Lightning Review

Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline


Empire of Wild

by Cherie Dimaline

I read Empire of Wild and I am so not ok but in…a good way? This #OwnVoices novel about a woman who tries to save her husband from a supernatural threat is the horror novel you need for Halloween. It’s a quick read but rich in language and detail, right down to a grandmother keeping her magic supplies on top of her fridge in one of those blue tins that cookies come in.

Joan is part of a Métis community in Georgian Bay, Canada. She has been searching for her missing husband, Victor, for almost a year. When she stumbles into a revival tent, she meets a preacher who looks just like Victor but claims to be someone else. As Joan tries to solve the mystery she realizes that there is more to this than a case of missing identity. The ensuring story is a short, sharp jolt of colonialism, corporate exploitation, lost souls, and ancient evil pitted against Jean, her twelve-year-old nephew, and a tiny, tough old lady named Aljean.

This is NOT a romance novel. This is horror. MAJOR TW for a scene of explicit animal abuse and for the sexual exploitation of women. However, many of our readers will enjoy the feminist and intersectional focus of this book and its examination of life in a modern indigneous community. Although it is not a romance novel, the relationship between Jean and Victor is a beautiful love story and every good thing that happens, happens because people love each other fiercely and with utter loyalty.

Romance readers care a lot about endings so while I won’t reveal the ending even in a spoiler I will say that:


Part of it is happy and part of it is a cliffhanger that just about killed me.

I readers who enjoy works intersectional and feminist horror like the movie Get Out, The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, and The Return by Rachel Harrison will find this book to be exciting, scary, and exquisitely written, with the kinds of detail that bring you intimately into characters’ lives. Don’t read it before a walk in the woods, and do read it with the lights on, the door locked, and your eyes on the people you love.

Carrie S

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.”—Tommy Orange, author of There There

A bold and brilliant new indigenous voice in contemporary literature makes her American debut with this kinetic, imaginative, and sensuous fable inspired by the traditional Canadian Métis legend of the Rogarou—a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of native people’s communities.

Joan has been searching for her missing husband, Victor, for nearly a year—ever since that terrible night they’d had their first serious argument hours before he mysteriously vanished. Her Métis family has lived in their tightly knit rural community for generations, but no one keeps the old ways . . . until they have to. That moment has arrived for Joan.

One morning, grieving and severely hungover, Joan hears a shocking sound coming from inside a revival tent in a gritty Walmart parking lot. It is the unmistakable voice of Victor. Drawn inside, she sees him. He has the same face, the same eyes, the same hands, though his hair is much shorter and he’s wearing a suit. But he doesn’t seem to recognize Joan at all. He insists his name is Eugene Wolff, and that he is a reverend whose mission is to spread the word of Jesus and grow His flock. Yet Joan suspects there is something dark and terrifying within this charismatic preacher who professes to be a man of God . . . something old and very dangerous.

Joan turns to Ajean, an elderly foul-mouthed card shark who is one of the few among her community steeped in the traditions of her people and knowledgeable about their ancient enemies. With the help of the old Métis and her peculiar Johnny-Cash-loving, twelve-year-old nephew Zeus, Joan must find a way to uncover the truth and remind Reverend Wolff who he really is . . . if he really is. Her life, and those of everyone she loves, depends upon it.

Horror, Mystery/Thriller
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