STARRED REVIEW
July 30, 2020

Empire of Wild

By Cherie Dimaline
Review by
Canadian writer Cherie Dimaline blends fantasy, monsters and contemporary First Nation struggles in a powerful and inventive novel.
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Canadian writer Cherie Dimaline blends fantasy, monsters and contemporary First Nation struggles in a powerful and inventive novel. Dimaline drew inspiration from stories of the rougarou—a werewolf-like creature that is always on the lookout for misbehaving boys and girls—that she heard about as a child in the Métis community near Canada’s Georgian Bay in Anishinaabe territory.

Set in a small community in rural Ontario, Empire of Wild opens a year after Victor Beausoleil walked out in the middle of a heated argument about land rights with his wife, Joan. Nobody has seen him since, and though Joan’s close-knit family assumes Victor has left the marriage, she is convinced that something is preventing his return. His absence is getting to her when, one hungover morning, she stumbles into a tent revival service set up in a Walmart parking lot and believes she sees Victor there, dressed in a suit and leading the congregation in prayer. The minister, who introduces himself as Eugene Wolff, assures Joan that he is not her husband. But something about the situation doesn’t seem right, especially after Joan encounters the church’s financial backer, the creepy Thomas Heiser.

With her 12-year-old nephew riding shotgun and armed with Native medicine and advice from community elders, Joan goes in search of the truth. The quest will take her deep into indigenous traditions and present-day struggles over property and ownership.

Like Dimaline’s award-winning Marrow Thieves, a chilling YA novel that takes place in a dystopian future of ecological devastation and gruesome colonization, Empire of Wild seamlessly mixes realistic characters with the spiritual and supernatural. As much a literary thriller as a testament to Indigenous female empowerment and strength, Empire of Wild will excite readers with its rapid plot and move them with its dedication to the truths of the Métis community.

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Empire of Wild

Empire of Wild

By Cherie Dimaline
William Morrow
ISBN 9780062975942

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