I received an ARC of this book as part of the blog tour in exchange for an honest review. It has not affection my opinions.
Genre: Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 3 stars Series: yes - book one (companion books?) CW: miscarriage, death, attempted rape
Some secrets are worth killing for.
The ancient city of Kepos sits in an isolated valley, cut off from the outside world by a towering wall. Behind it, the souls of the dead clamour for release. Or so the priesthood says.
Kala has never had any reason to doubt their word – until her father dies in suspicious circumstances that implicate the city’s high priest. She’s determined to investigate, but she has a more immediate problem: the laws of the city require her mother to remarry straight away.
Kala’s new stepfather is a monster, but his son Leon is something altogether more dangerous: kind.
With her family fractured and the investigation putting her life in danger, the last thing Kala needs is romance. She would rather ignore Leon entirely, however difficult he makes it. But when she learns the truth of what really clamours behind the wall at the end of the valley, she faces a choice: share what she knows and jeopardise her escape, or abandon him to his fate along with the rest of the city.
If she doesn’t move fast, then no one will make it out of the valley alive.
THE WOLF AND THE WATER is an Atlantis-retelling, which means the setting is Greek-inspired and I am always up for that setting. We have a Dekocracy – the patriarchs of ten families ruling the city – so the world isn’t a straight-up monarchy, which makes it feel different from other fantasies. The actual logistics of how the world is run isn’t explored much – only the way it relates to marriages and the power these men hold over other – as it doesn’t impact the story.
Instead, the focus is on how these men gain the power, either by bumping off people in line ahead of them, or marrying women who are the last of their house (as women cannot rule, so their husbands instantly take the title). This tight focus world building is done well – it’s immediately clear where the power is and why. It establishes the towering threat posed by one of the villains – Nikos – as well as explaining a lot of the minor conflicts.
By not explaining the rest of the world in detail, letting it be implied or building through small details, the story isn’t lost. Instead, the narrative rests on a solid foundation that allows for clarity – with enough hints that you can fill in the blanks should you so wish. It also makes you root for the main character, Kala, because the world is designed to work against her.
This book didn’t feel particularly well paced. At times, like the opening chapter, it was bang on, but there were lots of things that felt rushed. Kala was very quick to trust an acolyte, which means she just gets the information crucial to the story dropped into her lap. It felt out of character, given how she interacts with everyone else. It also didn’t get as much urgency as I expected – Kala feels like she gives up/disregards the threat in the middle, which is odd as she keeps thinking about it, but it wasn’t written in a way that conveyed that.
I had to re-read part of the ending again to work out what was happening because lots happened in a handful of pages and I was struggling to follow. I don’t think there was enough build up to certain events. Given it’s an Atlantis retelling and the prominence of the wall, it was obvious what the main action was going to be. However, at times, this expectation felt like it was the only build up, not a growing sense of dread and inevitability created during the book.
The book mostly stays in Kala’s POV, seeing the city through her eyes. There are three places where a chapter starts with someone else’s POV for a few paragraph before changing, which was a little jarring and ruined the villain reveal. The first paragraph of the first chapter is also not in POV, in a more distant POV that explains the wall.
Honestly, this books feels a little more experimental than the other two of hers I’ve read. It’s her first (published) YA, and also her first non-vampire book. As a first foray, it reads well, and I’m interested to see what happens in the next book – which I’m guessing is a companion book, based on the epilogue.
Read my reviews of other books by Josie Jaffrey:
- THE GILDED KING (#1)