Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline


ARC was provided by William Morrow in exchanged for an honest review

This review is being published after the release date (July 28th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Colonization, child abuse, grief, death, loss of a loved one, mention of claustrophobia, body shaming, alcoholism, gaslighting, sex, racism/racist slurs, anxiety, drug abuse, scene of attempted rape

Chills. I have literal chills running down my spine and every time I have tried to type this review, I get even more chills remembering what I read. This was such a wild ride and I never saw a lot of the twists and turns. There’s such a heavy, ominous vibe about this book and I can’t get over the way the rougarou was shown throughout this book. I also want to point out that this book is ownvoices for the Métis representation, Cherie Dimaline is a Métis author, but only one voice of the Métis community. I also want to point out that I’m not Métis. I’m Apache and I can’t make any commentary on any Métis cultural history or cultural elements that are laced throughout this book.

Victor has disappeared. After a night of their first serious argument, Victor left their home to check the trap only he never came back. Alone and broken hearted, Joan hasn’t stopped looking for her missing husband for almost a year. Then one terrible morning while hungover, she finds herself tumbling to the revival tent that many Métis have been gathering to hear a charismatic preacher. Joan comes into the tent after the service has already concluded, but just as she turns to leave, an unmistakable voice falls upon her ears.

I loved Joan as a main character. Joan is in no way a perfect heroine, but her flaws and the way she loves so deeply makes you appreciate her all the more. She’s such a loving character, she doesn’t shy away from the deep sorrow she feels, and she’s determined to to find Victor. I also really loved Zeus. He’s such an underdog and the way he grounds Joan was such a wonderful thing to read. I think both of these characters deserve more credit. Victor was a bit of a hard character to come to like because we don’t see enough of his personality. However, I love, love, loved how much Victor loves Joan and despite everything that happens with him, he still continues to search for her, continues loving her. I think these characters deserve much more credit for being the flawed characters they are, but also being so human in everything they do in this book.

“There’s lots of ways to become one.” She counted on her fingers. “Being attacked by a rogarou, mistreating women, betraying your people…that’s the ones we know around here, anyways.”

I really loved how we get some insight into Métis traditions and stories, especially with the Rougarou. Throughout this book we also get to see a deep strength of the Métis people. We see how the traditions, the stories, and the teachings are pass from generation to generation. And you just get an overwhelming sense of how resilient the Métis truly are.

The author dives into other important territories like the way religious missionaries continue to try to take advantage of Indigenous communities in their quest to take their land. We also see how colonialism continues to impact Indigenous communities as a whole and how quickly it escalates into violence. And of course, you see the racism and the stereotypes Indigenous people face every single day. You see how harmful it is and just how quick people are to assume certain things about you when you’re Indigenous.

I also want to take a moment to add this little side note. I’ve noticed a lot of readers have given this book a negative review and one of the main reasons has been to claiming this book is “too religious” or it’s a religious book. And hearing any reader say that makes me question if anyone who made this claim actually read the book in the first place. This is not a religious book in any way. This book is commentary on the way religion has been weaponized and used against Indigenous communities, how it continues to be weaponized. It’s also a commentary on how people are so willing to follow a religious leader without ever questioning their motives or actions. As someone who comes from a very colorful religious upbringing and having married someone who escaped from a cult in their youth, this is not a religious book and instead shines light on the problematic issues with religion that no one wants to talk about or address in any way.

“Old Medicine has a way of being remembered, of haunting the land where it’s laid. People are forgetful. Medicine is not.”

My only issue with this book was the multiple point of views. If you’ve been a follower of mine then you know I usually don’t read books with multiple povs. With how sharp my memory can be, when there are more than two point of views involved, things tend to blur together and that definitely happened with this book. There were parts I had to reread because I was struggling to remember who’s pov I was currently reading in.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. If I’m being honest, I definitely wasn’t in the right head space while reading this book and I think if I had been, the multiple povs would have been a bit easier for me to keep track of. I also want to remind all of you who are reading this review, if you’re not Métis then you don’t get to comment on the cultural elements in this book. Instead, you should be seeking out other Indigenous reviewers to hear their opinions on this book. And you should also consider doing your own research to help further your understanding about the Métis and their history. I can’t tell you how to read this book, but I strongly encourage you, if you’re non-Indigenous, to expand your knowledge, your understanding of things you don’t understand, and to challenge your preconceived ideas you may have about Indigenous people, Indigenous culture, and Indigenous history.

“If you’re gonna fight, then fight like hell. Otherwise you’re just dancing. And nobody ever defied death with a waltz.”

Buddy Read with Destiny from Howling Libraries 🧡

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.


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