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Empire of Wild

Written by: Cherie Dimaline
Narrated by: Michelle St. John
Length: 8 hrs and 16 mins
5 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the author of the YA-crossover hit The Marrow Thieves, a propulsive, stunning and sensuous novel inspired by the traditional Métis story of the Rogarou - a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of Métis communities. A messed-up, grown-up, "Little Red Riding Hood".

Broken-hearted Joan has been searching for her husband, Victor, for almost a year - ever since he went missing on the night they had their first serious argument. One terrible, hungover morning in a Walmart parking lot in a little town near Georgian Bay, she is drawn to a revival tent where the local Métis have been flocking to hear a charismatic preacher named Eugene Wolff. By the time she staggers into the tent, the service is over. But as she is about to leave, she hears an unmistakable voice.

She turns, and there Victor is. The same face, the same eyes, the same hands. But his hair is short and he's wearing a suit and he doesn't recognize her at all. No, he insists, she's the one suffering a delusion: he's the Reverend Wolff and his only mission is to bring his people to Jesus. Except that, as Joan soon discovers, that's not all the enigmatic Wolff is doing.

With only the help of Ajean, a foul-mouthed euchre shark with a knowledge of the old ways, and her odd, Johnny-Cash-loving, 12-year-old nephew Zeus, Joan has to find a way to remind the Reverend Wolff of who he really is. If he really is Victor. Her life, and the life of everyone she loves, depends upon it.

©2019 Cherie Dimaline (P)2019 Penguin Random House Canada

What the critics say

Empire of Wild will not let you go. Mix werewolves unlike you’ve ever read before with the mythos-expanding struggles of American Gods and blend with Cherie Dimaline’s newest heroine, the complex and wonderful Joan of Arcand, and the result is inventive, engrossing, poetic and thrilling. Empire is Dimaline’s most accomplished book yet.” (Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach and the Trickster trilogy)

“A magical, electric novel that merges our modern urban world with the mythology of an uncolonized landscape. Dimaline’s descriptions are vivid and sordid and so, so alive. She creates a whole world of hope and hatred in the figure of a hot man in a ’79 Impala, and then takes you into the woods where a wolf dressed in a fine suit threatens to swallow you whole in disturbingly erudite language. The wonders of Indigenous values and their struggle to survive against insidious Western ideology and culture are framed in a wild adventure that cements Dimaline’s talents as a magical realist provocatrice.” (Heather O’Neill, author of The Lonely Hearts Hotel)

Empire of Wild is doing everything I love in a contemporary novel and more. It is tough, funny, beautiful, honest and propulsive - all the while telling a story that needs to be told by a person who needs to be telling it. The book feels like now, and we need more stories from Native communities to feel that way. She knows this community and this community will know she knows it when they read her, but it will resonate with so many more. Cherie Dimaline is a voice that feels both inevitable and necessary.” (Tommy Orange, author of There There)

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a must read

beautifully written. such an original story, very fast paced and exciting. great description and imagery. Michelle St. John was great at narrating. DEFINITELY worth the read- i’m recommending Empire of Wild to everyone i know

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Is there such a thing as 'binge listening'?

If there is, then this is a candidate for consumption in this manner. Cherie Dimaline has embraced magic realism in the style of Isabel Allende and given us a Canadian mystery/fantasy with authentic characters as well as an undertone of political commentary. It is a brilliant read/listen that flows well through multiple points of view. Her words invoke the smell and the taste of the earth and the voices of her characters ring true. The only blip in my mind, is the ending. NO SPOILERS, but we do seem set up for a sequel in a way that seems unnecessary. I, for one, would read any sequel to this, in any event. Don't miss this one!