Updated: Jun 26, 2019
BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
We are so excited to host a guest blog post by author Dan Smith, whose new book SHE WOLF is out this week (available here). SHE WOLF tells the story of a Viking girl who finds herself on a quest for vengeance in an adventure filled with danger, Norse gods and the comfort of stories in dark times.
Read on for a review of the story and a guest post from Dan, in which he tells us more about the inspiration behind the story.
She Wolf is a Viking adventure story set in the cold harsh winter of Northumbria, AD 866. Ylva (pronounced eel-va) witnesses her mother’s tragic death, which instigates her hunger for revenge – after all, that is the Viking way. Her target: the three fingered man. Ylva has been taught to survive; no crying will do and with the Norse Gods on her side, she knows she doesn’t need anyone else to help.
Yet, things change when she comes across Cathryn and Bron, two strangers who seem just as preoccupied as she is. Trust doesn’t come easy for Ylva and the twists and turns along the way, make this is an edge-of-your-seat kind of story through which the reader learns just as much as Ylva does.
The descriptions in the book put you right there in the thick of it with the characters, and when a story involves survival against wolves, bears and brutal hunters, it very quickly becomes a book where you have to keep turning the pages to lap up the action. While I felt this may be more suitable for mature Year 6 readers, there is no doubt that this is a master class in Viking culture, drama and suspense. Sheer brilliance from Dan Smith who is now a firm favourite of mine!
Reviewed by: Leanne Woolcock - Year 6 Teacher and English Coordinator
A Burning Need for Revenge
By Dan Smith, author of SHE WOLF
It can be difficult to know exactly where the inspiration for a story comes from but sometimes, as with SHE WOLF, I know exactly where a story first took hold in my imagination.
A few years ago I watched a film about a young man travelling across the Old West in the USA. About halfway through the story, he enters an isolated and dilapidated trading post in the middle of nowhere. While he’s in there, a man and a woman come in and try to rob the trading post, so the owner kills them. Shaken, our hero leaves the ramshackle hut and sees two young children - a brother and sister - standing at the side of the track. In that moment we realise that the dead man and woman were their parents. The two children are now alone in a dangerous and unforgiving world, but our hero rides away, leaving them standing by the track. He has other things to do.
It was a shocking and heart-breaking moment, and I waited to find out what would happen to those two children. But we never do find out, and I couldn’t stop thinking about that. I wanted to know where they went, what they did, who they spoke to. But the only way for that to happen was for me to write their story for them. So, SHE WOLF began life as a story about two children left alone in the Old West. But my stories always change in the writing. Characters come and go, events change, and motivations change. Some plot points become more important, while others fade away like puddles drying in the sun. As Ylva took shape in my mind and on the page, it became clear that the setting wasn’t quite right. Something had to change. But when I’m submerged in a story, thinking the character’s thoughts, and breathing the cold air that surrounds them, it can be hard for me to see beyond the wolves that are circling in the forest.
It was my publisher who said to me during a meeting, ‘Dan, what do you know about Vikings?’ and that was that. The seed took hold, and the more I thought about it, the more I knew Ylva’s story had to take place during the Viking Age. Revenge was a central belief in Viking culture; if someone did them wrong, they believed the gods expected them to take revenge. And I knew that my fierce child - my fearless child - Ylva, would take up the call. Alone in the wintery forest, with no hope of ever returning home, what else could she do?
But maybe Ylva shouldn’t be alone with her secrets and her burning need for revenge. Maybe such a strong and stubborn girl needed a friend to show the softer, more vulnerable side of her nature. So I gave her a friend. Geri. The most faithful dog you could ever wish for.
SHE WOLF by Dan Smith is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
Connect with Dan Smith on twitter @DanSmithAuthor
Many thanks to Dan for writing a post for the Booksfortopics blog and to the publisher for sending us a review copy of the book.
Do check out the other stops on the blog tour, too!