I saw Yaba Badoe speak at YALC last year, and thought she was absolutely fantastic to listen to. I could just tell that her books would be full of lyrical imagery and spectacular magic. So when I saw that Wolf Light was on NetGalley, I instantly requested it.
Born in wolf light, the magical dusk, in Mongolia, Ghana and Cornwall, Zula, Adoma and Linet are custodians of the sacred sites of their homelands. Yaba’s debut novel A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars was shortlisted for the 2018 Branford Boase Award and nominated for the 2019 Carnegie Medal.
When copper miners plunder Zula’s desert home in Gobi Altai, and Adoma’s forest and river are polluted by gold prospectors, it is only a matter of time before the lake Linet guards with her life is also in jeopardy. How far will Zula, Adoma and Linet go to defend the well-being of their homes? And when all else fails, will they have the courage to summon the ancient power of their order, to make the landscape speak in a way that everyone will hear?
Rich in elemental magic, myth and the mysterious magical dusk, Wolf Light is Yaba Badoe’s defiant call to protect our environment, to conserve our heritage and to hear the ancient power that connects us.
I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting from Wolf Light, but what I got was a really beautiful, lyrical discussion of climate change, family, and the family you choose for yourself, mixed with elemental magic and myth, and coming of age.
Three main characters, scattered around the world in Mongolia, Ghana, and Cornwall, Zula, Adoma, and Linet are tasked with protecting sites of spiritual importance, and gifted with elemental powers to do that. When each of their homes is threatened by progress, the girls need to work together to protect their homes and sacred sites.
There is so much going on in this book, and it feels like there is intense depth to this world that we have only just scraped the surface of. That’s both a positive and a negative for this book. It’s clear that there is a rich seam of storytelling here which underpins the narrative we experience, but it also feels like our experience of these three girls is shallower than it could be. I was left a tiny bit disappointed at the end of this book that, despite having three wonderful main characters, it didn’t feel like we really knew any of them. Perhaps it’s because the book spends a lot of time on descriptions of the eerie, twilight-based magical system, or because there are beautifully lyrical descriptions of their sacred sites, but I was left somewhat unfulfilled by the depths of character that we plumbed.
But that’s not to say that this book doesn’t have absolute stacks of wonderful imagery and great breadth of stories. Three diverse and different main characters, some fabulous scene-setting, and a variety of family situations was great – presenting these different arrangements as nothing lesser, nothing other, but these three girls’ normal. I also really loved the friendship and sisterhood between the three girls. Friends are the family you choose for yourself, and the supportive and loving nature of their relationship is something that I would love to see more of in YA books – too often we see the toxic side of female close friendships, but we need more of the wonderful support that these sisters give to each other.
Also, the cover art is stunning.