Wednesday 30 August 2023

NEW RELEASE: In the Shadow of the Wolf Queen

Published by: Hachette, 31st August 2023

Anything that Kiran Millwood Hargrave writes goes straight onto our TBR pile and so, when the opportunity to review the first in her new fantasy series came up via NetGalley, I couldn't resist. Following on from The Girl of Ink and Stars and The Way Past Winter, this is a fantasy adventure centred around a journey through unknown lands...

Ysolda lives in a forest that borders the Wolf Queen's territory - a tyrannical ruler whose reputation precedes her. But when the safe haven of the forest is shattered by an earthquake and Ysolda realises the queen's ryders have taken her beloved sister, she sets out on a quest to save her. But nothing is ever that simple! Soon Ysolda finds herself forced to make a deal with the Wolf Queen herself, accompanying her on her quest for a terrifying and unimaginable power.

Packed full of lyrical and beautifully descriptive language, Kiran Millwood Hargrave weaves a captivating story with strong ecological themes, driven by sisterly love.  For the most part, Ysolda is a solo protagonist, comforted by the presence of her loyal sea hawk, Nara, although the power of the earth feels like a character in itself. From mountains to forests to coastal caves and ancient islands, the storytelling feels as timeless as the landscape, each chapter reverberating with a deep, rumbling power which both soothes and disturbs and which leaves an echoing impact long after you've finished reading. 

Aside from Ysolda, however, there's some great characters that give the story its heart and depth; tender Hari, heart-wrenching Sami, the mysterious general, bold and mischievous Eira and Seren, the ruthless Wolf Queen. I loved that we saw the Wolf Queen up close from early on in the novel - a strong, intriguing presence rather than a distant threat who reminded me of a more complex White Witch. Her relationship with the sea wolves, who I absolutely loved, raises a lot of questions about her character, drawing the reader under her spell. Then there's the brutal Thane Boreal, who provides some of the harder-hitting scenes of the novel. This is not an adventure for the faint-hearted!

Kiran Millwood Hargrave builds a lot of suspense and intrigue in this first instalment, setting the tone for the future books in the series. There's some seeding of the geomancer concept and murmurings of an ancient power, with the unspoken promise that the full darkness of this world is still yet to unfold. Then there's the lies Ysolda has spun to stay alive and to ensure her sister's safety. This feels like the beginning of something intoxicating and enthralling...and I am already enchanted. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Hachette for allowing me a review copy. In the Shadow of the Wolf Queen is released tomorrow, August 31st 2023. 

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