Books & Literature

Book Review: The Wolf’s Howl: A Maven and Reeve Mystery, by A.L.Tait

MIDDLE GRADE: Maven and Reeve find themselves at the far-flung and gloomy Glawn Castle while Sir Garrick secretly searches for supporters of the rebellion. But when a cook goes missing and the Airl’s personal guards take more than a passing interest in the disappearance, danger looms and the potential for discovery grows.

A very satisfying new story from A.L Tait that will take the young reader on an exciting journey of political intrigue.

Allison Tait, writing under the pen name A. L. Tait, is an Australian author. She is best known for her middle grade series The Mapmaker Chronicles.  The Wolf’s Howl is the second book in her Maven and Reeve series.

In the first book, we met Maven and Reeve. Maven had become a servant due to her family losing their titles after her father’s bad management and Reeve desperately wanted to become a knight. Together, they solved the mystery of the Fire Star. In this new adventure, set one week later, we discover Reeve is now squire to Lord Garrick, Knight protector of the Airl of Buckthorn and Maven is companion to Lady Cassandra, his new wife.

They are all on their way to Glawn Castle, ostensibly for the honeymoon of the Lord and his Lady, but they have really been sent by the Airl of Buckthorn to find out if Airl Riding is sympathetic to their cause. King Bren is not doing a very good job of running the country so there are treasonous plots to replace him.

The story is seen through the eyes of both Maven and Reeve, but it is mostly Maven’s story. Set in the fictional kingdom of Cartreff, which resembles medieval England, this is a world where women are not allowed to read and doing so could mean death. They have no rights, are treated as worthless, and are wed to those who offer the best political alliance. These details portray how unfair this fictional world is and add to the emotional impact of the story. Luckily for Maven, her father taught her to read, but only a handful of trusted people know her secret. There is also a secret society, The Beech Circle, which helps women and girls escape to a better life. This mirrors real-life women’s rights groups working to fight discrimination in society.

The Wolf’s Howl, named after the bitterly cold and dangerous winds that sweep across the land around Glawn Castle, is a riveting story of political intrigue and mystery. Both Reeve and Maven must uncover secrets in an unknown castle. The cook has disappeared, but who can they trust and how do they navigate the workings of an unfamiliar castle?

The detailed descriptions of the clothes worn by the women give us a small idea of how hard it would have been for women of the time. Unable to ride a horse sitting astride and not allowed to have an opinion, waiting for a man to speak first, are all details that add to the story.

Once again, Tait has given us a story full of twists and turns. Sometimes it is necessary to reread sections due to the continually changing landscape. Just when the reader may feel overwhelmed with information, Tait draws it all together into a satisfactory conclusion.

The Wolf’s Howl is almost historical fiction for middle years, even though the place and time are fictional. The windswept landscape with its ever-present windmills feels isolated and eerie. Tait is able to describe an environment that makes the reader become fully immersed in the story. There are times when you may be on the edge of your seat, wondering who will survive.

If you have read the first book in this series, you will want to continue their story. If not, I would recommend reading The Fire Star first (though not absolutely necessary) so you have a better understanding of the relationships and backgrounds. This is a series not to be missed by those younger readers who enjoy books involving more substance and thought.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Penguin Books
Released: 3 August 2021
RRP: $16.99

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