Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction

BOOK REVIEW: She Wolf by Dan Smith

Short Review

Ylva (pronounced Eel-va) is an orphaned Dane.  Her mother has been killed by a three-fingered man and, as a proud Viking, she needs to avenge her murder.  In a bleak Northumbrian landscape we follow her journey of survival and vengeance – but who should she trust and is everything as it seems?  With her trusty dog, Geri, by her side can Ylva find safety, peace and a place to call home?
If you enjoy this quest (but also like a bit of fantasy) you may like the Spellslinger series by Sebastien De Castell

Longer Review

Chicken House’s three word summary for this book is Vikings – Vengeance – Wolves.
You could equally put Fierce Female Fighter because Ylva is certainly that.  We first meet her, in 866, outside of a traders hut.   Inside the hut is the murdered body of her mother and riding away into the forest is a fierce looking three fingered man.
So sets the scene for a story of survival, courage and revenge.  Ylva though is just a child (perhaps around 13) and when Cathryn finds her at the scene she offers help.  Being a proud and determined Viking, Ylva refuses but learns to trust Cathryn after she saves her life (and because her dog, Geri, feels that she could be a good protector).
Despite the burning anger in her, Cathryn persuades Ylva that revenge needs to come at the right time and without putting herself in immediate danger summarising her quite succinctly when she says…
“I can’t decide if your head’s empty north of your mouth or if  you’re just one tough little girl”
She persuades her to seek sanctuary at a village, Seatun.  A journey in these times though is no walk in the park.  They are being chased by slavers, dodging packs of wolves and trying to avoid being injured by the very landscape they are travelling through.  Truly it’s a tale of it’s time where broken arms are treated as a minor inconvenience and being armed with an axe and/or knife is a minimum security requirement!
The perils are unrelenting and these two women are really tough!  But is Cathryn what she seems?  Should Ylva trust her?  When she gets to Seatun and it is deserted, except for Cathryn’s friend Bron, is it a trap?
The trouble is that in this environment you have to trust or you die, simple as that.
Pretty much every character in this book has more to them than initially meets the eye.  People are not always what they seem and their past/backstory very much determines their future.  The pace is non-stop and the fabulous cover pretty much sums up the determined spirit of Ylva (which translates as She Wolf).  When she finally catches up with the Three Fingered Man the scene is set for a bloody and brutal ending.
A great read and I love the glossary of Viking terms at the back and the potted history of that era.  A super example of mixing history with inventive story telling.
She Wolf is published by Chicken House Books and is available here.


Dan Smith


Growing up, Dan Smith lived three lives: the day-to-day humdrum of boarding school, finding adventure in the padi fields of Asia and the jungles of Brazil, and in a world of his own, making up stories.

Dan’s Chicken House novels include My Friend the EnemyMy Brother’s Secret and Big Game, the latter of which is now a major movie starring Samuel L. Jackson. His fourth novel for Chicken House, Boy X, published in 2016, and his newest novel Below Zero is publishing January 2018.

Dan lives in Newcastle with his wife and two children.


Reviewed by Angela Paull

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