Michelle's Reviews > The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina
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's review
Jul 03, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012, australian, debut, young-adult
Read from July 03 to 07, 2012


3.5-4.0 stars

Ambelin Kwaymullina’s debut young adult novel, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, is an entertaining example of young adult dystopian fiction with some unique and interesting aspects.

The story takes place in an almost utopian world that has grown in the aftermath of an environmental apocalypse known as the Rapture. Humans seek to maintain ‘the Balance’ and coexist with nature to prevent any similar thing from ever happening again. However, this society has its dark side. Ever since the Rapture, some individuals, like Ashala herself, manifest in strange powers and abilities that are seen by society at large as a threat to ‘the Balance’. As a result they are persecuted and confined. However, not everyone agrees that these Illegals endanger the balance and some are unwilling to surrender themselves into the government’s keeping.

The title itself accurately summarises the general plot of the book. Leader of a tribe of runaway Illegals, Ashala Wolf has been betrayed and captured. In order for her captors to catch the rest of the tribe and learn their secrets, Ashala will be subjected to a mysterious ‘machine’ capable of reading her memories.

If you’ve been anywhere near a bookstore in the last year or so, or have even just spent a little time online, I probably don’t need to tell you that young adult dystopian fiction is big at the moment. Many, like this one, utilise the first person point of view. So, with countless dystopian reads already on the market, what distinguishes this book from any other?

Firstly, one of the main features that struck me about The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf was its distinctly Australian influence. Despite the fact that the continents in Kwaymullina’s world have been rearranged and Australian itself likely no longer exists there, it is strongly hinted that Ashala, like the author, is of Australian Aboriginal descent.

(Also, unrelated to the quality of the story itself, but extra points for the lack of whitewashing and having the dark skinned protagonist depicted as such on the cover.)

Kwaymullina also weaves in various elements of Dreamtime mythology to great effect. There are also other, less obvious, cues such as the description of the Saurs (large intelligent lizard creatures), which in parts seemed reminiscent of blue-tongued lizards. On a more political note, it might have just been me, but I also thought I noticed some parallels between the treatment of Illegals in Kwaymullina’s society imagined society, and the current plight of asylum seekers in Australia.

The non-linear narrative also adds interest with a substantial amount of the book being composed of Ashala’s memories regarding the events leading up to her incarceration. The story itself is pacey and the characters are likable. There is a romance subplot but it is not overwhelming and doesn’t detract from Ashala’s status as a strong and driven female protagonist.

Some readers may be disappointed that due to the point of view and nature of the narrative, we don’t really find out all that much about Ashala’s world outside of the Firstwood. Personally, it didn’t bother me that much and I enjoyed the hints that were given. I will be interested to see how the world-building is approached in the following books.

Overall, I thought The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf was a promising start to a series that managed to introduce some refreshingly unique elements to a popular genre. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for the next book and will be interested to see what Kwaymullina comes up with next and how she develops as an author. I’d definitely recommend this as a quick, entertaining dystopian read with a uniquely Australian flavour.

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Reading Progress

07/03/2012 page 120
07/03/2012 page 120
30.0% "I picked up an ARC as something light to read during my break at work and decided to keep going with it. I don't read many YA books but I thought I might give a new Aussie author a shot. It is quite readable and I'm enjoying it so far. I especially like the elements of Dreamtime mythology."
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