Wrath Becomes Her by Aden Polydoros is like a punch to the gut. And it keeps punching you as you read. But the writing is so brilliant and the main character Vera is so easy to connect to that you can’t stop reading. You don’t want to stop.
This book is brutal. It takes place in Germany in WWII. It kind of has to be. It holds nothing back and that’s what makes it such an amazing story.
The story revolves around Vera. She is a golem, created of clay and steel rods and brought to life by the Hebrew on her forehead and all along her body. She was created by Ezra.
When Ezra finds out his daughter, Chaya, has been killed by the NaziS, he is set on revenge and Vera literally embodies those feelings. To make Vera, he used Chaya’s eyes and hair. It’s these parts that give Vera some of Chaya’s memories.
Wrath Becomes Her is a brutal but life-affirming read
But one day, Ezra does not come back to the hayloft where they live together. Worried that something happened to him, she goes searching only to come upon Akiva. Akiva knew Chaya before she died. He was the one who brought her body back to her father.
When he first sees Vera, he thinks it’s a dream. Vera looks exactly like Chaya, but he soon figures out what Vera is. And as Akiva is set on revenge himself and is running from death by charging right at it, he joins her and they go on a journey of survival and killing Nazis.
Through this journey, Vera questions herself. Who she is, if she’s human, if she’s a monster, and what it means to be either of those things. When she sees the destruction and brutality of humans, she’s not sure she wants to be like them.
I loved this book and that feels like a difficult thing to say because I cried or felt sick for most of it. I find it hard to read any books about the Holocaust. I’m Jewish, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. I often stay away from them. But when I first read the synopsis for this book, I knew I would make an exception. It sounded too good to not read.
Luckily, there are little moments of light in between Vera seeing how cruel the world she lives in is. Laughter and light can be found in even the worst places.
Vera is the perfect character to take this journey with. Aden Polydoros wrote her expertly. Mixing Vera’s personality with Chaya’s memories and emotions and the almost nonstop fight to survive or ensure her friends survive… it’s not an easy thing to write and do it right, but Polydoros absolutely did.
The connection between Vera and Akiva is also so beautiful. They start off as reluctant allies and then slowly become each other’s lifeline. I don’t know if I will ever forget these two characters.
I also learned a lot about golems that I had no idea about and that was incredibly interesting. And I greatly appreciated the amount of Hebrew and Yiddish in the book. I don’t speak the former, but I never get tired of seeing it outside of a synagogue or religious setting.
If you love historical fantasy, are looking for more Jewish fantasy, are a fan of Aden Polydoros, or simply want to read an extraordinarily well-written book that is both depressing and life-affirming (I know some of you do!), please read Wrath Becomes Her. It’s a tough read, but you won’t regret it.
Wrath Becomes Her is available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats.