Elka hasn’t had much luck in her life. Between the nightmare of the thunderheads that keep her awake at night, and the raging memories behind the locked doors in her memory, she can count the people she’s cared for on a single hand.
Trapper, a man who found her in the woods when she was seven and raised her as his own. A man who showed her everything he knew about how to survive. Who taught her how to skin and smoke just about every kind of animal. A man who, later, she finds out, is wanted for the murder of several women.
Missy, a woman in the woods–a flicker of a memory–who bandaged her hand after it got burned.
And Penelope, a lace-wearing blonde from the South, where the events of the Damn Stupid have turned Boston into a sweltering tropic.
Elka lives in a world deeply scarred by the generations of the past, where nukes erroneously landed in the far north, near “BeeCee,” irreparably changing the world’s climate and reducing society back to its very basics. As such, The Wolf Road is peppered with all the elements of a classic Western, but in the undercurrent is a world of sneakers and fashion magazines: steampunk without the steam.
Beth Lewis throws us heart-deep into this dangerous and cynical world with a sharp, powerful first-person narrative. Elka’s voice is raw and uncensored. In her eyes we see the mirror-clear reality of the human soul: sometimes ugly and unforgivable, sometimes tragic and beautiful. One of the most beautiful things about Elka is she is not written as flawed–she is written as human, and that’s one of the things that endeared me so greatly to this book.
The story itself is an undulating mass of heartbreak, tempered only by stunning moments of redemption. Unlike a lot of grit fantasy out there, Beth Lewis uses a masterful hand to guide the reader through. I trusted the author, fell into the darkness, and finished the book changed in some small way.
Of course, as with any book, there are the subjective things. I did not find some of the stuff Elka knew about to be congruous with her illiterate, woodland upbringing, but I also see how it would be hard to introduce this visceral world of ruin without some of it. I had my doubts about the animal companion ‘Wolf,’ at times it starting to make the beautiful analogy of wolves in the wood (which teetered on the edge of a Little Red Riding Hood allusion) a little too literal, but in the end, Lewis wins me over here as well.
All in all, a masterful debut from a writer I am eager to see more from.
NetGalley furnished a copy of The Wolf Road in exchange for my honest review.
This book will release on July 5th in hardcover. Pre-order it on Amazon here.