The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras
My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes
Date Published: March 6th, 2018
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Pages: 288 pages
Synopsis: A Scottish medieval adventure about the youngest in a war-band who must free her family from a castle prison after knights attack her home.
One dark night, Drest’s sheltered life on a remote Scottish headland is shattered when invading knights capture her family, but leave Drest behind. Her father, the Mad Wolf of the North, and her beloved brothers are a fearsome war-band, but now Drest is the only one who can save them. So she starts off on a wild rescue attempt, taking a wounded invader along as a hostage.
Hunted by a bandit with a dark link to her family’s past, aided by a witch whom she rescues from the stake, Drest travels through unwelcoming villages, desolate forests, and haunted towns. Every time she faces a challenge, her five brothers speak to her in her mind about courage and her role in the war-band. But on her journey, Drest learns that the war-band is legendary for terrorizing the land. If she frees them, they’ll not hesitate to hurt the gentle knight who’s become her friend.
Drest thought that all she wanted was her family back; now she has to wonder what their freedom would really mean. Is she her father’s daughter or is it time to become her own legend?
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
This is a spoiler-free review.
This turned out to be quite a charming and enjoyable read. The general concept of the novel is very traditional, but it is spiced up by many unique elements and plot twists that Magras employs throughout. I had such a fun time following the journey of this brave young warrior and her friends. The story mixes danger, mystery, and intrigue with warmth, love, and friendship to create a highly immersive read. With solid characters, a well-written narrative, and plenty of action and adventure, it is incredibly easy to fall in love with this tale.
In this novel, we follow a young Scottish girl named Drest, who’s life is turned upside-down when her father and brothers are captured and taken to the prison at the nearby Faintree Castle. After these knights invade her home, Drest barely escapes the hostility brought upon her family, be she is the only one to do so. Therefore, she is thrown into an unexpected adventure, and must find the courage deep within herself in order to save the ones she loves the most.
Trusting one of the wounded knights to lead her to the castle, she draws strength from the encouraging voices of her five brothers that she hears in her head. Joined early on by a young boy named Tig, the unlikely trio soon become comrades, as they fight through the many perils that lie ahead of them.
However, not everything is as it seems, and the indiscretions of the war-band—her family—are beginning to come to light. This leaves Drest questioning not only who she should put her trust in and whether her family should actually be freed, but also who she is. Despite the obstacles she fights through along the way, the most challenging part of her journey might in fact be at the very end.
I found this to be a very captivating and fast-paced story, and I fell into it very easily. It hooked me right from the start, as we are thrown directly into the action. And the characters were a very high point of the novel. Drest is an incredibly strong heroine and a fantastic model of bravery, both physically and mentally. She develops very realistically throughout the course of the narrative, starting off much more timid and unsure of her abilities and steadily blossoming into a true warrior. A multi-dimensional and dynamic character, Drest is truly the driving force in this novel.
I would have liked to have seen the relationships between the characters developed a bit more than they were, particularly the war-band. We get a fairly good idea of their personalities as the story unfolds, but I think that area could have been focused on slightly more. This was by no means a huge detriment to the story, but I feel as though that would connect the reader even more to the characters, their relationships, and how those elements are tested throughout the narrative.
As far as the writing itself goes, I thought this novel was beautifully written. Magras really has a way with words—everything flowed perfectly and carried me quickly and smoothly through the story. Her writing suits the target age range for this novel so well. She words things very intelligently and clearly. The text is not pared down so far that it comes across as too basic or simple, but it never feels as if it would be too difficult for young readers to understand. She expertly wrote in a style that challenges but would not confuse a middle grade audience.
Magras also does a fantastic job of accurately building the setting of this Scottish headland and beyond. Every detail is not only clearly depicted, everything is very realistic. The backdrop of this story is full of depth and history. In the same vein, the language used feels spot-on for both the time and location, and you can tell the effort and research she put into this aspect of the narrative. The slang used, the way all the characters address one another, it all feels authentic and immerses you deeply in the story. I had no trouble both transporting myself into the world and hearing every line of dialogue with the accompanying Scottish accent.
The Mad Wolf’s Daughter is a very well-crafted and enchanting story of the strength and courage one can find within oneself in the face of adversity. Though it is targeted at a younger audience, I believe that readers of any age will be able to take an interest in this novel. The messages that radiate from this story are very positive and enlightening. It is sure to teach a middle grade reader important lessons about the warrior we all have inside of us. This is full of heart, and is a wonderfully wholesome and exciting fantasy that young readers will surely eat up.
Diane Magras grew up on Mount Desert Island in Maine. The Mad Wolf’s Daughter is her debut novel. She is the editor, writer, and chief fund raiser for the Maine Humanities Council.
She volunteers at her son’s school library, and is addicted to tea, toast, castles, legends, and most things medieval. Diane lives in Maine with her husband and son and thinks often of Scotland, where her books are set.