Title: Once There Were Wolves
Author: Charlotte McConaghy
Published: August 3rd 2021
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Crime, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
From the author of the international bestseller Migrations comes a pulse-pounding new novel set in the wild Scottish Highlands
Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team tasked with reintroducing fourteen grey wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but a broken Aggie, too. However, Inti is not the woman she once was, and may be in need of rewilding herself.
Despite fierce opposition from the locals, Inti’s wolves surprise everyone by thriving, and she begins to let her guard down, even opening up to the possibility of love. But when a local farmer is found dead, Inti knows where the town will lay blame. Unable to accept her wolves could be responsible, she makes a reckless decision to protect them, testing every instinct she has.
But if her wolves didn’t make the kill, then who did? And what will she do when the man she’s been seeing becomes the main suspect?
Propulsive and spellbinding, Once There Were Wolves is the unforgettable tale of a woman desperate to save the creatures she loves. Part thriller, part redemptive love story, Charlotte McConaghy’s profoundly affecting novel will stay with you forever.
‘This project isn’t going to work if I can’t create distance between the wolves and me. I can’t get lost in them, or I won’t survive. The world is a dangerous place for wolves. Most of them will be dead soon.’
A sonnet to the natural world, with special attention to the environment, climate change and ecological regeneration, Once There Were Wolves is the powerful second release from emotive novelist Charlotte McConaghy. Thoughtful, moving, raw and quietly assured, Once There Were Wolves is a story that will encourage you to look at the world a little differently after experiencing this profound tale.
Once There Were Wolves closely follows a brave and strong sprit named Inti Flynn, who comes with her twin sister to the Scottish Highlands on a unique mission to assimilate fourteen wolves into the Highlands. Inti is on a mission both on a personal and professional front. Inti hopes to achieve success by reintegrating a group of wolves into the struggling Scottish landscape, but also help her traumatised sister to heal. But Inti realises that she is also in need of self care as she struggles to help both her sister and the wolves. Inti faces great opposition from the local Scottish community where the wolves are to be introduced, but she takes this in her stride and eventually the locals acknowledge that the wolves are helping the local area. But as soon as Inti lets her guard down a terrible incident occurs involving the death of a farmer from the local area. Inti goes into damage control, knowing that the blame will be immediately cast on the wolves, so she makes a rash decision that will have far reaching consequences. But Inti is faced with a difficult conundrum, were the wolves really responsible for this death and if it wasn’t them, who is the killer? Once There Were Wolves offers the reader a glimpse into the personal agony that goes with trying to save and protect those you care for deeply.
Charlotte McConaghy has really carved out a niche for herself in the publishing scene thanks to her previous book Migrations and this current release, Once There Were Wolves, which places the focus on environmental activism in fiction. McConaghy’s second novel sings with appreciation for the natural world and the need to protect our planet’s unique fauna at all costs. With a focus on the rewilding efforts of one passionate biologist, Inti Flynn, the opportunity to save the Scottish Highlands ecosystem thanks to a pack of reintroduced wolves is a very interesting starting point.
Inti Flynn is a fascinating and complex central protagonist. I enjoyed following Inti’s highly original story arc. Strong, brave, unforgiving, distrustful and determined, Inti experiences a great deal of turmoil over the course of this this story. With sequences in the present, along with flashbacks to Inti’s difficult past, we get a good feel for this character thanks to McConaghy’s expressive tone of writing. Likewise, we are privy to the hardship faced by Inti’s twin sister as this book gradually unveils the past backstories of this family. The strong bond between the sisters remains at its peak for the duration of the book and I was moved by the unconditional support, as well as unbreakable bond these sisters shared.
For me, the highlight of the story were the wolves. Although I admit to being quite afraid of wolves, I found the whole concept of rewilding a group of North American wolves into the Scottish Highlands for environmental purposes to be a fascinating project. I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the environment, activism and the unique traits of wolves thanks to McConaghy’s informed sequences. I also found great value in the deep bond that formed between Inti and her animal brood. This area of the novel definitely made me think more about wolves and their valuable place in the natural world.
There is much more to this novel than I first expected and to be honest, it caught me by surprise. Despite the fact that Once There Were Wolves sits in at just under three-hundred-pages, McConaghy includes a number of hard-hitting themes from trauma, domestic violence, relationships, family bonds, sisterhood, secrets, murder, mystery, destruction, blame, community relations, gossip, assumptions and romance. Once There Were Wolves travels to a very dramatic and affective close, leaving a haunting final impression on the reader.
A story that strays towards the importance of protection, humanity, the value of the animal world and the environment, Once There Were Wolves is a tale that will transfix the reader from cover to cover.
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy was published on 3rd August 2021 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Once There Were Wolves, Charlotte McConaghy, visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Once There Were Wolves is book #75 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge