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Empire of Wild

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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.

301 pages, Hardcover

First published September 17, 2019

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About the author

Cherie Dimaline

16 books1,454 followers
Cherie Dimaline wins her first Governor General's Literary Award in 2017 with The Marrow Thieves. She is an author and editor from the Georgian Bay Métis community whose award-winning fiction has been published and anthologized internationally. In 2014, she was named the Emerging Artist of the Year at the Ontario Premier's Award for Excellence in the Arts, and became the first Aboriginal Writer in Residence for the Toronto Public Library. Cherie Dimaline currently lives in Toronto where she coordinates the annual Indigenous Writers' Gathering.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,436 reviews
Profile Image for Lala BooksandLala.
500 reviews62k followers
May 19, 2020
Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline 4⭐
"For girls, he was the creature who kept you off the road or made you walk in packs. The old women never said "Don't go into town, it is not safe for us there. We go missing. We are hurt." Instead they leaned in and whispered a warning: "I wouldn't go out on the road tonight. Someone saw the rogarou just this Wednesday, leaning against the stop signs, sharpening his claws with the jawbone of a child.""
Right out the gate this had such strong storytelling and vividly haunting descriptions. A warewolf-like creature claiming the body of your husband— that's some grown-up Little Red Riding shit right there.

Set in a Métis community, this book highlights colonialism, religion, culture, and environmentally relevant topics, while still keeping in tone with the suspenseful nature of this supernatural fable. Achieving this very balance is where Cherie Dimaline truly shines.
It took me a while to feel fully immersed and connect with the many characters in the story, and I still wish a few of them had more time spent on their development. Joan was such a strong protagonist, never giving up on finding her husband, and rejecting the idea that he would have just left her. She was written so complexly that I wish everyone in the cast had pulled me in that same way.

As for the ending, oof Cherie Dimaline was really unafraid to deliver a bold finale, which left me equally impressed as I was heart broken. 100% would read a sequel.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,295 reviews120k followers
October 29, 2022
His narrow tie and pocket square were both daffodil yellow, a colour that brought out the gold hue of his eyes, deep-set below groomed brows.
As he came toward her he extended his right arm to check the time on a wide gold watch. In the shift of fabric, Joan saw dark hair dense on his too-white skin. He met her eyes and then smiled with so much sharp in it, something in Joan reacted like she’d taken a punch with the promise of more.
“My, what big teeth you have,” she said aloud.
Joan has been relentlessly looking for her husband, Victor, for almost a year. The love of your life does not just step off the face of the earth with no reason, no notice. Something must have happened to him, and she is determined to get him back and find out what took place. The morning after a night of indulgence, hungover, she is in a local mall looking to pick up some breakfast, and feels drawn in by a large white tent, newly planted in the parking lot. What she sees there sends her off on her search again. I mean, the man she saw in there was Victor, however much he may have denied it. But the lupine head of the revival, Thomas Heiser, a name with some historical resonance, has her taken away by medical and law enforcement sorts, and by the time she is released and gets back to the mall the revival is gone. Not only that, while she was away, her beloved grandmother was killed by something wild.

Cherie Dimaline - image from The Globe and Mail

This is a story about story. Sure there is a werewolfish creature or two loping through and a missing family member to be saved. There are some scares, but the core of this novel is the importance of story to culture, the importance of adding to and passing on what was passed down to you by those who came before. Tradition, being a people, is not just about DNA, but sharing with children the history and lore of generations long past. The lessons learned over so many years might actually come in handy. Empire of Wild focuses on the Métis people of Canada. Dimaline shows not only the importance of larger cultural issues, but presents as well a bit of what it is like to be a member of this community in its day-to-day functioning.
I belong to the Métis Nation on the Georgian Bay. We used to live on Drummond Island and were then forcibly removed—when the island was being annexed to the US—to the shores of the bay across from the town of Penetanguishene. That land then became very valuable as “cottage country.” We’re only one-and-a-half hours from Toronto with its wealthy weekenders. And we were moved again, away from the water. Now we largely reside in the French/Métis town of LaFontaine, just up the road, on less valuable land.
These removals and relocations of a culture are specific to my community, although experienced in different ways by all Indigenous people. It’s part of our stories. And it’s a huge piece of why we share stories and keep that history intact, just as we’ve kept our culture intact. There must always be connection to nation when we tell stories.
- from the Publishing Perspectives interview
Corps Werewolf - image by J.S. Marantz via Deviant Art via Writing New Orleans

The org chart of lycanthropy is usually pretty simple. A bites B, and B becomes either a meal or a lycan. There are, however, different vectors of transmission for the rogarou (Perhaps better known in places like Louisiana as Loup Garou), the sort on display here.
“There’s lots of ways to become one.” She counted on her fingers. “Being attacked by a rogarou, mistreating women, betraying your people…that’s the ones we know around here, anyways.”
Rogarous also differ a bit physically from the more familiar werewolf form, getting all wolfish from the neck up, but, while physically enhanced, remaining recognizably human below.

Image from Bastidores da informacao

If religion is the opiate of the masses, it is the natural resource extraction industry that is providing the poppy product. The connection is made clear here, as religion is used to soften up indigenous communities for exploitation by diverse mining interests.
You know all these projects have to go through approvals, right?” he said
Why would she know this? But, “Yeah.”
“The only real threat to the project—to our jobs—are the Indians. They’re the ones with the goddamned rights, I guess. Always protesting and hauling us into court…the missions are good at changing the way people see shit.. Course it helps if you can hook one or two of the powerful ones—chiefs and whatnot, especially the ones willing to take the company cheque, and give speeches about moving on with things…”
The prime baddie here is not only the head of a peripatetic religious revival, but an agent of those very earth-bound interests. Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, and use whatever tools are available.

Image by Viergacht in Deviant Art

The info payload will not matter much if the characters fail to engage. Joan was a wandering sort early in life, but once she and Victor connected that was it, a total bond, which allowed her to begin building a more settled life. She is dogged in her mission to get her man back, never losing faith that he would never have left on his own. Makes her heroic and admirable. The hunt on which she embarks is not merely personal, but ties her back to her community in a way that is highlighted when the men of her town head out to hunt whatever had killed one of their people. She is also quite human, with enough flaws to prevent anyone from putting her on too high a pedestal.

I see Tamara Podemski or Irene Bedard as Joan?

Ajean is the oldest person in the community, a grandmotherly sort, but one with some pretty entertaining edges. She is a font of communal knowledge, not just history but useful bits of intel, like those having to do with battling evil magical creatures. She might also make you blush. Ajean is the most fun of all the characters here.

Tantoo Cardinal as Ajean – no question here

Victor, the missing spouse, is shown from two perspectives. There is Joan’s external-world experience of him, a much reduced version of himself. We know this from her before-and-after comparisons of his bearing and movement. Heiser renamed him Reverend Eugene Wolff. He functions as a trained-monkey (well, maybe more of a trained dog) preacher. And then there is the internal horror that Victor experiences, as he struggles to hang on to who he is and does all within his power to remain alive and himself under the onslaught of a very dark force, in a sort of dream state. Victor’s struggle to regain himself incorporates an interesting, if somewhat surprising sexual element. These trials appear in nine end-of chapter inserts.

Adam Beach as Victor?

Zeus is Joan’s twelve-year-old nephew. He is determined to be her protector. His mother has parenting issues and his father is out of the picture, so Joan is the closest thing he has to an actual parent. His name gains poignance when one knows the role lord lightning bolt played in the lycan origin story. Cecile is a very damaged, but interesting character, an assistant to the head of the travelling mission, she has a colorful past, very concrete career ambitions, and an ability to get things done. Heiser is a baddie straight out of central casting. The only things to be said in his favor are a certain sartorial flair, and command of language.

Christophe Waltz or Richard Sammel for Heiser?

There are fun moments here, particularly when Ajean is on the page. But Dimaline also has some fun casting Heiser in shades of yellow. And offering a “My, what big teeth you have,” a time or two. Zeus’s affection for Johnny Cash was also delightful. Dog references abound as well.

There are some odd moments, too. I did not understand why I also found off-putting a particular physical action a rogarou or two engage in, a kind of dancing. It took me out of the story and diminished the fear element considerably.

The ending will surprise you. I am sure there will be some who will find it disappointing. Not an all-wrapped-up-with-a-bow sort of finish, but one with some bite to it. There is a fair bit going on here. The lycan story offers some scariness. Joan’s struggle to save her man is the heroic driving force that makes the fur fly. The underlying payload of portraying Métis culture, the role of religion in exploitation of indigenous people and the natural resources to which they have territorial rights, and the importance of story to the survival of culture all join together, like upper and lower fangs, to give this novel considerable bite. Lycan or not, Empire of Wild is a howlingly good read.
She could hear the congregation singing from here, sounding like a circle of wolves under the moon.

Review posted – July 31, 2020

Publication dates (USA)
----------July 28, 2020 - hardcover
----------July 27, 2021 - trade paperback

And if you are in need of some hair of the dog after you finish reading this one, I can heartily recommend Stephen Graham Jones’s Mongrels.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

The FB page has mostly been abandoned

Empire of Wild is Dimaline’s fifth book. She achieved renown with her 2017 YA novel, The Marrow Thieves, winning many awards, among them the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers. There is a select list of her awards on her site. Empire of Wild was released in 2019 in Canada and was an instant best-seller there. Dimaline lives in Vancouver, BC. She is a member of the Georgian Bay Metis Community in Ontario.

-----Publishing Perspectives - Indigenous Writers in Canada: Interview with Author Cherie Dimaline by Carla Douglas
-----Editors’ Weekly - Interview with Cherie Dimaline by Suzanne Perkis

Items of Interest
-----King Lycaon: The First Werewolf - a fun take on the Greek origin story, from Ovid by way of A.S. Kline
----- Native Languages of the Americas: Michif/Metis Legends, Myths, and Stories
-----Historic Mysteries - Werewolf Legends from Around the World by Tanvir
-----Smithsonian - When the Beast of Gévaudan Terrorized France by Lorraine Boissoneault
-----VisitCryptoville.com - What is a Rougarou, Exactly?
-----NY Times - 8/14/20 - ‘We’ve Already Survived an Apocalypse’: Indigenous Writers Are Changing Sci-Fi by Alexandra Alter

-----Johnny Cash - Hurt
----------The Man Comes Around
-----Aerosmith - Love in an Elevator
-----Kansas - Carry On Wayward Son
August 27, 2021
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Empire of Wild is one of those novels that doesn't live up to its intriguing premise. There were a few moments that I actually enjoyed, but these were far too few in between. We have a half-baked storyline, some painfully cartoonish villains, a thinly rendered main character, and an unsatisfying conclusion.

Empire of Wild follows Joan who has recently returned to her Métis community in northern Ontario. After a heated argument with her husband, over the land Joan has inherited from her father, he walks out of their home in a huff...and he doesn't come back. A year later Joan is still desperately trying to make sense of Victor's disappearance, hoping to glimpse his face every time she goes outside. Although her family initially helped her look for Victor, they have now moved on and urge her to do the same.
When Joan walks into a revival tent for laughs, she doesn't expect to see her husband. Except the man, a reverend, doesn't know who she is, and calls himself Eugene Wolff.
Ajean, an older woman from Joan’s community, believes that the Rogarou, a wolf-like creature, may have something to do with what happened to Victor. Joan, convinced that Eugene is Victor, decides to 'take' him back, and the person behind the revival isn't too happy about it.

I really liked the scenes with Ajean. I liked her no-nonsense attitude and her knowledge of Métis lore. Sadly, she only plays a minor role in the story, and the narrative mostly switches between Joan, Victor, and the two 'bad' guys. Joan's nephew had the potential of being a likeable character (he feels left out from his immediate family and has a quirky obsession with Johnny Cash) but there were things he said or did that didn't really ring true (and made him sound like an older man or a possessive lover). Although the book summary makes it sound as if he really helps Joan in her 'quest' to take Victor back, he mainly looks up stuff on the internet for her (and he does this quite later on in the narrative...which is weird given that Joan should have wanted this type of information way earlier in the story).
Joan's family are also largely overlooked, which is a pity as it would have been nice to read about Joan's relationship with her mother and siblings. They have two meals together, and that's about it. Their first meal actually gave us an impression of their dynamics and disagreements (when discussing their job prospects), but this scene was far too fleeting, and I wish the story had remained more focused on Joan's family.
There were chapters focused on Victor, and these were very short and intentionally confusing (he is the woods). In a way these chapters weren't actually about him. He's so out of it that we don't really gleam anything about what kind of person he is. I think that the story would have benefited from some flashbacks, that way we could have seen Victor and Joan together. But we don't. And because of that I didn't really care for their relationship. Joan misses him, sure. Often, however, she seemed to miss having sex with him—which, fair enough—more than him.
After seeing him once at the revival, during this 'first' meeting she's somewhat drunk, she is absolutely certain that this reverend is Victor. She doesn't wait for proof but immediately plans to win him back by seducing him. Like, really? She doesn't seem worried about the fact that he could have been brainwashed or possessed, or that he has amnesia. Nah. After this confusing encounter she knows that this man is her husband (I mean, I wish she could have at least considered the twin brother theory) and rather than doing some extensive research, she's all 'I'm going to wear my best panties'. Which, yeah. Great plan.
For reasons unbeknown to me, the narrative also follows the two baddies. Rather than making them more believable, these sections consolidated my not so positive view of them. They were painfully clichéd. The 'evil' son of German immigrants who possesses only vices (he's either having, just about to, or finished having sex). The woman is a psychopath who is jealous, petty, and cruel. I didn't particularly like the 'slut-shaming' tone the narrative had when focused on this character.
Speaking of 'shaming', most of the time both overweight and underweight characters are described with a certain acerbic or mocking tone. The three young-ish women who have most page time (Joan, Ivy, and Cecile) are particularly disparaging towards each other's bodies. And part of me really wanted to shake them for it. Given the circumstances they are in, would Joan really have the time to whinge about Joan's thigh-gap?
I think this book could have been far more interesting and thought-provoking. I wish Dimaline could have explored more in-depth the effects that colonialism, capitalism, religious institutions, the Canadian government have on a community like Joan's. But she merely scratches the surface by mentioning that indigenous people are being manipulated/forced into giving their lands away. And for the most part the narrative seemed to imply that only cartoonishly bad men are responsible for this.
Joan was an underwhelming character. I only really rooted for her in one scene, where she punches someone who 100% deserved to be punched. Other than that...I found her quite superficial and unlikeable.
The novel is also really obsessed with Joan's 'panties'...1) I hate that word 2) why mention them so many times?
The dramatic confrontation at the end was predictable and didn't really make sense (what's new?!).

Sadly, this really didn't work for me. A good premise is let down by an uneventful storyline, one-dimensional characters, and an occasionally cringey prose. If there is a sequel, I will be steering clear of it.
Then again it was refreshing to read a story centred around Métis community that has a supernatural twist. So, even if I didn’t particularly care for this novel, I wouldn’t discourage other readers from picking this one up.

Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
928 reviews799 followers
May 15, 2022
Watch out for the Rogarou. Speculative horror in small town Ontario with one Native woman's desperate quest to save her husband from the werewolf legend of their nightmares.

Characters: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★
Concept: ★★★★
Pacing: ★★★

Joan has been looking for her husband for over 11 months. One night—after a pretty intense verbal fight—he left her to walk in the woods near their home. He never came back. Joan's never stopped looking.

Almost a year later she sees Victor in a Walmart parking lot. He's leading a Christian revival service in a pitched tent. And the kicker? He has no idea who Joan is.

Joan's not about to take that lying down—even with the creepy church manager eyeing her and taunting. "You're husband's dead, Joan,” the man says with his arm around the body of her husband with someone else in his eyes.

Joan knows something is afoot, and when one of the old women in her town tells her it's the rogarou, Joan feels it in her bones. The rogarou is the werewolf of Metis myth—the thing that teaches girls to be afraid of walking alone, of strangers, of men with bad intent. The rogarou is the thing that teaches boys to be afraid of negative emotions eating their souls, of bad deeds, of black hearts. He's a wolfman and a demon and a parable all in one.

And he's got Victor. Joan's going to get him back.

This was such a cool story. Cool might not be the right word, as it's a horror speculative novel with some pretty intense subject matter, but it is how I feel. I loved Dimaline's writing style—her blend of the utterly mundane with the speculative was such an uncomfortable and intimate reading experience. I loved her characterization of Joan. I loved the blending of rogarou with Christian "wolf in sheep's clothing" imagery and the commentary on the modern Native experience in Ontario. So much to love in this novel.

The only thing that kept Empire of Wild from being an all-time favorite for me was its inclusion of so many POVs—we bopped around in a LOT of people's heads, and while most of it was necessary, it did drag down the pacing quite a bit. I didn't need to know a side-side character's backstory? But that might just be me.

Fantastic novel. Everyone interested in speculative horror should read this.

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Profile Image for NILTON TEIXEIRA.
825 reviews256 followers
December 30, 2019
This one was not for me.
I hate when I purchase a book that does not please me in any way.
The only reason I bought it was because Indigo (for those who never heard, it is a big retailer in Canada) picked this as number one of the year. And the premise really sounded fantastic. Werewolf? Aboriginal culture? What is not to like?
And all of the 224 five stars rating that I read are terrific.
Perhaps I did not read the same book.
I did struggle with this one.
Although the writing is good with beautiful description I did not like the story line and the characters. I was detached of any emotion.
I thought it was boring (there! I said it.)
Perhaps I picked it on a wrong state of mind. Perhaps I will give it a try next year.
Profile Image for Dani.
51 reviews470 followers
February 16, 2020
What. A. Ride! I read Empire of Wild by Métis author Cherie Dimaline and I was completely consumed by the storyline and atmosphere. Dimaline has given us a fresh novel that manages to be thrilling, comforting, scary and sexy while remaining rooted in Métis culture.

As we follow Joan on her journey to save her missing husband Victor we are given insight into Métis stories and traditions, specifically the figure of the Rougarou. We are able to see the strength of the Métis people and how those stories and teachings are passed down from generation to generation.

Dimaline also delves into other important territories such as the manipulation of religious missionaries on their quest for Indigenous land, colonialisms violent impact as a whole, as well as racism and stereotypes.

For myself, this was a book about traditions, loss, resilience, Indigenous joy and sexuality, a grandmothers love and the sacredness of our land.
Empire of Wild reminds us that our elders are as invaluable as our stories.
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,221 reviews167 followers
September 13, 2022
The oil companies love to see aboriginals at revival missions, “They’re too busy praying to protest”!

After a bitter argument over Victor’s suggested sale of Joan’s ancestral property, Victor walked out and simply vanished. But over a year later when Joan wandered into a revival tent to see what all the local hype was about, she was gobsmacked to discover that the preacher was her lost husband, now “the Reverend Eugene Wolff, on a mission to bring his people to Jesus”. And he didn’t have the foggiest idea who Joan was or what she was talking about. Game on! Wow, I was hooked! A brilliant basis for a plot that Dimaline suggests was inspired by the traditional Métis mythology of the werewolf-like Rogarou. I thought THE MARROW THIEVES, Dimaline’s previous novel was fabulous so, obviously, I could hardly wait to get started.

And Dimaline is clearly no slouch when it comes to graphic, compelling, gritty, descriptive writing. The opening page of the prologue offers this (IMO) jaw-dropping, atmospheric description of a northern Ontario Métis reserve town:

“The town of Arcand was a church, a school, a convenience store, a bootlegger and a crowd of stooped houses leaning like old men trying to hear a conversation over a graveyard of Greniers and Trudeaus … Parties were held in kitchens. Euchre was a sport. And fiddles made the only sound worth dancing to. Any other music was just background noise for storytelling and beer drinking and flirting. Or for providing the cadence for fight choreography when you just had to beat the shit out of your cousin.”

I shook my head and smiled when I read that, convinced that EMPIRE OF THE WILD was going to be a winner. But, unfortunately, it was not to be.

If Dimaline had allowed the aboriginal mental image of the Rogarou to serve as a metaphor for mental illness, for example, or for the evils of evangelical Christianity and the fossil fuel industry attempting to woo the aboriginal population away from their ancestral beliefs and from their deep attachment to the land, I would have walked away a happy reader. Instead, the story attempted to become a supernatural thriller which treated the Rogarou as a reality. Its source, its rationale, its motivations and its conduct devolved into a murky hot mess, frankly, and the final few pages were (for me, at least) indecipherable. I have no idea what Dimaline intended the actual ending to be or to mean.

Without sporadic interludes of that brilliant narrative to which I already alluded, I may well have set aside EMPIRE OF WILD as a DNF. Here are a couple more examples:

On a young lady’s delight at watching her young man dancing in a pow-wow celebration:

“… side drops emblazoned with spirit bears and deep slashes of lightning; a vest, heavy with geometrics in glass beads, that closed with silver Indian-head nickel buttons; moccasins Jimmy resoled every fourth week so that the aphrodisiac scent of buffalo hide wafted when he passed by, copper ankle bells singing his steps like a goddamn wedding march. All this and the biggest, fullest eagle bustle you could imagine, plucked from the kind of eagle that hadn’t existed since dinosaurs two-stepped the earth … When Jimmy swayed by during Grand Entry, raising his dance stick strung with bear claws in her direction, Bee, sitting on the bleachers, a scone-dog in one hand, a du Maurier Light in the other, felt her eggs vibrating in her ovaries.”

Or Joan’s description of the piece of land that Victor wanted her to sell:

“Her plot made her happier than she could have imagined. [It] was less densely wooded than her brothers’, with a central, small, open field greened by ostrich ferns. Black birch trees peeled and perfumed the shaded undergrowth. The Chicken of the Woods fungus climbed trunks and fallen logs like fleshy scaffolding for industrious squirrels. Reddish soil underfoot was knocked loose in spring by the new growth of fiddleheads and later by morels, like sweet, brittle claws.”

Don’t I wish I could string words together like that?

But description alone does not a successful thriller make, supernatural or otherwise. Other readers’ opinions of that ending may differ from mine but I’ve looked at other reviews and I see I am far from alone in my befuddlement. So a 1-star failure as a thriller is upgraded to a 2-star read on the basis of Ms Dimaline’s skills as a writer.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for DivaDiane.
948 reviews89 followers
March 1, 2022
I loved this book. Just when I thought I knew where it was going it would veer off and surprise me. I love the mix of cultural influences, although I’m not sure I loved the slightly cliched German as evil bad guy. But mostly is is a very loving view into the lives of Native peoples (in this case Métis) in Canada. Unflinching yet tender.

The narrator, Michelle St. John, was a little stilted in the opening chapters falling into William Shatner-esque pauses in odd places. But she found her stride soon enough and evoked the accent of the characters very well.

There’s the slightest hint at unfinished business at the end that could lead to a sequel. I’m there in a heartbeat, if it happens.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,132 reviews310 followers
February 6, 2022
A fantastically rendered and raw account of a woman's search for her missing husband. The story embeds itself in an exploration and uncovering of culture and identity politics, and the constant edges Indigenous people find themselves running up against. This is a multilayered book with horror elements both obvious and subtle, supernatural and real.

Ajean was not accustomed to dealing with fear. Not anymore. She’d spent years pruning and nurturing herself so that there was nothing left for her to be scared of. But she had grown complacent, had forgotten that there was always room to be afraid. All fear had to do was let doubt do the dirty work and then it could move right in, past the rubble of a person’s defences.
Profile Image for Brandon.
902 reviews233 followers
November 26, 2019
Victor has disappeared.

Joan has been searching for her missing husband for months.  Consumed by guilt, Joan’s life is in shambles.  Following a night of heavy drinking, Joan makes her way to the local big box store for some much needed hangover supplies when she spots a tent in the parking lot.  Curiosity gets the better of her as she wanders over to check out what is happening inside.  Her heart stops when she spots her husband leading the service.  Only.. it isn’t her husband.  This man goes by the name of Reverend Wolff and seemingly has no idea who Joan is.  However, Joan is certain this man is her Victor.  Can Joan uncover the reason behind her husband’s sudden memory loss and bring him home?  Or worse yet.. has Joan herself lost touch with reality?

On the heels of her critically-acclaimed, best-selling YA novel, The Marrow Thieves, Cherie returns with a new novel that blurs the lines between belief and reality.  Empire of Wild follows Joan - a woman who wears her grief like an open wound; all raw and exposed.  Dimaline writes her with such uncanny emotion that you truly feel the struggle and desperation on the page as Joan seeks reconciliation with the love of her life.

The supporting cast helps to flesh out Joan’s world by establishing her deep connection with her family.  Although, outside of her nephew Zeus (who has his own tragic story), the rest seem to exist just for exposition - which isn’t exactly a bad thing, to be honest.  Joan’s adversaries in the novel, a traveling Christian church revival headed by the loathsome Thomas Heiser, do their job in giving Joan a worthy obstacle separating her from Victor.  Dimaline takes time to explore what makes Joan’s newfound enemies tick thus making them despicable baddies.  Heiser’s lackeys, Cecile and Ivy, find themselves often at one another’s throats, but aren’t made to seem inept.  Cecile in particular drives a lot of the action in this one, especially near the end.

The novel’s conclusion is particularly heart-wrenching, but I’ll leave it at that. I don’t want to spoil anything.  It was nice to read a hyped novel where the author was unafraid to go to a place that could polarize an audience.  Maybe I’m in the wrong and everyone will enjoy it as much as me.

I’m not sure Dimaline eclipsed The Marrow Thieves with this one, but it’s a good read in its own right.  Empire of Wild has already topped Indigo’s list of Best Books of 2019, so I expect more continued success for Dimaline.  I can’t wait to read what she comes out with next.
Profile Image for Jodi.
357 reviews80 followers
April 23, 2022
What a wild ride that was!!🥺 I don't read "horror" (too scary and I live alone, so...)😨 but this book came about as close to horror as I want to get!😲 I felt very anxious throughout this book and was actually clutching at my chest for the last 25%! (It probably didn't help that I started reading in the afternoon and read straight through until the end without taking a break to turn the lights on! Hint: don't read horror in the dark if you're a scaredy-cat like me!)😰

I have Dimaline's other book... The Marrow Thieves and it now has a sequel - Hunting by Stars!😱 Cherie Dimaline writes really GOOD horror stories (she apparently gets them from her grandmere).🥶 But I think I'll lay off her books for a while. I need some time to build up my courage before I tackle them!
Profile Image for Krista.
1,367 reviews541 followers
December 26, 2019
These lands were given to us by the Lord Himself. They are ours to live on and prosper from. This entire wilderness is ours for the very purpose of celebrating and honouring the glory of God. He is the answer to our poverty, for how can we know poverty in His love? And in return we need to dedicate our success and wellbeing to His holy light. This entire empire of wild is ours in order that we may rejoice in His name.

In Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian, he describes Christianity as “the gateway drug to supply-side capitalism”, and although Cherie Dimaline's Empire of Wild reads a bit like a supernatural thriller and a lot like a love story, it would seem that Dimaline's goal here was, ultimately, to prove Thomas King's point for him (or else why take the book's title from the Christian sermon, above, designed to trick Indigenous folks out of their traditional lands for the benefit of greedy capitalists?) As with The Marrow Thieves, I think that Dimaline has some fascinating lore to share from her Métis culture, yet also like with that earlier work, I wasn't blown away here with her writing style. This was, overall, just okay for me.

Long after that bone salt, carried all the way from the Red River, was ground to dust, after the words it was laid down with were not even a whisper and the dialect they were spoken in was rubbed from the original language into common French, the stories of the ragarou kept the community in its circle, behind the line. When the people forgot what they had asked for in the beginning – a place to live, and for the community to grow in a good way – he remembered, and he returned on padded feet, light as stardust on the newly paved road. And that ragarou, heart full of his own stories but his belly empty, he came home not just to haunt. He also came to hunt.

Joan (of Arcand) was raised in a traditional Métis community in northern Ontario, and for the past year, she has been desperately hunting for the love of her life – her husband, Victor – who uncharacteristically disappeared after a mild argument. When Joan discovers Victor in a most unexpected situation, and he insists that he has never seen her before, Joan must pull together all she knows about her husband, her people's beliefs, and her own skills and courage to attempt to bring him back home again. I liked everything that happens in the local community – the interplay with family and elders, Joan's backstory as a child and with Victor – and the legend of the ragarou promised to add an intriguingly otherworldly dimension. But I didn't much care for how Joan's world intersected with the mostly unChristianlike white fundamentalists that Victor had become entangled with and... But, plot points aside, I want to note that this is quite an explicit read – in language and deed – and I was often wondering just why Dimaline decided to include so much sexy time. And on the other hand, the love story between Joan and Victor is really very sweet and I became invested in wanting them to find each other again:

Stitch by stitch, loop over loop, Victor was made for Joan. He knew that the day he met her in Montreal, in the bar, with her quick mouth and face flushed with drink, standing with a hip thrown forward, rubbing her eye to a grey smoke of mascara and bourbon. He could feel her now the same way he felt her that night – as inevitable, as necessary. His job was to exist so that she could keep running that mouth, keep kissing him with a thousand little kisses in the oddest spots: inside of the elbow, back of the neck, above the belly button, on the exact spot where the zipper on his jeans began. There was no other reason for him to exist. And it was enough.

Even so, despite admiring many of these touching bits, there were many passages and word choices that kind of baffled me:

The seated figure gave a deep laugh. The sound filled the clearing like vomit, like a menacing growl. And the sky grew darker for it. If he were capable of regular functions, this is when Victor would have pissed his pants.

(I read that out to a few people and no one could really imagine what it would be like for a deep laugh to fill a clearing “like vomit”.) The material here is more adult than that found in the YA-categorised The Marrow Thieves, but the writing isn't any more sophisticated or nuanced; and while I left The Marrow Thieves thinking that I'd pick up a sequel if Dimaline decided to extend that story, I'm not left wanting more from the world of Empire of Wild. Just okay.
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Plant Based Bride).
411 reviews3,747 followers
December 6, 2021
"He was a dog, a man, a wolf. He was clothed, he was naked in his fur, he wore moccasins to jig. He was whatever made you shiver, but he was always there, standing by the road, whistling to the stars so that they pulsed bright in the navy sky, as close and as distant as ancestors."

The Rogarou is no legend, it is flesh and blood, and if you take a step out of line, walk alone at night, commit adultery... the Rogarou will find you.

Based on the Metis legend of the Rogarou, a shapeshifting monster, a wolf and a man, who will kill you or possess you, depending on your crimes, Empire of Wild is a frightening yet fascinating horror tale that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end while exploring colonialism, racism, and the role Christianity has played in the oppression of indigenous people in Canada.

A complex, layered, fast-paced story with vivid characters and a haunting atmosphere, Empire of Wild will have you on the edge of your seat as you root for Joan and Zeus until the final open-ended line.

Trigger/content warnings: racism & racial slurs, hunting & animal death/gore/cruelty, homophobia, explicit sex, prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse, cults, violence, death, blood, forced abortion, sexual assault, murder, kidnapping, child abuse, colonialism

VIDEO REVIEW: https://youtu.be/FtXKni2SO0E

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Profile Image for Lata.
3,598 reviews191 followers
October 28, 2019
Joan is utterly devastated when her husband Victor leaves one night after an argument, and disappears. When she stumbles across him working as a preacher many months later her, life is again turned upside down, as she tries to get him back.
Cherie Dimaline does it again. I loved her Marrow Thieves, and this was another great book. The plot moved at a good pace and the characterizations were great. Joan is messy, deeply hurt, and utterly, completely focused on one thing, to the exclusion of pretty much all else. Joan's focus, and the help she receives from Zeus, her 12-year-old nephew, and Ajean, make this book for me. Not to mention the really quite frightening rogarou with his banal "day face" and the petty behaviours of the people in the travelling mission, surrounding Joan's husband Victor.
I was particularly fond of Ajean's straight-talking, and her invaluable guidance, both practical and otherwise, and the Johnny Cash-loving Zeus, that kept Joan moving toward her goal.
Profile Image for Wesley Wilson.
270 reviews1 follower
December 5, 2019
I was interested in reading this book because I saw it was getting raving reviews and a lot of attention. The indigenous aspects of the plot fascinated me, and I wanted to learn more. Some of the horror parts of this book were spooky in the first little bit of the book, and the nature imagery was gorgeous. And the ending was filled with some great twists, but overall I didn’t like this book very much, despite my wanting to. Here’s why:

I found myself trying to grind through this book. I found all the characters were boring and forgettable, with Cecile being the only exception. The backstory and character growth of Cecile are excellent, but the reader only really learns about her from 50%-75% of the book. She was a unique character that stood out so much for me. All of her actions were exciting and thought-provoking and she had fantastic depth. All the other characters were bland in comparison.

The writing in Empire of WIld tries to encourage intrigue and excitement, but when you don’t care about the characters, the reader doesn’t feel this way. I genuinely didn’t care about what happened to Joan’s husband or what she was going to do about it. Even at the end, when you learn that Victor killed Joan’s grandmother, I didn’t care. It was supposed to be this substantial revealing exciting moment. But it wasn’t that shocking, and it happened too quickly for you to care about it. Joan was upset for like five pages.

I was interested in the lore of the rogarou. The first time the folklore is mentioned is about 25% of the way through the book. When it is, it doesn’t even seem like an interesting point in the book. It’s mentioned and then it kind of passes on to Joan’s feelings and actions. The short chapters about Victor’s entrapment were interesting and made me curious but when I was done the book and looking them over, they came off as vague. I didn’t get any finality.

I didn’t like the Little Red Riding Hood references. I think they came off as cheesy. You can only say, “But what big teeth you have” so many times before the reader finds themselves groaning.
I think the biggest thing I didn’t like about this book was Joan. I get it. She’s a hurt woman who is trying to get over the disappearance and assumed death of her husband. But she was bland. She was either flat or sobbing and violent. And the scene in which she tries to force Victor/Reverand Wolff into some sexual behaviour while he is consistently saying “No” and “Wait” was uncomfortable. It seems as if the character had every right to do this because of the entrapment of her husband inside this monster.

OKAY. The rant is over. I’m sorry about this spew of negativity. I had a very long day at work that may have motivated a passion in me to rage about this book. If you enjoyed it, hey good on you! I’m glad you liked it. As for me, I was waiting for this book to get better the whole time I was reading it. But it didn’t.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for jo.
613 reviews488 followers
June 24, 2020
I want to go over every 5 star rating I have given recently and dock them all one star to say how much this particular 5 star rating means. This book is incredible.


there is a history to my love of this book. a few years ago i read Eden Robinson's Son of a Trickster and it blew my world right open. westerners are used to thinking of non-monotheistic religions traditions, especially the non-transcendent ones, as mythologies. i'm sure religious scholars have poured rivers of ink on this subject, but since i haven't read a single word they wrote here are my thoughts: these "mythologies" are really theologies. they speak of things that exist, supernatural things whose existence and presence in the lives of believers affects and guides their living. this is theology to me.

now there are some writers who take this stuff pretty seriously, but most books by native authors in north america i have read are steeped in humor and irreverence. and in the best ones this combination of theology, humor, and hardscrabble lives is explosive. i get from it the same deep wisdom i get from Black literature, the same irreverence, the same tragedy, the same comedy. if you are part of a people who narrowly escaped genocide, you develop a sense of humor about your existence. and also a huge capacity for joy. it's not complicated. it makes total sense.

the community depicted in this book is metís and catholic. and just like in eden robinson's Trickster Trilogy there is tragedy, theology and humor all wrapped up in a tremendously compelling adventure.

little caveat: the first chapter, inexplicably, is awash with similes. if you, like me, find a bonanza of similes off-putting, i suggest you keep going. dimaline drops them almost entirely in the rest of the book, which is tight and beautifully written.
Profile Image for Brea Grant.
Author 1 book503 followers
November 5, 2021
If a book just pop in your mind every few days, you have to write a review, right?

I loved this book. It combined a world I knew and a world I didn't and I didn't want to put it down until the end. Mystery, supernatural, and a woman on a journey. It's the best of all worlds.
Profile Image for A. H. Reaume.
39 reviews57 followers
September 20, 2019
I very rarely rate books 5 stars. This book more than deserves this rating. It was the book I was most anticipating this fall. It lives up to the hype.
Profile Image for Michelle.
651 reviews181 followers
August 5, 2020
Goodreads Giveaway!

I first saw this book on Thunderbird Woman Reads's Instagram page. She was so excited about this novel and its representation.

Cherie Dimaline is a recognized Metis author. Her novel The Marrow Thieves won her the Governor General's Literary Award in 2017.

Now with Empire of Wild she is again lending her pen to a supernatural story that pulls the reader in from the first page. Joan is looking for her husband Victor who disappeared after an argument. Although some think he took off in anger she knows he would never walk away from the love they share with one another. A year later she finds him in a church revival tent preaching the "Good Word". He doesn't seem to recognize her. It's as if he's under some type of trance. Will she be able to break the spell? Getting Victor back is going to require that draw on the wisdom of her people.

Dimaline's Empire of Wild is a love story. It is about family, tradition, the gift of our elders. It is also a social commentary on the dispossessed, on capitalism and the perverting of religion for financial gain. The horror of this story is not the Rogarou, but big business and their manipulation of legal loopholes to trample on indigenous people and the land.
October 20, 2020
Almost an entire year has passed since Joan’s husband Victor disappeared after the first serious argument of their marriage. Her family and tight knit community helped her search in the beginning but everyone has given up hope at this point, except for Joan. Victor is out there somewhere and she continues to search and simultaneously fall into the darkness of her grief.

On an early morning trip to Walmart while hungover, Joan finds a revival tent set up in the parking lot …and hears the voice of her husband. Her shock at suddenly finding Victor in this random spot is overshadowed by the fact that Victor claims he’s actually Reverend Eugene Wolff, on a mission to spread the word of Jesus to Native people.
Joan knows that Victor is in there somewhere; that whatever it is claiming to be Reverend Wolff is something dangerous and whispered about in the Métis legends.

With the help of Ajean; a foul-mouthed and wise elder of the community, and Zeus; her twelve-year old Johnny Cash fan nephew, Joan will learn what Reverend Wolff really is in order to save Victor.
I absolutely loved this book and am so thankful Jenny (Reading Envy) brought it to my attention!
This story is steeped in the traditional Métis legend of the Rogarou with elements of horror but it’s also a contemporary story about how far we’ll go to save those that we love. I enjoyed how this mystery gradually unfolded and especially loved the back and forth between Joan and Zeus that added some light-hearted moments in the middle of a dark tale.

For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,659 reviews5,136 followers
Want to read
October 4, 2020
I'm really struggling with audiobooks lately (though there's nothing wrong with this narrator at all!), and I only have the audio format, so I'm putting this on hold until my ebook hold comes in.
Profile Image for Alison Hardtmann.
1,266 reviews2 followers
August 1, 2020
Parties were held in kitchens. Euchre was a sport. And fiddles made the only sound worth dancing to. Any other music was just background noise for storytelling and beer drinking and flirting. Or for providing the cadence for fight choreography when you just had to beat the shit out of your cousin.

Joan has been looking for her husband for almost a year when she finds him preaching in a giant tent in a Walmart parking lot. He looks different, and clearly doesn't know her, but she's sure it's him. Victor and Joan had met in Quebec and she brought him back to her small Métis community of Arcand on Georgian Bay in Ontario, where her family was less than welcoming. Arcand is close-knit and Joan grew up with tales of survival and encounters with the rougarou, a werewolf-type of creature that keeps children from wandering or girls from walking home alone at night. So Joan sets out to bring her husband home, armed with the knowledge passed to her from her grandmother and great-aunts, and with the help of her twelve-year-old nephew.

This is a fantastic book, full of warmth and love for the Métis community, imaginative and well-written. Cherie Dimaline is an author to pay attention to. In the world of Empire of Wild the supernatural exists alongside the natural one and it's up to Joan to figure out how to rescue her husband. Joan was a great character to spend time with, she's determined and more than a little reckless and utterly sure that Victor wouldn't leave her. The secondary characters have depth and their own histories. Zeus, Joan's nephew, was so very much a twelve-year-old boy, with all the bravery and vulnerability of that age. Even the bad guys were so understandable and multi-dimensional. Yes, I really liked this one.
Profile Image for InkedWxtchReadsxx.
126 reviews24 followers
December 8, 2022
I don’t think this is what I expected when I bought it…. But honestly I think it was a really pleasant surprise. I love indigenous stories and lore and this was absolutely full of it, which is 100% something I didn’t know about it when I heard about it. I definitely thought this was a cult book. And don’t get me wrong it did have those vibes. But it was more so a story about, the rougarou! Not to mention bonus points for it being told by an indigenous author!

I just really loved the story and characters we got to follow in this one. I loved Joan as a Mc, and I loved her dynamics with her family. They just felt real, and almost even made me wish I was part of them lol. It’s not the main element of the story but if you want something with strong familial ties in it, this is a good choice. The same can be said with her entire community.

The rest is basically Joan trying to save her husbands soul from the rougarou, and of course there are some small twists and turns along the way. I can’t say I was totally surprised by any of them, but to be fair it’s not really meant to be a super twisty book. It’s more so a story about fighting for your love with everything you’ve got, even if it means having to fight literal creatures/monsters to do so.

This book also has a lot of really good conversation on indigenous communities, especially ones in Canada, without being exploitative. I really loved learning about the Métis community and their culture. Especially considering I didn’t know much to begin with and admittedly wasn’t very aware of what a Rougarou was. So this was just a good way to learn.

It did drag and feel repetitive sometimes, but never to the point that I wanted to put it down or lost interest. If anything I just took it a little slower.

I was going to give it 4 stars, which is still good…. But I think the ending really solidified it as a 5 star.

Also there is even comedic relief in this! Just wait until you meet Ajean lol. Not many books can actually make me smile or laugh. But this one did at times.

I will say though it is marked horror, it’s not overly scary, and I would say it never really scared me at all. so it would be a good one if you aren’t super sure about horror. It’s just a really good story.

Can’t wait to read from this author again!
Profile Image for Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺.
850 reviews91 followers
April 25, 2020
This book is mediocre at best. The writing is heavy on mundane details, lacking nuance, and it did not draw me in. The protagonist, Joan, seems more concerned with having sex again than actually finding her husband, and she isn’t too concerned about her grandmother’s horrific death at all. Also, the ending left me with more questions than answers. There will probably be a sequel. I definitely will not read it.
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