Last updated on March 5th, 2024 at 02:09 pm

The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper book review: heartbreaking and gripping

I’m used to my familiar comforts of fantasy and romance genres, with banter, spice and magical plots. However, The Wolf Den unfolded into a much deeper and tragic tale, delving into the harrowing world of a Pompeii brothel, leaving me both heartbroken and utterly gripped.

Elodie Harper’s creates a haunting narrative, vividly portraying the lives of enslaved women working in a Pompeii brother with an unflinching realism. The intensity and description of their lives is powerful and brutal, so don’t expect many high moments throughout. Get ready to go on an emotional rollercoaster.

Overall thoughts

A 1 minute review of The Wolf Den

About the plot & characters

The story follows Amara, our protagonist, who since her father died and her mother sold her into slavery, has gone from living as a concubine to working as a brothel slave. She has the education and memory of the life she once had, and we follow her journey trying to survive and fight for her freedom.

Amidst the harsh realities, the tender and deeply moving bond between Amara and Dido, both victims of circumstances, serves as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Harper skilfully navigates their relationship, intertwining survival and emotional depth that resonates in the face of unimaginable adversity. The journey they go on was touching and I was routing and holding my breath for them the entire book.

Now I’m not saying there are no uplifting moments throughout the book. While the narrative is punctuated with rare uplifting moments, an impending sense of doom lingers, ensuring that joy is fleeting in this unforgiving world. The solidarity among the women in the Wolf Den speaks to the strength found in unity, yet survival demands a delicate balance of camaraderie and self-preservation.

Whilst some turns were predictable, Harper’s narrative takes unexpected twists, weaving elements of forbidden romance, murder, deception, mind games, and manipulation. The immersive experience defied my expectations, and as the final pages unfolded, I found excited to read the next instalment, The House with the Golden Door. However I think I need to read a few romance, easy to read uplifting books for a few months. I’m not sure my I could cope with going straight into the next one just yet. 

Book rating & bio

Four Star Rating/5

The Wolf Den Book cover and book review highlights.

Title: The Wolf Den
Author: Elodie Harper
Genre: Historical fiction, Greek mythology, Retellings
My Score: 4/5
Good Reads score: 4.06/5. View The Wolf Den in Goodreads.
StoryGraph score: 4.12/5. View The Wolf Den in StoryGraph.
 Head of Zeus Ltd.
Format: Paperback
Pages: 451
Buy on: Amazon | Amazon – Kindle edition | World of Books.

Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now, she is owned by a man she despises and lives as a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, her only value the desire she can stir in others.

But Amara’s spirit is far from broken. Sharp, resourceful and surrounded by women whose humour and dreams she shares, Amara comes to realise that everything in this city has its price. But how much will her freedom cost?

The Wolf Den trilogy is the first in a trilogy of novels reimagining the lives of women in Pompeii’s lupanar.

Content warning: Heavy topics like rape, violence, murder, and suicide.
Spoilers: This review is mostly spoiler-free. I’ve placed all spoilers within an accordion, leaving the choice to you if you fancy reading them.
Disclosure: This blog contains affiliate links, and as an Amazon Associate, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through those links.

My favourite book quote

“Amara looks at Dido, at the joy on her face, and realises there is nobody she loves more. Warmth spreads through her. She has never had a friend like Dido. She is the light in the darkness of her life.”

“Either we choose to stay alive, or we give up. And if it’s living we choose, then we do whatever it takes.”

3 things I liked about The Wold Den

Amara and Didos bond and friendship: Their understanding, non-judgmental listening, and unwavering support exemplify the concept of forging one’s own family. While their storyline was at times challenging to read, delving into it was worth it to get an insight into their love for one another.

I was sooooo close to crying when Dido died. The way Amara trys to get to her, is too late and then cradles her in her arms. Ruined! Though I did predict this would happen early on in the book, it still was rough to read.

Amara’s conflicting thoughts: Harper’s skill in portraying Amara’s internal monologue and thought processes adds a layer of complexity to the narrative. Particularly, the exploration of her conflicting feelings for Felix, the pimp who owns her, walks the delicate line between survival and morality. Felix, a constant burden, manages to manipulate Amara’s emotions, blurring the lines between right and wrong.

I even caught myself being like ‘Felix isn’t that bad’, then I have to check myself because he is a terrible person!! The realisation of the potential presence of Stockholm syndrome becomes a stark reminder of the harsh reality within the story.

Amara in general: I love Amara so much! Her unapologetic prioritisation of her own well-being, even at the expense of others, is a compelling aspect of her resilience and determination to secure her freedom. I found myself empathising with her choices, even as they broke my heart, especially considering the profound sadness embedded in some of the actions she must undertake, *cough* Meander *cough*.

Final thoughts

I loved The Wolf Den and plan to dive into the next book later this year. Being a part of our Book Club’s selection, I highly recommend reading it with others. The discussions and diverse opinions shared added a layer to the overall experience

Happy reading!

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*MCs = Main characters, FMC = Female main character, POV = Point of view.

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