Pompeii is one of the most striking archaeological finds in the world, leaving The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper with already a great setting and historical backdrop. Harper brings alive the world of Pompeii through the eyes of Amara, the daughter of a Greek doctor who wound up a prostitute in one of the brothels in the city. Continue reading to get my take on the start of this new trilogy.
Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…
Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now she is a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, owned by a man she despises. Sharp, clever and resourceful, Amara is forced to hide her talents. For as a she-wolf, her only value lies in the desire she can stir in others.
But Amara’s spirit is far from broken.
By day, she walks the streets with her fellow she-wolves, finding comfort in the laughter and dreams they share. For the streets of Pompeii are alive with opportunity. Out here, even the lowest slave can secure a reversal in fortune. Amara has learnt that everything in this city has its price. But how much is her freedom going to cost her?
Set in Pompeii’s lupanar, The Wolf Den reimagines the lives of women who have long been overlooked.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
One of the traps you may find yourself in as a reader is when you are reading historical fiction but are just put in a general time frame. You are in Medieval Europe, pre-colonial Africa, etc, but like… when specifically? It is nice to be grounded in time by a particular event or person. As a reader, you do get this from The Wolf Den. As most people know, Mt. Vesuvius’ eruption destroyed Pompeii. Thus we at least have a marker for when this book HAS to happen before. Amara meets actual historical figures and encounters items throughout the book that can even further help people who know a bit more about history to place this story within.
Each chapter starts with a quote from historical figures, authors, and even bits of graffiti found in Pompei. Graffiti was also mentioned from time to time throughout the book which was a nice and authentic touch.
I think Harper also does a tasteful job of portraying the treatment of women, slaves, and prostitutes that does not shy away from the truth but also is not a gratuitous display of depravity and violence.
The Wolf Den develops the characters and relationships so well! Each character feels real, unique, and utterly compelling. Even the people I wasn’t the biggest fan of, Harper was able to get me to relate to or at least feel empathy towards. Harper also did a great job of really portraying the lives of the lower class and slave classes of people in Ancient Rome and particularly Pompeii. They created a vivid image of life in Pompeii and the many challenges that that life entailed.
I truly loved the main character Amara. There was so much depth to her character from her background and her resilience. Remember: she was born the daughter of a prominent doctor back in Greece and has now been forced into a different country as a prostitute slave. As a reader, I felt so invested in her life at every turn. Cheering (*internally*) at her successes, lamenting (*also internally*) at her setbacks, nail-biting (*quite literally*) at times of suspense or anticipation for her. Things really felt on the line for Amara throughout and Harper’s writing really involves the reader on that ever-narrowing tight rope.
Up until the very last page, the story completely had me engrossed. This was an awesome start to Harper’s trilogy and I am brimming with anticipation to read the second book once I can get my paws on it. If you are interested in a historical fiction that does a great job of tending to accuracy and world-building, The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper is most certainly for you.