats at the right times, and both the intense romance and the creepy billionaire parts are written well as their own individual elements, the target audience for each does not seem to have much overlap. The person who picks up a steamy sapphic werewolf romance is unlikely to want to a glimpse into Oleg's sad, deranged mind, and vice versa.

My biggest frustration is one that crops up in books the most often: rehashing the obvious. Characters will frequently reflect on a scene or chapter, and well, unless the book in question is a big ol' SFF epic, there's no reason. It does not advance the plot or characters. It devalues the other lines because we do not know which lines are useful to the story, and therefore meaningful to us as readers.

Holst does a top-notch job with the Siberian setting. It's well-established and undeniably Russian. Descriptions for individual settings were also fantastic: Holst's attention to oft-overlooked senses like scent and temperature bring scenes to life.

Characters—★★★★☆ (3.5 Stars)
Pyotra is easy to like from early on: the combination of her hardships, her kindness, and her initiative makes her a sympathetic character who gets things done. (I found her particularly relatable when I read, "[She] had lived with a droning terror at the back of her mind, which she hadn't any better name for than Things Could Happen." Holy shit, that is my primary emotion these days.)

Volk is a solitary wolf who's become something of a wolf-hermit since she lost her wolf-wife. She is unflinching and socially abrasive, someone who longed to be wolf instead of woman, and looked forward to her turning.

Pyotra and Volk have a sort of “instalove” romance. From the start, they each stand out and feel a magnetic draw to the other. Now, instalove romance is a very YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) thing. If you enjoy fast connections in romance, there’s lots of steamy scenes, cuddling, and emotionally intimate moments very early between these two, so you’ll have plenty to enjoy. Volk is rather wolfy for several sexual encounters, which varied these scenes from "wolf gf with extra sharp teeth" hot to "okay, is that a wolf tongue doing that?" uhhh, weird.

Unfortunately, this quick connection means Pyotra sets aside her reservations about wolves early on, and there isn't much conflict or character growth for either Pyotra or Volk. They have a few conversations while travelling, but there are no problems chafing between them, nor internal issues to wrestle with.

I immensely enjoyed how well Holst characterizes Pyotra's cast of characters: every single character, role big or small, feels not only like a real person, but a person I could pick out from a crowd. From Mariya Leonova, the general store owner, to Sergei, Pyotra's little brother, Holst establishes characters quickly and writes each with a distinct sense of self. I found myself protective over happy outcomes for most of the supporting cast after only knowing them briefly.

Writing Style—★★★★☆
Pyotra and the Wolf is written in third person, past tense, with chapters alternating between Pyotra and "The Wolf" for the first half, and incorporating the points of view of multiple supporting characters in the second half.

Holst has really lovely, lyrical prose which, combined with her attention to detail and broad vocabulary, tickles readers' senses and brings a vividness to scenes. The biting snow of the tundra, a lover's muskiness, the smoky air in a cabin come to the reader with ease. My only complaint is that sometimes the loveliness wins over how generally readable a paragraph or two are.

Themes and Representation—★★★★☆ (3.5 Stars)
Pyotra and the Wolf touches on themes of overcoming prejudice and the complications of one unfortunate thing happening so another, better thing can happen.

Pyotra and the Wolf has sapphic (likely specifically lesbian) representation in Pyotra and Volk, gay representation in two supporting characters, and Siberian Indigenous representation (specifically Nenets) in Volk and a supporting character.

Overall—★★★★☆ (3.5 Stars)

Recommended For...
Fans of werewolf girlfriends; fans of steamy romances; fans of mate romances; fans of instalove romance; fans of underrepresented retellings.

>>More book reviews at Feathered Turtle Press<<
Profile Image for Christina.
280 reviews10 followers
February 14, 2021
2 stars. "It was okay." Kind of disappointed, to be frank. The first half of the book lead me to believe this would receive a much higher rating. After that, however, the structure of the book changes and the omniscient narrator begins diving into half a dozen secondary characters who we hadn't met up until that point, and it made the novel feel very disjointed and - I'm sorry to say - uncomfortable and bizarre. I did not enjoy ANY of those points of view and while I understood the chosen direction for our two heroines, I wish the narrator had simply stayed with then.

A queer, sapphic retelling of Peter and the Wolf. 4 stars for the first half of the book. I could have stayed on the tundra with Volk and Pyotra forever. It was so atmospheric and beautiful and I'm so happy I read this when it was snowy outside because it was PERFECT. The Russian words and phrases were gorgeous and completely sucked me into this winter world. I was a huge fan of the Shiver series back in the day, and there were echoes of it in this one - a delight for my inner teenager. I enjoyed the chase, the tug back and forth between them, the best that they brought out of each other.

Then... the story just got kind of weird. Volk and Pyotra have to work together to save Pyotra's brother, which was fine, but we should have just stayed in the village and not gone into the head of any weirdos or random people who don't matter.

Still, 2 stars because I did love that first part.

Thank you NetGalley and NineStar Press for the ARC!
Profile Image for Victoria.
287 reviews39 followers
June 4, 2022
I am not familiar with the original symphonic fairy tale, I have to google it a bit, but even so I could tell this is an excellent sapphic version retelling🥹

I love shape-shifter/human trope, and Pyotra and the Wolf is definitely a unique one, I'm intrigued by the world Elna had built, and I love how she focuses both on the wolf form and the human form; it’s raw but beautifully, I really love it. I was hoping we could have more after the rescue of Pyutra’s brother; I thought the ending was a little rush. But still, I want to read more of Elna's books!
Profile Image for R.J. Sorrento.
Author 4 books37 followers
February 5, 2021
Perfect for a winter read! I felt the Siberian chill in this atmospheric queer retelling of Peter and the Wolf. The plot unfolds slowly and mysteriously as we get to know Pyotra, a young woman who has lost most of her family except for her dear brother and her grandfather. She is surviving as best as she can until she is faced with a wolf, unlike any other she has seen. What follows is a quietly beautiful and sometimes steamy love story with plenty of twists and turns. I really loved Pyotra and Volk’s story as well as a few of the side characters who are introduced later in the story. I highly recommend this for people who enjoy WLW romance, retellings, and mystery.

Thank you to the author for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Look for my Instagram post and blog review as it gets closer to publication date.
Profile Image for Neen Cohen.
Author 31 books40 followers
March 30, 2022
If you love fractured fairytales, explorations of family and the monster under the bed turned on it’s head, I highly recommend this book.

This is a queer retelling of a fairytale I am not familiar with. If I were I’m not sure if my opinion on the book would change.

I loved Pyotra and the Wolf. It pulled me along with such ease and enjoyment. It’s a multiple third person POV story with themes of love, responsibility, family and what equates to strength.

Elna holst has such an incredible way of describing the world of characters, emotions, beauty and horror in epic ways. Pyotra and the Wolf reaffirms why I love her writing so much.

Profile Image for Jordan.
64 reviews4 followers
January 26, 2021
Thank you to the author for sending me this e-arc! This was a fantastic read—a Russian fairytale retelling with lesbian werewolves! The plot was well done and fast paced. The characters were well crafted and interesting. The smut was also very steamy. 10/10 would recommend.
Profile Image for Ariel (ariel_reads).
374 reviews26 followers
January 29, 2021
This was an excellent fairytale-inspired retelling with a prominent queer romance. I loved reading this in winter-- being able to cozy up and read this book while imagining the snowy Siberian landscape was a lovely feeling. The characters feel as though they guide the story; they are each very distinctive and the various narrative tones switch well between each point of view. I wish we had some of Pyotra's brother's perspective prior to the second half of the book, but overall it worked. The plot itself moves along quickly, but the end seems to get a little squished with some new added perspectives that I feel only existed to move the plot along without much further depth. 3.5 rounded up to a 4 stars due to a slight rushed feeling in the second act. Overall, this was a quick and enjoyable read, and I'll definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy fairytale retellings, queer romances, and quick adventure reads. I'll be posting a review of this on my instagram page as the publishing date draws a little closer. Some content notes to be aware of: animal death, on-page details of sex, kidnapping, confinement, violence, blood, and gore. A huge thank you to Netgalley and NineStar Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Princess.
203 reviews48 followers
March 9, 2021
I love it! Unique, sensual, and with a sense of humor. Filled with "a disparate assortment of characters" you can't help but love and root for.

Elna Holst’s retelling of Prokofiev’s classic tale takes the good old trope of enemies to lovers to new heights in this meeting of hunter and hunted, of predator and prey, where the lines between woman and beast first blurs and then blends until the reader is no longer sure where one entity ends and the other begins.

We are introduced to Pyotra–a loyal granddaughter and sister living in a small village in the taiga; and Volk– the mysterious werewolf of the tundra, a fairy tale made real. Two strong women with their own share of vulnerabilities. In a genre populated with “strong” women that borders on questionable morality, it is refreshing to meet two fierce creatures, that are also gentle at heart. I normally don’t go for insta-love but I’m all for seeing the main characters end up with each other. It is such a joy to see this couple work out how a relationship between woman and wolf could work. It was a lot of fun to witness their banter, and their chemistry just sends up hot sparks even in the frozen tundra setting.

Longer version of my review here: https://princessandpages.wordpress.co...
Profile Image for Amy Marsden.
Author 2 books36 followers
January 22, 2021
I received an ARC I'm exchange for an honest review.

This is a sapphic retelling of the Russian fairy tale Peter and the Wolf. I love queer retellings of classic fairy tales, so I was excited when the author contacted me about this!

We follow Pyotra as she hunts down the wolf that attacked her little brother with every intention of shooting it in revenge. Except the wolf didn't attack him, she saved him, and the wolf isn't an ordinary wolf, she's Volk, a werewolf. Pyotra comes to this conclusion over the course of the beginning of the book, and we see their relationship develop as they hurry back to help Pyotra's brother. No spoilers for the rest of the book, but I enjoyed it!

It is well written with likable characters. 4 stars because I found the beginning quite slow, but the pace picks up later on.

This is released in February, check it out!
Profile Image for Angelina.
580 reviews13 followers
January 24, 2021
Rating: 3/5

Pyotra and the Wolf is a Russian inspired queer retelling with a f/f relationship front and center! The beginning of this story is my favorite! It's so atmospheric and the character introduction is so strong!

While shapeshifters and werewolf romances are not usually my favorite thing, Pyotra and the Wolf managed to keep me intrigued with the relationship!

Content Warnings for graphic violence and on the page sex.

The second half of this book is the main reason why I had to lower my rating. Things just got so clunky and jumbled, new perspectives were added that threw me off, and I felt like the ending was a little rushed.

All-in-all, Pyotra and the Wolf managed to surprise me and I think it was a solid romance for me not vibing with the tropes used! If you enjoy sapphic romances and/or shifter romances than give this one a try!!

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
231 reviews4 followers
March 10, 2021
Wow - this was an unexpectedly beautiful, 5-star read for me. Full disclosure: when I sat down to read this ARC, I forgot the reviews I had read previously and I didn't realize it was going to be a human-werewolf love story. When I got to the part where this aspect of the story was made clear, I became worried, since interspecies romance tends to give me the creeps (even the Disney Beauty and the Beast films - yikes!). Elna Holst absolutely proves herself capable of handling this tricky subject matter, however, and the premise of the book holds up.

There are so many things I loved about this book, but I think I can sum it up best by saying that it was thoughtfully and skillfully crafted. The plot didn't take on more than was necessary, and the pacing was perfect, allowing for some twists and turns while also providing space to delve into the characters' inner journeys with nuance and depth. The way the author explored ideas related to consent, self-determination, found families, responsibility, and self-acceptance was all very thought-provoking, and the love story legitimately made me tear up at times. Though the narrative does not explicitly address mental illness, nor am I calling it a strict allegory, the love story models some healthy attitudes that might resonate with people dealing with mental illness or loving a partner with mental illness. After reading this book, I look forward to seeing more from this author in the future - I trust her craftsmanship and I really am impressed by her unique voice!
237 reviews19 followers
February 16, 2021
This book is pure magic and once again Elna Holst has shown that she can weave many spellbinding threads into a tale that is truly enchanting. Saying that Pyotra and the Wolf is based on Prokofiev’s symphonic fairy tale, with ever deeper layers like matryoshka dolls hints at its greatness but doesn't do it justice. The seemingly eternal darkness of the polar midwinter and the Northern Lights, make the barrier between the living and the dead seem thinner in the Taiga than anywhere else.

I have loved everything I have read of Elna Holst's, from her previous full length novel Lucas, (which I have just decided to re-read!), her novellas, the incredibly hot, sweet and surprising "Tinsel & Spruce" series (please write more!), and her insanely sexy and clever erotic short stories. I was itching to read this latest book and it most definitely did not disappoint. Pyotra is resourceful and spirited, looking after her family and refusing to accept her fate as the future wife of a village boy. When her brother is bitten by a wolf, she sets off to hunt and kill it before it attacks again. What follows is an epic trek across the tundra, where Pyotra discovers more about herself, the wolf, Volk of mythology and the greater world around them.

For fear of spoilers, I won't go into any more detail on the plot but there is so much more than a shapeshifter story here. If you have read any of Elna Holst's books you will know that you are in for a treat - I read this a few weeks back and my brain is still singing at the thought of this book. If you haven't read any of her works, I can highly recommend them all! She slides seamlessly from genre to genre and is one of the most talented writers I have come across in a very long time.
Profile Image for Entazis.
143 reviews
February 10, 2021
Pyotra and the Wolf is an interesting take on queer fairy tale retellings and paranormal romance, giving us interesting characters, especially the titular Wolf who is an amazing example of a woman shapeshifter. It’s also a steamy, sensual love story between two women with graphic sex scenes.

The beginning of the Pyotra and the Wolf is a very atmospheric piece of a hunt. This whole part was very interesting, and had some peaceful moments of solitude in the long Siberian nights, with atmospheric descriptions of the wintery landscape. It also had that vagueness typical for fairy tales, where characters don’t really act rational and the world around them has that dreamy quality. Where love can be very fast, very intense.

The dynamics of Pyotra and Volk were also what made the book easy to read, their relationship portrayed from the starting animosity and distrust, to banter and an energetic and fierce love. However, there were parts that were dragging for me personally, mostly because the author kept going back in the narration, showing the same events first from Pyotra’s, then from Volk’s perspective.

While I’m usually a fan of multiple POVs, this was a very jarring decision. You can show what another character feels and thinks without going back in the plot to show that. This sort of a narrative choice slowed down the already slow pace, and at moments it was hard for me to read.

The second part of the novel slips into a different genre, more of a paranormal romance than fairy tale retelling, completely with bringing in the new cast of characters with their POVs, dynamics, backstories and pacing. While I don't mind the genre switch, the tonality and pacing changes and the late introduction of new characters are definitely an issue, and while I find it interesting when authors play with narration, I think this could’ve been a bit more polished and better balanced.

That said, I absolutely enjoyed the romance. Volk is a fantastic werewolf character—constantly encompassing both wolf traits and human, giving us a dangerous but loving woman. The fact that Pyotra is not shown as a vulnerable, weak human compared to her werewolf lover, but instead a woman that can hold down her own, capable and smart, was what made their relationship even more interesting.
Profile Image for Lily Marr.
1 review
February 7, 2021
I received an ARC from the author in exchange for my unbiased review.

Pyotra lives in a remote village at the edge of Siberia. A surprise encounter between the MCs brother and a wolf flips her world upside down.

I want to start off by saying that I LOVE retellings of classical stories but I had never heard of this Russian fairytale before so that prevents me from commenting on the retelling aspect of this story. The writing is creative, the setting description is well established and easy to imagine. I even felt the cold there for a second.

I had a little difficulty getting invested in it from the get-go. However, a few chapters in I had troubles putting it down and the characters grew on me with each page. Elna Holst gives us a great smutty, sapphic story with this one.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a well written mystery, romance.
Profile Image for Audrey S.
322 reviews4 followers
November 20, 2021
Pyotra and the Wolf is a book that made me so very happy with all of the choices that were made! It is a queer retelling of the Russian fairytale ‘Peter & the Wolf’ except very sapphic, and very sexy.

Pyotra lives in an isolated village on the edge of Siberia and from the first page the atmosphere sinks into you and never leaves (Never for a moment do you not feel the cold in your mind, or the sharpness in the air.) One night Pyotra, spots her younger brother being attacked (she thinks) by a wolf. She tends to her brother’s wounds and then follows the wolf out into the wilderness, intending to kill it. However, Volk is an Oboroten (a turnskin) and not just any ordinary wolf, and Pyotra only discovers this when they are alone, out in the middle of the tundra.

Naturally, this is the perfect set up for a close quarters romance - we get the tropes of ‘there’s only one bed’ and warming each other up with body heat. An intense intimacy sparks between the two women in such isolated conditions. And now, for those interested, the smutty scenes are very, very smutty, and very, very sexy - not only that, but they are also beautiful and sapphic and intimate and intense.

I don’t want to spoil the second half of the book, but I just want to say, I loved all of the secondary characters that were introduced. We get an aroace masseuse, a giant of a hitman with a soft heart, and his lover who just so happens to be his sly, fast talking partner. When the story reached it’s climax, I literally wrote down in my notes “Team Queer Assemble!”

I loved every moment of this story and my only qualm was that I wanted more. Wanted more of Pyotra and Volk, wanted more of all the secondary characters, and I wanted more of their world. It was fascinating and beautiful and I will be thinking about this story for a long while to come!

**Thank you NineStar Press LLC and NetGalley for the ARC**
Profile Image for Ellen Jane.
Author 18 books30 followers
February 9, 2021
An atmospheric, intense, and sensual read! Elna Holst delivers a sapphic retelling of the classic tale, Peter and the Wolf, and it truly did feel like reading a fairytale-turned-novel. Without spoiling the story, Pyotra returns home to find a wolf fishing her younger brother out of the ice—to eat or to save, she can’t quite tell. But the wolf’s eyes captivate her, leaving her unable to shoot her rifle. Almost immediately, she regrets this decision, setting out to chase the wolf all the way to the unforgiving landscape of the tundra.

There is an intensity to the two characters and the way they come together that had my sensory-sensitive self falling in love from the start. I don’t read a lot of books about shapeshifters, so I’m not sure if this is an unusual take or just missing in my experience, but there was such a visceral, raw, powerful feel to Volk’s wolf side that I was enthralled just to see the world through her eyes. Wolf and woman mingle together within Volk's character in a stunning and electric combination (add in a dash of dismissing gender roles/norms, and I'm sold!) And Pyotra is such a match for her. Smart, fierce, determined—and still with an emotional and vulnerable side that she doesn’t shy away from. Watching the two women work out where they stood truly felt like watching two wolves slowly circling each other.

I would say what stuck with me most, though, was the atmosphere. The book has a quietness to it in the beginning that starts to rise in tension as the book propels forward, which honestly FELT like a snowstorm. The gentle flurries, the deadened sound, the rising loss of senses mixed with urgency. The atmosphere mimicked it so well, particularly that steady rise in urgency, that I was utterly swept away and engaged in the pull. There are also many beautiful lines throughout. I don’t want to quote too many for spoilers, but this one in particular lingers:

“The human turned its gaze from her neck to her eyes and… Volk lost herself, found herself, lost herself again.”

As the book approaches the second half, the pace quickens remarkably and the atmosphere does switch to one of urgency and unexpected revelations. The stakes rise very quickly in this second half, and the pages fly by.

Overall, this was an engaging and beautiful story that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys werewolves and sapphic retellings with steamy, on-page sex and compelling depth to the main characters. Thank you to the author for kindly providing an e-ARC for an honest review.
Profile Image for Mr Pink Ink.
303 reviews21 followers
March 4, 2021
Thank you to Pride Book Tours & the author for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Pyotra, along with her blind grandfather and baby brother, lives in the Siberian taiga, where wolves are often roaming; since her mother was attacked, and killed,by wolves, Pyotra has never been particularly fond of them. Until, returning from the shops one day, Pyotra sees her little Sergei in the jaws of a big, white wolf.

After reviving her brother and ensuring he was safe again. grabs the family rifle and heads off towards the Northern tundra in search of her wolf, intent on killing it; but then, this was no ordinary wolf...

The setting is what grabbed me from the get go; highly atmospheric, Holst describes the scenery, the sounds, the pervasive cold; pristine landscapes and dazzlingly beautiful auroras abound and delight. Usually, I need a moment or two to adjust to writing styles between books, but I didn't need that here and that is always promising.

I absolutely loved both Pyotra and Volk and I adored the relationship between them, but I did feel something was a little "off" with the dynamic...

And then the second part happened, which is unfortunate; suddenly the author introduces an unlikely series of PoVs from new characters, including gun-toting mafioso's. This part felt very weird and a lot confusing; maybe if the author was able to mesh to two parts into a cohesive whole it may have worked better.

Overall, I mostly enjoyed this book but this just isn't the story for me.
Profile Image for Jessica.
67 reviews1 follower
February 2, 2021
Hello hello to this smutty sapphic werewolf story! Elna Holst brings us a wlw retelling of a classic Russian fairytale. I do not know the original story so I can't comment on that aspect of the book, but I can comment on how much I enjoyed this story. The main character thinks her brother is being attacked by a wolf, but it isn't a wolf, its a shifter, and she isn't attacking. Fun tropes like there only being one bed and it being cold outside work perfectly in this story and lead to some smut. To be clear, this sapphic smut is well done and not gratuitous at all. It is actually a really beautiful story. The book is a relatively quick read, and while it took me a minute to get invested in it and the beginning seemed slow, in the end I wish the book had been longer. Thank you Elna Holst for the e-ARC!
Profile Image for Laetitia Brunell.
50 reviews2 followers
February 17, 2021
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. After Pyotra's brother is bit by a wolf she embarks on a perilous journey into the Siberian wilderness to hunt down and kill the wolf. What follows is a tale of self discovery and adventure. I love queer retellings so was excited to read this. Unfortunately it didn't really work for me, the first half was more what I was expecting, it was very slow and atmospheric and focused on Pyotra and Volk's relationship. The second half is much more of a fast paced action story with mulitple POVs and mustache twirling villains. As a whole I found it a bit disjointed.
Profile Image for Dawn Betts-Green.
582 reviews30 followers
March 8, 2021
This was a really interesting take on Peter and the Wolf. The relationship and sex were both well done, but the ending seemed rushed. I could have done without the part with the brother though. I wanted a whole book just about Pyotra and Evane.
Profile Image for currentlyreadingbynat.
540 reviews35 followers
February 5, 2021
"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."
Nine Star Press

I'll be the first to admit that this is first lesfic novel I've read featuring a romance with shapeshifters and werewolves. Elna Holst contacted me on instagram offering me a copy of the novel and I was intrigued by the queer retelling aspect. I am really glad I branched out of my typical reading choices with this novel, as the world building and romance was beautiful. I really think this novel won me over for those two things alone.

I will admit that the new perspectives in the second half of the novel caused a bit of confusion and the pace of the ending was a little too quick IMO. Regardless, I really enjoyed my time with Pyotra and Volk in the gorgeous setting detailed by the author.

Many thanks to the author for gifting me an ARC. The above review is my honest and unbiased opinion.
Profile Image for Professional Queer Bookworm.
104 reviews1 follower
January 20, 2021
First of all, I'd like to thank the author for letting me read this before everyone else 💖 as anyone who knows me can tell, I have a soft spot for queer retellings of classic stories, and Sergei Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" is such a staple of my childhood (90s kids might remember the animated version) that I was nothing short of excited at the prospect of reading this novel. Combining steamy romance with Russian folklore, Holst delivers us a gripping adventure through the Siberian tundra, where the only source of warmth is the memory of your loved ones. I don't want to give too much away, suffice it to say I finished it in one sitting without even planning to. For all those who are interested, "Pyotra and the Wolf" comes out on February 15th.
Profile Image for Pamela Usai.
224 reviews56 followers
February 22, 2021
Holst really thought : I'm going to take a classic, Russian fairytale but I'm going to retell it with queer characters and a no-holds barred look at femininity. AND GUESS WHAT. THEY DID. THEY THOUGHT THAT AND THEN DID IT.

"Pyotra and the Wolf" is a sapphic retelling of the Russian symphonic classic, "Peter and the Wolf". Pyotra, the titular character, lives in Northern Siberia, and an encounter on the tundra between her brother Sergei and a wandering female wolf suddenly turns her otherwise idle life upside down. Save for the pacing at the beginning, there are three main things I really enjoyed reading this novel.

1) SETTING. I love, love setting, and once Holst established the snow-frosted trees and bitingly cold snowy winds of the Siberian tundra, we never left. Holst then further infuses the Siberian tiaga with the Russian diminutives, phrases, and the rich folklore that is woven throughout the relationships between characters.

2. YES to representation. In addition to a f/f relationship firmly in the spotlight, Holst's novel also features an m/m relationship. Pyotra and Volk's relationship in particular was well-developed - and the SMUT IN THIS NOVEL. That's all I'm going to say...

3. This point is more personal - women are not held to a hyper-idealized standard in this novel. And that includes the navigation of certain bodily functions. I can count on one hand that number of times menstruation has been addressed AND candidly discussed in contemporary fiction. So thank you, Holst, for including an initially awkward but ultimately endearing exchange, where periods are normalized between the fictional couple.

Recommended for the Winternight trilogy meets Hunger Games #vibes.

Thank you to Elna Holst, Nine Star Press, and PrideBookTours for a #gifted copy of this eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Zai M.
125 reviews1 follower
March 20, 2021

Tarot Sized Book Reviews

Did I read this book, or did the main character Pyotra whisper it in my ear? Some books move you with the story and the character's decision but this book was carried by amazing writing and the character. Pyotra is an anxious young woman, traumatized by the early deaths of her parents, and the subsequent responsibility of caring for the eldery and young siblings left behind. She does so without bitterness, but love, for her family. She is not the only powerful perspective taking us on this journey though. There is also the intriguing POV of the wolf Pyotra is hunting. This book is perfect for those who love retellings with a queer twist, shapeshifters, and wintery settings.
Profile Image for Raychel.
204 reviews6 followers
February 1, 2021
I'm not going to rate this one. I skimmed the last 40% to get the plot and understand the story, but overall this one just wasn't personally for me. Because of that, I feel like it would be unfair for me to rate it. I think a lot of people would like it and I really enjoyed the queer Peter and the Wolf retelling aspect. I just didn't expect it to be like...werewolf erotica. Just not for me!
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