Elodie Harper’s historical fiction debut The Wolf Den is a rare look into the lives of women living in bondage in the city of Pompeii just years before the monumental eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
Harper takes readers on a journey into the heart of the Roman Empire’s Pompeii from the perspective of Amara. Amara, a Greek woman sold into sexual slavery, once lived a life of prestige and certainty, until the man who provided for her (her father) died. Now, Amara is forced to live as a prostitute at the behest of a conniving and unsympathetic master. Amara though, and we soon discover many of the other women, are not as servile as their male oppressors would hope. With her friends by her side, Amara aims to be free again one day, and readers join her as she battles both internal and external hurdles to that freedom.
Throughout the novel, Harper does nothing less than exalt women: their strength, the numerous obstacles they have had to overcome throughout history, and their bravery in the face of these struggles. There is not one point in the novel where womanhood, or the role of a female character is portrayed as anything less than powerful and capable. Never are women subjugated, fearful creatures in any way that diminishes their bodies, self-respect, or strength. Harper does a uniquely superb job in valorizing the women portrayed in The Wolf Den while also perfectly capturing the complicated nature of trauma, self-sacrifice, and independence. The story of these women’s lives is not romanticized in any way, but instead they are portrayed with dignity, a sense of humanity, and a voice that has been stripped away from them for centuries.
A truly compelling novel, it will be hard to put The Wolf Den down once you start. Harper’s plot, protagonist, worldbuilding, and prose are all of the highest quality and well worth the investment of all 400+ pages.
Previously published in the UK, The Wolf Den will make its US debut on March 29, 2022. Preorder a copy from your local independent bookstore today.
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FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.