Review: The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

Summary: Elka barely remembers a time before she knew Trapper. She was just seven years old, wandering lost and hungry in the wilderness, when the solitary hunter took her in. In the years since then, he’s taught her how to survive in the desolate land where civilization has been destroyed and men are at the mercy of the elements and each other. But the man Elka thought she knew has been harboring a terrible secret. He’s a killer. A monster. And now that Elka knows the truth, she may be his next victim.

Armed with nothing but her knife and the hard lessons Trapper’s drilled into her, Elka flees into the frozen north in search of her real parents. But judging by the trail of blood dogging her footsteps, she hasn’t left Trapper behind — and he won’t be letting his little girl go without a fight.

Genre: thriller, horror
Rating: ★★★

I went into The Wolf Road expecting a cat-and-mouse chase through the wilderness, and in some ways that’s what I got, but I also feel like there was so much more to this story than I ever could have anticipated. Elka discovers Trapper’s true identify extremely early on in the story, so the bulk of the book is about her on the run. However, along the way she meets riveting, charming, and sometimes vicious people, often getting into dangerous situations. She learns so much about herself along the way — not only about her background, but also about the type of person she is versus is not.

Elka is a fascinating character, and I loved the depth of her. Her parents abandoned her as a child, and after an accident she also loses her grandma. A man named Trapper finds her, and thus begins her relationship with him. She sees the man as a father figure, as he teaches her all about survival in the wilderness. As a result, she is so vastly different from anyone else she meets, which made for so many interesting scenarios. I don’t know that her exact age was ever mentioned, but it was impressive to watch her survive in the wilderness entirely on her own, to learn what she was capable of and what she knew. She might not have known how to read, but she could survive a Canadian winter and befriend a lone wolf, and that made me respect her so much.

Despite being such a badass character, it was easy to see her faults and made me empathize with her. She grew up never receiving real love, and all she wanted was to find her birth parents, to have someplace or someone to call home after discovering what Trapper really is. She was constantly struck with bad situation after bad situation, but her resilience overpowered anything thrown her way.

I also enjoyed her friendship with Penelope, another young girl abandoned by those who were supposed to love her. It brought out a more vulnerable, human side of her that we hadn’t seen yet.

And yet.

Throughout the entire novel, I kept wanting more. I wanted more flashbacks to Elka’s life with Trapper. I never truly believed their relationship had the depth she felt, and found it relatively easy for Elka to abandon him. Despite being raised by him for such a long time, especially during her formative years, their relationship was never warm or caring. She never referred to him as her dad out loud. I couldn’t helping wondering what her attachment was to him, other than that he took her in – but was that enough? Maybe to someone in her circumstances, but I wanted more proof of that.

This book went in a completely different direction than I hoped it would. It was enthralling to watch Elka meet civilized people, to get into dangerous situations, to search for her birth parents. In the background of all of the situations Elka stumbled into, there was always the lingering dread that Trapper was following her, mere steps behind.

There were a few instances where I felt her anxiety and fear alongside her, but for the most part it was only ever slightly hinted at. She didn’t appear to be in any danger, and out of nowhere she would make a comment about how she could feel that he was following her. It became almost like he was this enigmatic ghost, not actually a person who was hunting her down, but a presence she only sometimes felt. I often wondered if Trapper was really hunting her down or if it was her paranoia of being alone coupled with her imagination.

I wanted this to be about her narrowly escaping Trapper. I wanted the threat and terror of his fingertips grazing her, always just slightly behind with her a half-step ahead. I wanted a big showdown between the two of them. I wanted retribution and maybe even some violence. But this was not that kind of story. This was a much softer story than I wanted, and I found myself let down by an otherwise beautiful story that simply didn’t live up to my expectations. This is a great survival story, but I was hoping for a great horror story.

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