Review: The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

Posted May 20, 2021 by Stephanie in Historical Fiction, Reviews / 13 Comments

Title: The Wolf Den
Author: Elodie Harper
Publication: May 13th 2021 by Head of Zeus
Genre: Historical Fiction
Find it on: Amazon | Book Depository | Google PlayiBooks |  Kobo | Waterstones
Rating: 5/5

A TRIUMPH” The Times

“UTTERLY SPELLBINDING” Woman & Home

“GRIPPING” The Independent

“MESMERISING” Red Magazine

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 now, 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 the other women, 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.

The Wolf Den is set in the lupanar (brothel) of ancient Rome’s Pompeii. Lupanar means wolf den and the prostitues were called she-wolves. That alone made for a very unique setting, one I haven’t come across before. The story follows the Greek Amara who was sold by her mother and now works in the brothel for Felix who owns her. Her live isn’t her own anymore but she’s willing to do anything she can to gain her freedom.

It’s been a while since I read a really great historical fiction set in the ancient world and I’m just so glad that this story exceeded my expectations since I had been so highly anticipating it. I loved it so much to the point of hardly being able to put the book down and that doesn’t happen very often with me.

I liked how the usual stories set in ancient Rome are about the emperors and empresses but with this one we get one that’s about the regular people of Pompeii and the hardships they so often went through. And as horrendous as Amara’s life was, I really enjoyed reading about her. She was an interesting and clever character. Knowing what this book is about you definitely don’t expect rainbows and unicorns but I really did feel her sorrow as well as the sorrow of her fellow she-wolves.

I also enjoyed reading about the other women working in the lupanar; Berenice, Cressa, Dido and Victoria. They were all very different from one another but I liked how they all had each other’s back and the caring and humorous moments they shared with each other. Amara and Dido especially had a really great bond with each other and I loved reading about their friendship. But my heart really went out to them all.

Felix and Amara had quite an interesting relationship, I must say. Amara hated his guts obviously for buying her putting her to work in his brother but there were moments where the lines definitely blurred. The need to survive him and the life she was leading at the lupanar was always present though. Also, this book is the first in a trilogy if I’m not mistaken so I can’t wait to see where things go next.

Beautifully written, brutally honest and packing quite the emotional punch, The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper is now one of my favorite books of the year. I would very highly recommend it to everyone!

About the author:

Elodie Harper is a journalist and prize-winning short story writer. Her story ‘Wild Swimming’ won the 2016 Bazaar of Bad Dreams short story competition, which was judged by Stephen King.

She is currently a reporter at ITV News Anglia, and before that worked as a producer for Channel 4 News. Her job as a journalist has seen her join one of the most secretive wings of the Church of Scientology and cover the far right hip hop scene in Berlin, as well as crime reporting in Norfolk where her first two novels were set – The Binding Song and The Death Knock.

Elodie studied Latin poetry both in the original and in translation as part of her English Literature degree at Oxford, instilling a lifelong interest in the ancient world. The Wolf Den is the first in a trilogy of novels about the lives of women in ancient Pompeii.

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13 responses to “Review: The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

  1. Great review! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one as I’ve currently got it on hold at the library and I’m really looking forward to reading it. I’ve always wanted more historical stories from the perspectives of sex workers and I find Pompeii fascinating. I didn’t realise it’s the first in a series, so it’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here!

    • I was very surprised to learn it’s a first book in a trilogy too. I learned that on a podcast (Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby!) where Elodie was a guest.

  2. verushka

    Wow, this sounds amazing! You’re right, the perspective of an ordinary citizen in Pompeii is different to what we usually get.

  3. I have never read a setting quite like this one either and it sounds so unique to me. I am glad you could finally love a historical fiction in an ancient setting once again seeing as it has been a while. The cover to this one is lovely.

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