Review: The Wolf and the Water by Josie Jaffrey

Some secrets are worth killing for

The ancient city of Kepos sits in an isolated valley, cut off from the outside world by a towering wall. Behind it, the souls of the dead clamour for release. Or so the priesthood says.
Kala has never had any reason to doubt their word – until her father dies in suspicious circumstances that implicate the city’s high priest. She’s determined to investigate, but she has a more immediate problem: the laws of the city require her mother to remarry straight away.
Kala’s new stepfather is a monster, but his son Leon is something altogether more dangerous: kind.
With her family fractured and the investigation putting her life in danger, the last thing Kala needs is romance. She would rather ignore Leon entirely, however difficult he makes it. But when she learns the truth of what really clamours behind the wall at the end of the valley, she faces a choice: share what she knows and jeopardise her escape, or abandon him to his fate along with the rest of the city.
If she doesn’t move fast, then no one will make it out of the valley alive.


What is The Wolf and the Water about?

This Atlantis retelling is at is heart about Kala, a young woman in the restrictive society of Kepos. Kala was disabled at a young age by a disease that almost killed her, kept alive only by the love of her father despite societal pressure to cast her off. When her father’s death ushers in a new authority for the Glauks tribe, Kala contends with several forces that would rather see her gone. And, of course, Kepos is not all that it seems…

Genre: Mythical Retelling

This novel is a reimagining of the story of Atlantis. Jaffrey developed a pseudo-historical fantasy society structured off Ancient Greek society and imbued it with the legendary hubris of the Atlantean myth. Additionally, Jaffrey gave it the isolation of a sunken Atlantis before the sinking, which was an interesting choice!

Tropes: Converging Plotlines

A big factor in this story is how much is going on in Kala’s life. She is constantly having to shift her focus from one major event to another. I’ll be touching on this further in the plot section, as well as the “Good” section.

Plot: A, B, and C plots

For myself it was helpful to somewhat separate the major plots going on in Kala’s life–and it was something she alluded to as well. Plot A: Kala’s father dies in semi-suspicious circumstances, and strange things continue to happen that indicate his death was orchestrated….and that same murderer is after Kala. Plot B: Kala discovers a major secret that threatens everything she knows about Kepos and offers her a potential escape. Plot C: The new Glauks, her mother’s husband, is a violent man but has two sweet children. His son, in particular, takes a liking to Kala and begins to pursue a romance with her that unexpectedly becomes feasible.

The Good

Kala as a character goes through some unexpected growth that’s not really addressed in the pages of the book. Her grief in the beginning of the novel is strong enough to override her empathy for her own mother, but she quickly comes to realize that her mother is another victim of a society that values women so little. I enjoyed the turning on the head of the Atlantis story, telling it from the perspective of a citizen of Kepos watching as the city’s hubris gets the better of it. I did enjoy most of the plot of the story, and they were tied in together quite well. There’s a moment in the book where everything converges and becomes clear, and this is the most climactic scene in the novel.

The Okay

The subplot about Kala’s mother in her youth was interesting, but I’m not entirely sure what it added to the overall story of this novel. I’ve just seen that this should be the first in a series so maybe this subplot is meant to become relevant again, but it seemed to wrap itself up here despite its odd inclusion. I liked the idea of Kala learning about her mother and discovering new empathy for her, but other than that some of the surprises from the subplot seemed unnecessary.

The Bad

Perhaps this is because I read this book with the impression it was meant to be a stand alone, but I still don’t understand Kepos. This is in part because the characters themselves don’t realize what’s really happening. Kepos is an isolated city with access to luxury goods. It’s sealed itself off from the dangers of the outside world, and appears to thrive as a result. But of course, this wouldn’t be an Atlantis story without the hubris of the city leading to its own demise. It’s revealed that Kepos knows of others in the outside world and interacts with them to maintain secrecy. But again, these interactions are barely explained and don’t make a lot of sense. If anything, Kepos should have been raided and destroyed by outside forces long ago.

Final Thoughts

I think there’s a lot of interesting choices made in this retelling. It’s not often that an Atlantis story is about the citizens of the city, and two of the three main plots actually concern the internal lives of Kepos rather than the Atlantis story itself. The climax of the novel is incredible, with all the plotlines converging and the action sequence carrying the characters through to the finale. Kala as a character makes a great perspective. She’s level-headed and still in touch with her emotions, she’s bisexual (though understandably the label is not one that exists in Kepos), and she’s adept at navigating the rigid society of Kepos to keep herself and her loved ones safe. While I wish I knew more about the formation of Kepos and exactly how it survived its isolation from the rest of the world, I can also understand why it was hard for that exposition to make it into a story about characters living in Kepos. All in all, a fascinating read!

By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

4 replies on “Review: The Wolf and the Water by Josie Jaffrey”

I really prefer the idea of this book as a stand alone, I’m not sure I’m interested in where the story will pick up based on where it left off. The worldbuilding absolutely has to be expanded on though, so there’s that.

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