One Saturday evening I opened Dan Smith's 'She Wolf' under low lighting, getting settled in my bed, and was immediately absorbed, excited and on tenterhooks. I haven't read a beginning soooo good in a long time, and there are lots of great openings out there. In fact, it was so good a beginning that I dreamed about sinister wolf skulls that night and woke up wide-eyed like a child. Any book that gives me nightmares is a book that has worked sheer magic.
'She Wolf' follows young Ylva, a Viking washed ashore in North England as part of the growing invasion. But when her mother is killed, Ylva decides to seek revenge, taking a bow and arrows with her, along with her extraordinary dog Geri...
I really don't want to say more about the plot because this a story much deeper, darker and heartening than you might expect. It is an imaginative tour de force. Dan Smith's writing is as taut as a bowstring; his descriptions let fly and strike with power. I was absolutely immersed in Northumbria 866, and quite honestly it gave me goosebumps on several occasions. Ylva is the fiercest and most brave, but flawed, character since Lyra in Northern Lights. I felt so much for her while admiring her grit and sheer force of will. I really want to see Ylva again - please!
There are lots of wonderful children's books out there. It really is a golden age. But I'm really not exaggerating when I say that 'She Wolf' is among others at the top of the mountain, howling its delights and staring you down with heart-pounding brilliance.