Once There Were Wolves

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Pub Date 20 Jan 2022 | Archive Date 19 Feb 2022

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**The New York Times Bestseller**

'So damn good. A page-turner that makes you think and has a huge emotional impact' Jeff VanderMeer

A wild and gripping novel about one woman's quest to reintroduce wolves to the Scottish Highlands at any cost

Inti Flynn arrives in the Scottish Highlands with fourteen grey wolves, a traumatised sister and fierce tenacity.

As a biologist, she knows the animals are the best hope for rewilding the ruined landscape and she cares little for local opposition. As a sister, she hopes the remote project will offer her twin, Aggie, a chance to heal after the horrific events that drove them both out of Alaska.

But violence dogs their footsteps and one night Inti stumbles over the body of a farmer. Unable to accept that her wolves could be responsible, she makes a reckless decision to protect them. But if the wolves didn't make the kill, then who did? And can she trust the man she is beginning to love when he becomes the main suspect?

Propulsive and unforgettable, Once There Were Wolves is the spellbinding story of a woman desperate to save her family, the wild animals and the natural world she loves, at any cost.

'One of those very rare, special novels that changes you as you read' Laurie Frankel

**The New York Times Bestseller**

'So damn good. A page-turner that makes you think and has a huge emotional impact' Jeff VanderMeer

A wild and gripping novel about one woman's quest to reintroduce...

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ISBN 9781784744397
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Featured Reviews

Once There Were Wolves, Charlotte McConaghy

Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Literary Fiction

Well, wow. I wasn't sure about this story, but I'm so glad I requested. Its a fantastic read, had me engrossed all through, unable to put aside. That first opening line grabbed me, I love a story that does that – says “Hey! Look!”

Its more an immersive experience than a story for me, when Inti was feeling things, I was feeling them with her. She had such a strong determination to do what she believed in, really did feel it was healing the land, and with her special issues she understood very much how the land and its inhabitants were feeling. Does doping the right thing for the wrong reasons matter? Does doing the wrong thing for the right reasons? And who gets to determine what is wrong and right, there are times when the line gets very blurred.
We see too how much our pasts, our backgrounds shape us, determine how we see things, our actions and beliefs. I really liked that this story went beyond simply what people did but looked at their pasts, often before we saw the actions, so we perhaps understood more. It raised so many questions for me.
Like many I've seen the video of how reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone park changed the landscape, brought in so many formerly lost species, even changed the course of the river. Its that mighty oaks from acorns grow stuff. Small changes really can bring huge improvements. Its so inspiring. Here where I live in rural north Norfolk there have been moves to reintroduce sea eagles, but as in this story they are heavily resisted by local farmers.
Inti's actions, made me think. What would I do? I'd like to think I'd make a different decision about the farmer but who knows? We really can't understand someone's actions unless we've lived their life. There are so many little twists here too, some I suspected, others caught me out completely.
Its a lovely ending, felt like the story had gone full circle.

Stars: Five, a gripping, fascinating read.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

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A lovely novel about wolves and re-wilding set in rural, mountainous Scotland. Inti, a headstrong Kiwi biologist with a nightmarish past and a consequently terrified, trauma damaged twin, moves to a remote village to head up a project to reintroduce the predators. This, she and her team hope, will prevent further environmental damage and restore a natural balance. The local farmers, however, most of them dependent on herd for their living, are understandably hostile, and this sets up much of the conflict for the story that develops. The novel deals with themes of violence, survival, the destruction of natural habitats and the plight of the predator in a man-changed environment. But also, being a book about people, it deals with the things that preoccupy us - love, hate, forgiveness and redemption. There was a lot, possibly too much, violence and blood; although given the story and the setting, perhaps this was unavoidable. Regardless, I enjoyed the novel hugely and found, despite the slightly slow start, that it packed a huge punch. A fascinating and emotional read.

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Outstanding - as a reader it captured me from beginning to end with the storytelling and the characters. Added to that are the haunting, raw, heartbreaking themes combined with beautiful descriptions of the Scottish Highlands. This book literally had me in tears and my heart ached for Inti and Aggie and all their experiences. As a romance it has all the elements, as a mystery it left me on the edge of their seat more than once. Without any spoilers I can simply say this is not a trite happy ever after book, but neither is it left unfinished. A brilliantly written and crafted book, if I could give more than 5 stars I would.

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Biologist Inti Flynn has a mission. She has been chosen to head up a rewilding initiative in the remote Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands. She has a small number of assistants and has imported two packs of grey wolves from Canada. Deer in the area are usually culled so that the land can provide for the herds. The wolves total fourteen and are carefully watched in their cages until they have settled in and are fit and healthy ready to live an independent life. They will then be tracked through a collar that will enable data to be downloaded. To say most of the residents are unhappy about the reintroduction of wolves is an understatement, they are incandescent with rage, but some of the younger community members are fascinated and fully committed to the cause. Wolves will help with the deer problem and will play their part in increasing biodiversity and decreasing the stressed ecosystem. The area will literally re-wild and the land will be as it was in days gone by. New species will be an added bonus.
Inti has a small cottage near the forests picked for the release of the wolves. Her nearest neighbour is a good walk away and is the Chief Police Officer of the community. She arrives in the small village which will be her base, having fled from Alaska with her twin sister Aggie who has escaped from her psychotic husband. His abuse of her has terrorised her so much that she has become an elective mute and it is possible she may never survive her trauma. The two women are closer than ever, Inti is determined their new beginning will help to heal her beloved sister. Inti herself has always suffered from Mirror Touch Synaesthesia, a rare condition that makes her a strong empath. She can literally feel the pain of others herself, physical, emotional and mental. She is hoping that the valley below the forest will not attract the wolves that may become so hungry in hard times that they may take the farmer’s cattle or sheep. That would be like a red rag to a bull. Of course they would be compensated, but Inti knows that it would not appease the farmer. It would almost be an insult.
This story is alive, vibrant and thought provoking. The research undertaken beforehand is phenomenal and meticulous. It becomes a widely spread bank of information that informs the story increasing its relevance and authenticity. The storytelling is wonderful and of course the descriptions of the landscape are magical and provoke so many wildly beautiful images it almost feels as though you are there. The characters in this story are wisely created and diverse. On one side there are those that are working for the benefit of others and are enthusiastic and well meaning. On the other side of the coin are the thugs braying for blood and those who are ignorant and self-serving. The main thread of the story is compelling and very exciting and the back stories offer the history: what makes them tick, how they have reacted and their opinions. The issues within this novel are modern and far reaching: rape, lies, damaging relationships, abuse, deception and more. The pace of the story increases as the bore bones of the storyboard give way to the intricacies of a well-researched scenario and a heap of tension and excitement. I loved the ending which was satisfying and rounded off the story very well. This is a novel I will never forget. It was both powerful and enjoying.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from publisher Vintage Digital through my membership of NetGalley and in return for an honest review. These are my own honest opinions. I thought this novel was very good indeed. The plot was interesting, complex and uniquely twisted. It is a 4.5* review from me.

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Charlotte McConaghy echoes many of the themes of The Last Migration here and there are similiarities in the character of Franny Stone with that of Inti Flynn in this raw, profoundly moving, atmospheric and powerful novel. Inti is a biologist who is spearheading the reintroduction of 14 grey wolves in a rewilding project in the Scottish Highlands in an effort to balance the degraded ecosystems from the overpopulation of deer. There haven't been wolves in Scotland for centuries, Inti believes the environment needs predators for the environment to be in balance and to thrive. She and her damaged twin sister Aggie have arrived from Alaska, and Inti hopes that her sister, with whom she is so closely bonded, and the environment will heal, Aggie has serious mental health issues and difficulties when it comes to communication. The narrative goes back and forth in time, revealing Inti's childhood, the secrets, and her past, going on to reveal the horrors of what happened in Alaska.

The twins have spent time with their father in the wilds of the forests of British Columbia, learning subsistence living and how to co-exist with nature. At the other end of the scale, they have been immersed in urban living in Sydney, Australia where their mother is a detective who has seen the darker side of humanity, she has taught them to be more cautious, learning to distrust people and the importance of self defence. Inti has the special gift of mirror touch synesthesia, both a blessing and a curse, allowing her to experience the pain of others. As might be expected, many locals, including farmers, worried about their livestock, are hostile and apprehensive about the introduction of wolves and the battlelines are drawn. Inti will do whatever it takes to protect Aggie and the wolves, and when a death occurs, she makes some questionable decisions, getting drawn into the mystery amidst rising tensions. With a relationship developing between Inti and Sheriff Duncan MacTavish, can she trust him?

In this emotionally gripping, haunting, and well researched story of violence, loss, abuse, trauma, fear, survival and conservation, McConaghy gives us stellar characterisation and provides rich and vivid descriptions of the Scottish location, the challenges that the endangered wolves face, and the differing characteristics of the wolves. This is a multilayered, outstanding and hopeful novel, unforgettable, dwelling on the complexities of human nature, our flawed humanity that damages the environment and its ecosystems to such dangerous levels, and focusing on a specific rewilding project intended to address some of this harm. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.

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A beautifully written homage to nature. I loved Migrations, Once there were wolves certainly lives up to it. A biologist attempts to reintroduce wolves in the Scottish Highlands - I learned a lot about the importance of predators for the entire ecosystem. There is also a mystery to be solved!

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This was a great story! It is a story about learning to trust again. Obviously the wolves are the main stars , with the little Scottish community being a collective MC itself, as well as Inti and Duncan- two complex and imperfect human beings. The book made me curious to find out if reintroducing wolves to Scotland was an actual Thing- and there ARE plans to. I never realised deer could be such a big problem in terms of preserving the ecosystem: by killing off their natural predators, the deer have been free to eat the new growth and seedlings essential to forests surviving and thriving. This was a very touching story. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.

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Rating: 4.5/5 stars

From the author of what was probably my favourite novel of last year, comes another masterpiece. Like its predecessor, Once There Were Wolves combines climate fiction with an intimate character portrait of trauma, isolation and the patterns we evolve in order to survive.

“When we were eight, Dad cut me open from throat to stomach.”

That’s how McConaghy first introduces us to her characters, through a memory… Although we soon learn that it’s not quite what you may at first think, it’s one of the most intriguing opening lines in fiction I’ve encountered in a while. It also sets the tone perfectly for what’s to follow.

Our narrator Inti and her twin sister Aggy have grown up inseparable through an unconventional childhood and the tumultuous years after. Their connection is strengthened even further due to Inti’s unusual neurological condition, mirror-touch-synaesthesia, causing her brain to interpret every sensation she sees as if it were happening to her own body. Inti’s almost obsessive devotion to her job as a wolf-biologist uproots the two to the remote Scottish highlands, on a mission to introduce a population of wolves back into the ecosystem. Unfortunately, much to the dislike of the local farming community.
What follows is a tense exploration of family- and pack-mentality, a melancholic portrait of the effects of emotional and physical violence on a joint life, and a hint of murder mystery to increase the stakes even further.

“Trauma can create new patterns. I'm no stranger to this.”

There’s little praise to be sung about Once There Were Wolves, that I haven’t already gushed about at length when talking about Migrations. McConaghy is a master of character writing, especially when it comes to the flawed, yet realistic coping-mechanisms they employ to survive. Like Franny, both Aggy and Inti are pushed to the brink, their deeply co-dependent relationship a by-product of their history together. Their stories aren’t easy ones to read, but told in McConaghy’s stunning prose and paralleled with lush nature-writing, they make for the perfect melancholic and haunting tales that linger long after you close the book.

My one and only critique is the use of mirror-touch-synaesthesia as a plot-point. It felt just a little on the nose, and overly melodramatic to me in its presentation. From a medical standpoint, yes, this condition is real. It’s also extremely rare, and almost never as literal or severe as portrayed here. It’s by no means problematic, but I’m personally iffy about the use of medical conditions, especially in this kind of stylized form, as plot motifs. In this case, I don’t think the story benefitted from it too much: Inti’s sensitive and empathetic nature would have come across just fine without.

Overall: McConaghy has quickly joined the list of my favourite modern authors, and I’m highly anticipating whatever she writes next.

Many thanks to Penguin Random House for providing me with an ARC, based off my review of Migrations. For the sake of disclosure: I'd pre-ordered this novel with my own money in advance as I'd like to support the authors work in the future. All opinions are genuine and my own.

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How to describe this book? It is devastating, beautiful, haunting. Each strand is carefully weaved throughout the story and expertly brought together at the end. The pace makes it a galloping, heart-racing ride, and I was unable to put this book down for long. An emotional, stunning story.

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I haven't read a book I've rated 5/5 in quite a while but "Once There Were Wolves" absolutely deserves it.

For me, the writing style and tone of this book exquisitely matched the landscape and atmosphere of this story.
Beautifully written, especially in the descriptions of the Scottish highlands and the wolves themselves. Charlotte McConaghy gives them such depth and emotion on the page.

The way Inti's character is written is hard for me to describe. As the reader you constantly feel like there is a barrier between you. Very much in the same way she keeps everyone else at arms length for most of the book, which was interesting. I don't know if that was intentional on the author's part or just how she walked onto the page.

There were some frustrating moments within the book, for me. The stubbornness and refusal to communicate, from Inti especially, did grate on me after a while. Even though I could understood her character's motivations as more and more of her history was revealed.

I'd describe this as a quiet book with many hidden depths. It may not be for readers who prefer fast paced plotlines but I think there's something really special and beautiful about so many scenes of this book.
I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for other work by this author.

Part of me almost thinks that the synopsis gives away a little too much, as some events described don't happen until around the 40% mark, but I think this comes down to personal preference on how much you wish to know about a story before reading.

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