It took me a little while to get into Cecilia Ekback’s WOLF WINTER. I think this can be explained by the simple fact that you need to be in the right mood to read a book set in 1717 and placed on a remote mountain Sweden when you’re a 21st century reader more used to immediate understanding and fast plots. But once I got in the right frame of mind for WOLF WINTER, it hooked me in a heartbeat.
The story of Maija, mostly, and her daughter, Frederika, WOLF WINTER is the fairly epic tale of a Finnish family – Maija and Frederika along with husband Paavo and younger daughter Dorotea – who move to a remote Swedish mountain when they are basically forced out of their village under suspicion on witchcraft. The mountain, named Blackasen, comes with it’s own set of darkness, as Frederika and Dorotea find out when they discover a badly mauled body while herding goats.
The discovery happens in summer and the story weaves it’s way through the dark and foreboding “wolf winter” that sees the dozen or so villagers on the mountain overcome by paranoia and fear as Maija, a sort of healer-midwife, proves that the man was killed neither by wolves nor by anything supernatural associated with the Lapps but by one of them. The newcomer should never be the accuser, some might say.
WOLF WINTER pulls so many threads together in synchronicity; the newcomer Finns, the native tribes, the aristocrats of the mountain, the uneducated villagers, the ones accused of other sorcery, the pull of the powerful church… that it is impossible not to want to turn the page and peel back another layer of the story. There will be many times that you think you know the answer but, I promise, that you do not. And that does not mean you will be unhappy with the answer. It is incredibly well done.
(I received a copy of WOLF WINTER through NetGalley & Weinstein Books in exchange for an honest & original review. All thoughts are my own.)