Wolf Winter

Beautifully rendered and utterly magical, Wolf Winter is a gritty, dark, and atmospheric read set in 1717, in the Swedish Lapland.


  • Want a deep, savory read
  • Like lush, woodsy books
  • Like dark and foreboding atmospheres

TitleWolf Winter | Author: Cecilia Ekbäck   Rating: 4/5

Beautifully rendered and utterly magical, Wolf Winter is a gritty, dark, and atmospheric read set in 1717, in the Swedish Lapland.

It follows a family of mother, father, and two daughters, who leave their home to a leftover hut in the Lapland an old uncle gave to them. In the wilderness, without a village to speak of, and questionable neighbors who live too far away to be within walking help, this family has to figure out how to survive the magic and wildness of the Laplands.

Maija, her husband Paavo and her daughters Frederika and Dorotea arrive from their native Finland, hoping to forget the traumas of their past and put down new roots in this harsh but beautiful land. 

The story has a mystical quality to it, from the strange murder that kicks off the core of the novel, to the apparent evil afoot in the mountains.

As the seasons change, and the “wolf winter,” the harshest winter in memory, descends upon the settlers, Paavo travels to find work, and Maija finds herself struggling for her family’s survival in this land of winter-long darkness. As the snow gathers, the settlers’ secrets are increasingly laid bare. Scarce resources and the never-ending darkness force them to come together, but Maija, not knowing who to trust and who may betray her, is determined to find the answers for herself. Soon, Maija discovers the true cost of survival under the mountain, and what it will take to make it to spring. 

At the heart of the story is magic, but also fear. The settlers fear the mountains, they fear each other, and as much as they want to trust in one another, they don’t – or can’t. Even so, they try, and they help, and they try to band together when need be. There are also undercurrents of Christianity and proselytizing underlying the story, with the Christians trying to convert the Sami, a native people, and turn them from their mystical ways. There’s a feel here of Christianity at a subtle war with Viking-age beliefs, and of one people trying to rule over another. This leaves the book with a deeper and darker storyline that you wouldn’t think of at first glance. It reminded me a bit of The Mercies (read my review here).

The story is beautiful. The writing, atmospheric. The Laplands as wild and dark and foreboding as you would expect. I can’t describe the feel I got from Wolf Winter, but it was a book I read slowly, to taste every word and immerse myself in the magic.

Everything about this book is exquisite, and a perfect read for the coming winter.

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