Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: dog fighting, hypothermia, vomiting, blood, gore, loss of parents, child abuse, gun violence, colonialism
Attention all readers who once identified as wolf girls: this book is for you. On a frozen planet Tundar, Sena is scraping her way to survival while being caught between the competing interests of local gangsters and corporate overlords. An Iditarod-type race takes place every season, and she’s sworn off it as it claimed the lives of her mothers. But when she pisses off a gangster and steals his prized wolf, she must partake in the race for a chance to get off that rock.
A compelling relationship between a girl and her wolf woven throughout rad world-building that takes a hard look at the literal colonialism of taking over a planet for its resources.
This read is so much fun. The characterization is great, I really enjoyed Sena as a narrator. So much thought went into the world-building, especially as far as examining corporate takeover for colonist interests goes and the way that affects human relations. There’s also a lot of thought that went into the ecosystem and the flora and fauna found within the book. It’s science fiction that almost feels like magic, and that’s wonderful.
My only hang-up is that the pacing felt a little uneven. The race does not start until about the halfway mark, but the character development and world-building leading up to it are absolutely necessary. And then comes a cinematic adventure through frozen woods, across icy lakes, and within cozy caves. The details and scenes are vivid and immersive, making this a quick read.
This is something I want to specifically point out, but this book has no love interest, at least not in the romantic sense. Its heart lies with Sena and Iska, and I’m so glad Long kept that focus throughout. Sure, there are people who come in and out, and the theme of found family is certainly there. But the bond between wolf and human develops and weaves through every aspect of the plot. It’s compelling and heart-wrenching at times, and the way they find healing through each other is absolutely beautiful.
I also hesitate to call the world-building queernorm because while people held prejudice against Sena’s mothers as far as relations between the colonists and colonizers go, they are dead at the start of the story and there isn’t much mention of other queer relationship or non-traditional familial structures.
That all being said, this overall a great adventure with tenderness and healing at its center taking place on a frozen planet which felt written for me specifically.