Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Pages: 300

Goodreads: Empire of Wild

Genres: Horror; Fantasy; Canada Cultural; Mystery; Thriller; Paranormal

Publication date: September 17, 2019


Broken-hearted Joan has been searching for her husband, Victor, for almost a year–ever since he went missing on the night they had their first serious argument. One terrible, hungover morning in a Walmart parking lot in a little town near Georgian Bay, she is drawn to a revival tent where the local Métis have been flocking to hear a charismatic preacher named Eugene Wolff. By the time she staggers into the tent, the service is over. But as she is about to leave, she hears an unmistakable voice.

She turns, and there Victor is. The same face, the same eyes, the same hands. But his hair is short and he’s wearing a suit and he doesn’t recognize her at all. No, he insists, she’s the one suffering a delusion: he’s the Reverend Wolff and his only mission is to bring his people to Jesus. Except that, as Joan soon discovers, that’s not all the enigmatic Wolff is doing.

With only the help of Ajean, a foul-mouthed euchre shark with a knowledge of the old ways, and her odd, Johnny-Cash-loving, 12-year-old nephew Zeus, Joan has to find a way to remind the Reverend Wolff of who he really is. If he really is Victor. Her life, and the life of everyone she loves, depends upon it.


On these lands, in both the occupied places and those left to grow wild, alongside the community and the dwindling wildlife, there lives another creature. At night, he roamed the roads that connected Arcand to the larger town across the Bay where Native people were still unwelcome two centuries on. His name was spoken in the low tones saved for swear words and prayer. He was the threat from a hundred stories told by those old enough to remember the tales.

Broke Lent? The rogarou will come for you.

Slept with a married woman? Rogarou will find you.

Talked back to your mom in the heat of the moment? Don’t walk home. Rogarou will snatch you up.

Hit a woman under any circumstance? Rogarou will call you family, soon.

Shoot too many deer, so your freezer is overflowing but the heard thin? If I were you, I’d stay indoors at night. Rogarou knows by now.



This story was everything I wanted from it and more. Like I said in my April TBR post (here), be warned: this isn’t the best story to start while walking alone as a female with your dog after dark. My heart was pounding during the introduction of this story. Would I still recommend this story? Yes, absolutely. Would I recommend starting it at night? Sure, as long as you’re inside where it’s safe.

I will, however, have to recommend this story with the cavate that there is some minor animal abuse in it. While the scene in question is powerful and helps explain character thoughts and motivation in the story, it is horrifying it its intensity. If you’re not comfortable reading a story that contains animal abuse, this probably isn’t going to be the story for you.

It’s dark in all the ways I didn’t know I needed it to be. Yet it was also light and full of love and hope at times. It walked a fine line between mythology/paranormal and realism. And it walked it well.

The characters in this story were fleshed out beautifully. Even the secondary/side characters that don’t play a huge role in the story. They still had sustenance to them, they had weight and their actions had consequences.

The plot itself is both heart breaking and inspiring. I doubt I’m strong enough – both mentally and physically – to do even half the things that Joan manages to do in this story. While I was able to catch some of the major plot “twists” before they were laid out, there were others that caught me by surprise. It’s not that the clues weren’t there – they were. It’s more that Dimaline did a wonderful job at diverting attention away from the clues. Why look at this seemingly minor clue, when you can instead look at clue that relates to the conclusion you’re already forming in your mind?

While a part of me wants to go through the book point by point in a spoiler section like I normally do, I just don’t know where to start. So instead I’m going to leave things here. If you’ve read this story, I’d love to hear your take on it – both the light, airy parts and the dark parts. If you haven’t read this story yet but want to, I’d love to hear your thoughts after you have.

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