Book Review: The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu

“Obviously, if the Devil could make your life easier than God could, than God just chose not to. Maybe the Devil was the good one.”

Summary

Germany, 1945. In the waning days of World War II, the Nazis have been all but defeated. Uwe Fuchs, never a fighter, feels fortunate to have avoided the front lines as he cared for his widowed mother.

But Uwe’s fortune changes when Hans Sauer, the village bully, recruits him to join a guerilla resistance unit preparing for the arrival of Allied soldiers. At first, Uwe is wary. The war is lost, and rumor has it that Hans is a deserter. But Hans entices him with talk of power, brutality, and their village’s ancestral lore: werewolves.

With some reluctance, Uwe joins up with the pack and soon witnesses their startling transformation. But when the men’s violent rampage against enemy soldiers takes a devastatingly personal turn, Uwe must grapple not only with his role in their evil acts but with his own humanity. Can he reclaim what this group of predatory men has stolen from him?

Or has he been a monster all along?

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My Thoughts

The Wehrwolf was the first thing I read in January. Why did I pick a horror about werewolves in WWII Germany? Because of the cool cover and run time on Audible. I knew I was going to be at the gym for around three hours so it was the perfect fit. I am not one to read anything historical, let alone a historical horror. It was an adventure, I was not ready.

The Wehrwolf might be the strangest thing I have ever encountered. I do not know a lot about werewolves, they are my least favorite “monster.” I know even less about the Germanic lore surrounding werewolves.

Uwe, the main character, has avoided the war by caring for his ailing mother. This has brought some shame. There are rumors Germany is losing the war, there are rumors about what is happening to the Jewish individuals, and there are rumors that allied forces will be at the village any day. Tensions are high and Uwe feels he must do something to protect his family and his home. Not everyone in the village supports the Nazi party, but they worry once Allied forces approach the village they all will face punishment. I liked the insight into what the “average Joe” was thinking or doing during WWII, Uwe gives us just that.

Uwe decides to join the local group of haughty men who claim to be acting to protect the village by hunting down soldiers in the forest. How you may be wondering? By changing into werewolves. Katsu shines in the depth of Germanic lore of werewolves and how the group of men begins to use their power in a way that mimics the tactics used by the Nazi party. The corruption of power is well done as well Katsu leaving the reader to reflect on who is the real monster. Wehrwolf is one of those stories that are well written, but simply not for me as a reader.

I finished Wehrwolf in one session and rated it four stars, it made me feel wildly uncomfortable. Which is fine, because horror pushes the limits for readers. Overall, I was not comfortable with the setting of the story. I don’t see myself continuing to read WW2 historical horror. Personally, I view this time as horror without the need for supernatural elements.

Should you read Wehrwolf?

Wehrwolf is such a strange read it is not for everyone. I will keep reading Katsu’s work, but cannot fully recommend this title.

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