Review: Empire of Wild
Updated: Sep 12, 2021
Empire of Wild, by Cherie Dimaline (2019)
This is a really fun and unique YA fantasy/thriller... A fairytale-like story from a writer of the Métis people in Ontario, Canada. (The Métis are "mixed Indigenous-European populations [that] have existed in Ontario since the arrival of fur traders into the northwestern Great Lakes and Ontario in the 1600s.")
Inspired by the traditional Métis mythology of the rogarou (a werewolf-like body-snatcher that roams the woods), this story follows Joan, a Métis woman, as she tries to locate her missing husband Victor, who may have been taken by (or turned into) a rogarou. When she does finally locate him, after a year of searching, he is traveling with a cult-like church group led by a man named Heiser. Victor, now Reverend Wolff, does not recognize her, and has taken on a new name, identity, and even patterns of speech.
It's spooky and chilling, with dark humor, a bit of sex, and lot of suspense. The main characters are all strong, capable women - Joan, her grandmother, mother, and great aunt - plus Joan's charming and eager-to-help nephew. And the ending... pheuw. Surprising, a little heart-breaking, and leaves room for interpretation (but not in an annoying "why didn't you finish this book" kind of way).
But the best part about Empire of Wild is that it is so deeply rooted in the importance of stories themselves - of telling stories to pass them down from generation to generation, keeping the stories, and therefore the culture, alive. I loved learning about the Métis people of Ontario, and about some of their beliefs and legends. I highly recommend this book - especially for those that love creepy stories. Maybe a good one to save for October!
UP NEXT: Raybearer, by Jordan Ifueko