Wolf Road is the debut literary thriller from editor Beth Lewis, published by The Borough Press, Harper Collins.
I sat up high, oak branch 'tween my knees, and watched the tattooed man stride about in the snow. Pictures all over his face, no skin left no more, just ink and blood. Looking for me he was. Always looking for me. He left red drops in the white, fallen from his fish knife. Not fish blood though. Man blood. Boy blood.
Since the bombs were dropped and the war was lost by both sides, the world has been forced to change. The clock's turned back and an unforgiving nature once again rules peoples lives. Left alone and homeless after a violent storm, a seven year-old girl stumbles across a hut in the woods. Driven by hunger she creeps up on the home and steals some meet from where it hangs to dry outside. As an alarm rings she is instantly caught by a beast of a man, his face covered in tattoos. At first she fears for her life but soon she realises the man is welcoming her into his home. He even gives her a name, Elka. With his own brand of tough love he teaches her to hunt, to cook, to survive and knowing nothing else, she comes to think of the man she knows as Trapper as her father.
What she doesn't know is Trapper is a wanted man called Kreagar Hallet but that's only the beginning of the secrets she it forced to uncover, some of which are buried deep within herself. It's time for her to run but how long can she hide from the hunter that taught her everything she knows?
After only a handful of pages I'd already formed two pretty strong opinions on Wolf Road. 1) What and incredible setting 2) Elka is a kick ass lead. No, I'm not articulate but I'm happy to report I am at least accurate!
Elka's world starts off feeling historical but the novel is sprinkled with references to the time before what is referred to as the 'Damn Stupid.' There are no real details and this makes it all the more intriguing as Elka mentions bombs, destroyed habitats and poisoned waters. The harsh environment, the violent weather and wild animals all add to the incredible claustrophobia you feel as Elka tries to escape Kreagar.
Another reason I adored this novel is the women. Elka heads up the pack, she's feisty, strong, opinionated and outspoken. It's nice to be able to say that strong female leads aren't as unusual as they once were but every single one of the women in Wolf Road is superb. From a Magistrate to a pimp, without being a book strictly aimed at female readers, it's women of various ages that are at the heart of this novel and I found that wonderfully refreshing.
But what about Trapper / Kreager? Well he starts as a simple character, a loner, a hunter, possibly a man missing friendship. Although he's a main character he only really explodes onto the pages at the beginning and the end of this novel. Instead he's a ghost that follows Elka through the tale, making him feel all the more threatening. You know he's there with her for every step of her journey, waiting for the perfect moment to rear his ugly head.
Overall I adored Wolf Road. Dark, claustrophobic and beautifully written, this ticked all my boxes. The captivating descriptions of landscapes and settings make it easy to imagine on the big screen (Tom Hardy as Trapped please!) and I can very much see it heading that way. Beth Lewis has given us an incredible debut with Wolf Road and I can't wait for more!
Buy your copy of Wolf Road by Beth Lewis from Amazon here.