*Received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review- but the gushing you’re about to see is all me*
Yeah, there’s a lot of yelling in that title- but THAT’S COS I’M EXCITED DAMMIT! Sometimes a book just floats on up to you and you simply have to read it. This was absolutely the case when I saw Liis’ wonderful review for the Wolf in the Whale. A story that somehow married Inuit and Viking cultures- WHOA- that grabbed my attention right away!
Enter into a narrative couched in storytelling and I knew this was the book for me. By now, you’ve probably heard me go on a million times about how much I love stories within stories- and this book was no exception to that rule. Not only was the overarching plot an amazing tale to tell, each section began with a mythic story, illustrating and foreshadowing all the wondrous events to come.
It was an experience delving into this icy realm. Cloaked in atmosphere, every step into this book gave a sense of the setting and culture. Cosy in my room, I was transported to the frozen wastes of the Arctic (a perfect setting for this time of the year 😉 ). The writing was impeccably detailed and the imagery in line with the landscape. Above all, that image of the wolf in the whale WORKED SO WELL. To say this was sophisticated world building would be a massive understatement.
What’s especially clever is how the magic system goes beyond the setting and lends itself to the main character’s arc. In a transformative journey, the spiritual concepts are used to address questions of identity. While Omat goes through innumerable changes, she fundamentally must learn to be comfortable with every side of herself and to find the strength to fight back when things get bad. Above all, it is this that makes her a heroine- though I loved every aspect of her character- from her skills to her cleverness- it was the way she fought when her back was up against the wall that made me truly admire her.
And she really does go through a hell of a time. There is traumatic content in here, but it’s really well handled. It is both realistic and emotive. Personally, I am glad Brodsky didn’t forsake accuracy when it came to exploring the brutality of history. Instead, the book was a triumph- because it represents that real power is dreaming a way out and never giving up.
The plot follows this idea, weaving into ever-more imaginative territory. With little surprises along the way, the truth of the stories we tell ourselves is revealed. The very distinct mythologies of Inuit and Norse are expertly intertwined; the ominous forces at work are revealed. Far from chill, there are some serious stakes at play here. All that building tension finally breaks in an exquisite apotheosis of drama. It is a performance worthy of the gods. All the while presenting very human relationships, making every victory and moment of redemption feel earned.
Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed what Wolf in the Whale did with folklore. It was complex and beautiful and ahhh-mazing!! Forgive me just losing my cool there- by the end of the book I was just writing “awws” and “squeaks” and been reduced to tears. I will add that this is the definition of a slow burn- so make sure you’re in the right mood to really sink your teeth into a book. Granted, it is a little on the long side, yet the upside of this is it really absorbs you into the world and you can take your time with this standalone fantasy. This book is a rarity in every regard and I simply can’t cover all the ways that it made me feverishly happy- all I can do is give it:
Rating: 5/5 bananas
So what do you think? Do you plan to read this now? Let me know in the comments!