on October 8 2020
Also by this author: The Gilded King (Sovereign, #1), The Silver Queen, The Blood Prince
Some secrets are worth killing for
The ancient city of Kepos sits in an isolated valley, cut off from the outside world by a towering wall. Behind it, the souls of the dead clamour for release. Or so the priesthood says.
Kala has never had any reason to doubt their word – until her father dies in suspicious circumstances that implicate the city's high priest. She's determined to investigate, but she has a more immediate problem: the laws of the city require her mother to remarry straight away.
Kala's new stepfather is a monster, but his son Leon is something altogether more dangerous: kind.
With her family fractured and the investigation putting her life in danger, the last thing Kala needs is romance. She would rather ignore Leon entirely, however difficult he makes it. But when she learns the truth of what really clamours behind the wall at the end of the valley, she faces a choice: share what she knows and jeopardise her escape, or abandon him to his fate along with the rest of the city.
If she doesn't move fast, then no one will make it out of the valley alive.
Thank you to The Write Reads and Josie Jaffrey for a copy of the book as part of the blog tour. Below is my honest review.
If you’ve been following me for a while here, then you know I love Josie Jaffrey’s books. This year, she decided to change things up. She released May Day, a contemporary urban fantasy, and now The Wolf and the Water, a young adult historical fantasy. I loved her vampire books, both new and old, and was really interested in this one. So I signed up for the tour.
The Wolf and the Water made me think of ancient civilizations with Greek/Roman influences. The society of Klepos is another rather dystopian one. I wouldn’t want to live there. It’s too much of a patriarchy, where a house or clan can only be led by a man. If the clan leader dies, the woman remarries and her new husband becomes the new leader. Our main character is Kala, the daughter of one of the houses. The Glauks are the lowest ranking, but they’re still nobility. When Kala was young, she got ill and was left with a deformed foot. This plays a large part in the story.
Jaffrey’s style hasn’t changed much, even with the switch to a different audience and genre. I still recognize this as her. The characters, not shying away from brutal violence, the complex world-building. It still has everything I loved about her other books. The characters all have a distinct feel with their own personalities and quirks. It really is a nice cast of characters and the ending was very satisfying. Some got the ending they deserved. Others got an ending they didn’t deserve, in my opinion, but was quite fitting.
The character that stood out the most was Kala, which isn’t surprising as she is the main character. But that’s not the reason why: it’s because of her disability. The story wouldn’t be the same if Kala didn’t have a foot deformity. She’s treated like crap because her society sees her as such. Some plot points only occur because she’s crippled. What bothered me isn’t how she’s treated or how she treats herself, it’s internalized ableism. Internalized ableism is a thing I’m very familiar with. It’s real and I’m sure most disabled people will experience it to a certain degree, and some more than others.
It’s not clearly told in the story that Kala is crippled because of polio; It’s in the content warnings conveniently located at the back of the book. We learn she’s sick and this was what she was left with. She uses a cane because walking without is hardly an option. She’s been using a cane for nearly ten years, and she still gets bad blisters on her cane hand? I find that hard to believe. And then there’s also the pain. This is never mentioned throughout the book. It’s like she barely feels anything from the waist down. When she climbs up a ladder, I’d expect it to be more difficult, but it’s only mentioned. I didn’t really get to experience the difficulty through Kala’s eyes. Or feet.
I could say a lot more about this, but I won’t. I don’t have polio, nor have I ever spoken to someone who had polio. I can only relate this to my own experiences as someone who regularly has problems with feet not working, not being able to walk, and a permanently weakened muscle in my foot. So it’s hardly #ownvoices. I won’t say it’s bad rep but to me, it feels like a misrepresentation. I feel like some of Kala’s experience as a disabled person is missing; the physical experience. The pain, the adjusting she has to do to be comfortable, things she is unable to do. It feels like her crippled leg is an accessory slapped on, one commented on by others and herself. An accessory that’s dangling on her neck and she can’t take of. One that might be hard to carry but doesn’t actually influence her physical being in any way. And that feels wrong.
There are also a few instances in which the point of view seemed to switch but there wasn’t a clear indication. And then it suddenly switched back to Kala. I’m not sure if it was intended, but it confused me.
That’s why I can’t give it the four stars it would’ve gotten otherwise. I really like The Wolf and the Water and I want to read the rest of the series, but I’m missing something in Kala. Something that’s deeply personal to me.