Audiobook review: Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy

I had no idea what to expect from this novel, but wow… I’m so glad I listened to it.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team of biologists tasked with reintroducing fourteen gray wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but Aggie, too, unmade by the terrible secrets that drove the sisters out of Alaska.

Inti is not the woman she once was, either, changed by the harm she’s witnessed—inflicted by humans on both the wild and each other. Yet as the wolves surprise everyone by thriving, Inti begins to let her guard down, even opening herself up to the possibility of love. But when a farmer is found dead, Inti knows where the town will lay blame. Unable to accept her wolves could be responsible, Inti makes a reckless decision to protect them. But if the wolves didn’t make the kill, then who did? And what will Inti do when the man she is falling for seems to be the prime suspect?

My thoughts

I seem to be one of the few people who haven’t yet read McConaghy’s Migrations—this was my first experience with her writing, which was an absolute treat. Lush descriptions of the Scottish highlands ecosystem and wildlife, strong character development and a fascinating mix of literary fiction and mystery, this audiobook had me enthralled from start to finish. There is just so much going on.

Inti is a complicated main character… she’s brilliant but makes some dumb choices, she has a somewhat disturbingly close relationship and fraught history with her twin sister, and she is passionate about her wolves over just about everything else. I rooted for Inti so hard, in spite of it because of her imperfections. The story is brimming with tension: the clashes between the re-introduced wolves and the locals, the scientists and the locals, Inti and Aggie’s vulnerability after their history of violence at the hands of men, and so much more.

Part murder mystery, part environmental activism, part literary survivor story, this book is an atmospheric, passionate and emotional experience that kept me guessing. While there are a couple elements of the story that require a reader to suspend disbelief, I happily did so and enjoyed this story completely.

The book does need all the trigger warnings, though: it’s violent, deals with animal and human death, sexual violence, emotional abuse, and more. I personally thought these issues were handled well in Once There Were Wolves, but if these things are big no’s for you, avoid this book.

The audiobook narration by Saskia Maarleveld is also excellent. Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for my copy of this extremely well-done audiobook in exchange for my honest review.


Now, I am most definitely going to read Migrations, just as soon as I can.

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