For the first review of 2021, I thought I’d start with the first book I finished in 2021: The Wolf and the Water by Josie Jaffrey. Having read and loved May Day by the same author, I was thrilled to receive an arc of this book. Where May Day was an urban fantasy, The Wolf and the Water is the first in a young adult historical fantasy series, described on Jaffrey’s website as follows:
In the ancient Mediterranean, those who control civilisation’s secrets are rewarded with power and wealth. But some secrets are too monumental to stay buried for long. From Atlantis to Egypt, Deluge follows a series of characters as they uncover devastating truths hidden in ancient landscapes.
The Wolf and the Water’s blurb reads:
Some secrets are worth killing for.
The ancient city of Kepos sits in an isolated valley, cut off from the outside world by a towering wall. Behind it, the souls of the dead clamour for release. Or so the priesthood says.
Kala has never had any reason to doubt their word – until her father dies in suspicious circumstances that implicate the city’s high priest. She’s determined to investigate, but she has a more immediate problem: the laws of the city require her mother to remarry straight away.
Kala’s new stepfather is a monster, but his son Leon is something altogether more dangerous: kind.
With her family fractured and the investigation putting her life in danger, the last thing Kala needs is romance. She would rather ignore Leon entirely, however difficult he makes it. But when she learns the truth of what really clamours behind the wall at the end of the valley, she faces a choice: share what she knows and jeopardise her escape, or abandon him to his fate along with the rest of the city.
If she doesn’t move fast, then no one will make it out of the valley alive.
From the very beginning, it is clear that this book is set in an ancient Greek inspired world, from the ten ruling families, possibly an allusion to the 10 tribes of Athens, to the names of these families and their gods. However, I felt it leant much further towards fantasy than historical and I was unaware until researching it for this review that it was supposed to be set in the Ancient Mediterranean rather than an imaginary world. I think my feelings towards this book can be summed up as: it was a good YA fantasy, but left me slightly disappointed after how much I loved May Day.
I don’t know if I read this in the wrong frame of mind, or maybe it’s just not my thing, but I was never really drawn into the story, instead spectating from the side-lines with mild interest. I liked Kala, the main character, who is shunned by many for her ‘curse’ (physical disability), she is fun and rebellious and determined, but overall, I found her unremarkable and I would have enjoyed more development of her relationship with Melissa, or any of the characters really. I found that the pacing was off for me, with very few moments of true action and suspense which were over far too soon. I grew more invested as the book neared its end, but more build-up would have raised the stakes as a lot of the book felt like side plots while we waited for something important to happen despite the obvious significance of some of the events. The descriptions felt off at times, overly simple, unnatural from the character’s mouth or cliché, but they conveyed what they meant clearly enough.
I enjoyed reading The Wolf and the Water and I think the series has the potential to become something interesting, so I probably will read the sequel when it comes out. I love books set in the ancient world, or inspired by it, so I’m interested to see Jaffrey’s take on other civilisations of the Mediterranean, however I’m hoping for a more subtlety and build-up as the series continues, perhaps with more detailed descriptions.
I hope you have found a little time to read and relax recently, and I’m wishing you all health and happiness as February rapidly approaches! As always, I’d love to hear from you so click here for my contact page or check out one of my social media linked below.