Review: The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper (2021)


Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…

Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now she is a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, owned by a man she despises. Sharp, clever and resourceful, Amara is forced to hide her talents. For as a she-wolf, her only value lies in the desire she can stir in others.

But Amara’s spirit is far from broken.

By day, she walks the streets with her fellow she-wolves, finding comfort in the laughter and dreams they share. For the streets of Pompeii are alive with opportunity. Out here, even the lowest slave can secure a reversal in fortune. Amara has learnt that everything in this city has its price. But how much is her freedom going to cost her?

Set in Pompeii’s lupanar, The Wolf Den reimagines the lives of women who have long been overlooked.


The Wolf Den was our first pick for the Squadpod Book Club, and I am extremely grateful to Head of Zeus for providing me with a gorgeous hardback copy of the book (complete with bookmark ribbon – one of my very favourite things!) We have had so much fun discussing this brilliant debut – I highly recommend it to book clubs as there is SO much to say!

I am a sucker for a classical setting, and as soon as I heard about this book, I knew it would be right up my street. What I was not expecting was for the novel to feel so fresh and modern, despite being set in ancient Pompeii. The characters, especially the women of the Wolf Den, are so relatable and realistically drawn – they swear and curse and find their own ways of coping with the harsh reality in which they find themselves; they are complex and nuanced and extremely engaging. Even the villains are complicated, and as we get to know the characters better, we learn that no one is quite what they might seem at first.

Amara is a fantastic protagonist, and watching her adapt and do what she needs to do to survive in awful circumstances is fascinating. Her connections to the other characters propel the story along, and her relationship with Dido in particular is beautifully moving. The writing is brilliant – so immediate and immersive. Pompeii comes alive before our eyes, and the descriptions are wonderfully visual, creating a world around the reader.

The novel plunges you into the characters’ world right from the start, and as the story progresses and the action ramps up, it becomes harder and harder to tear yourself away. I read most of the book in two sittings, and it probably would have been one if I’d not had to pause for our lovely book club chat! I am so looking forward to reading the next book in the series and finding out what’s next for Amara and co.

The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper is published by Head of Zeus and is available to purchase here.


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