The Wolf’s Curse

HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Sept. 2021. 336p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063067417.
Gr 4 Up–This dark fairy tale from debut author Vitalis attempts to tackle the subject of childhood grief through the eyes of a soul-snatching wolf in a fantasy setting. Readers meets Gauge, a white child who lives with his grandfather, the town carpenter of Bouge-by-the-Sea. The boy has the talent of being able to see and speak to a wolf that no one else can perceive and is therefore shunned by the townspeople. They believe the ghostly animal to be a type of grim reaper, making Gauge a “voyant,” or a witch, who is able to send the wolf to kill family members. When it is clear that Gauge’s grandfather is sick and close to death, the boy must perform the holy act of “the Release” to make sure the departing soul gets to Sea in the Sky, their world’s version of heaven, but the entirety of the town prevents him from this final, sacred effort. He bands together with the local smith’s daughter Roux, cued dark-skinned, and the two deal with their separate grief and both begin to discover the hypocrisy in the town’s afterworld beliefs. All of this is told by the narrator, the supernatural wolf who follows the boy around, and who consistently breaks the narrative wall by using direct address to the reader. Vitalis also uses footnotes in the first half of the book to explain how to pronounce her world’s cities and last names. Although the author chooses the potentially ripe subject of how children deal with grief, poverty, and ostracization, the story is a dark one which relies on a few narrative devices that miss the mark. When the wolf addresses the reader, the tone is meant to appear as snarky commentary, but the delivery is off-putting, as is the device of using footnotes, which happens early on in the novel, but disappears halfway through. In truth, although readers get a taste of this fantasy world Gatineau—their “shell currency,” for example, and traditional rites of the dead—the world-building itself is insubstantial. All in all, the story does follow fairy-tale guidelines and offers insight for children overcoming obstacles, but the narrative as a whole does not deliver.
VERDICT A secondary purchase for large libraries or to use in bibliotherapeutic circles to address grief over losing a loved one, or to talk about the cruel nature of mob mentality.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing