The Wolf Den

Hardback edition released 13/05/2021

by Elodie Harper

Part of the The Wolf Den Trilogy Series

Historical Fiction Books of the Month Sagas Audiobooks of the Month

LoveReading Expert Review of The Wolf Den

An entertaining firecracker blazing with wolfish verve and a woman’s desire to escape the Pompeii brothel she’s enslaved to.

Set in AD 74, Elodie Harper’s The Wolf Den tells the enthralling tale of Amara, a prostitute enslaved to Pompeii’s lupanar brothel. Serving a rich feast of historic atmosphere with all the pace of popular drama, fans of spicy historic fiction will be left longing to devour the second course of this trilogy - think TV show Harlots set in ancient Pompeii.

Educated doctor’s daughter Amara once lived free, but the poverty that came in the wake of her father’s death led to enslavement to the Wolf Den brothel, where her cell is adorned with a picture of “a woman being taken from behind” and a terracotta lamp “modelled in the shape of a penis” (the real-life lupanar brothel is famed for its erotic frescos). By day, the she-wolves visit the women’s baths and stalk the streets to draw business to the Den. By night, “the brothel passes like a scene from Hades: the endless procession of drunken men, the smoke, the soot, angry shouting,” until Amara lies in her cell, “unable to sleep, suffocated by rage”.

When fellow she-wolf Victoria says how lucky they are, Amara’s retort is characteristically sharp: “Here we all are…Four penniless slaves sucking off idiots for bread and olives. What a life.” And a life she refuses to settle for when “the desire to escape takes hold, its roots digging deep under her skin, breaking her apart.

Harper’s style is exhilaratingly direct, with images lingering long in the mind’s eye. You smell the oil lamps and temple incense, taste sticky figs, feel physical blows, and the dialogue packs powerful punch too. It’s a vivacious piece of work, and all underpinned by a woman’s longing for freedom.

Joanne Owen

The Wolf Den Synopsis

Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii's brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den...

Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father's death plunged her family into penury. Now she is a slave in Pompeii's infamous brothel, owned by a man she despises. Sharp, clever and resourceful, Amara is forced to hide her talents. For as a she-wolf, her only value lies in the desire she can stir in others.

But Amara's spirit is far from broken.

By day, she walks the streets with her fellow she-wolves, finding comfort in the laughter and dreams they share. For the streets of Pompeii are alive with opportunity. Out here, even the lowest slave can secure a reversal in fortune. Amara has learnt that everything in this city has its price. But how much is her freedom going to cost her?

Set in Pompeii's lupanar, The Wolf Den reimagines the lives of women who have long been overlooked.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781838933531
Publication date: 13th May 2021
Author: Elodie Harper
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 464 pages
Primary Genre Historical Fiction
Other Genres:

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The Wolf Den Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

“I’ve just read a fantastic book about prostitutes in a Pompeii brothel” is not something I ever thought I would find myself telling people but that was before I encountered The Wolf Den. Like a breath of fresh air – it surprised me just how much I could identify with these women and how much I cared for them.

“I’ve just read a fantastic book about prostitutes in a Pompeii brothel” is not something I ever thought I would find myself telling people but that was before I encountered The Wolf Den.

I don’t even consider myself a big fan of historical fiction and I think that’s maybe why I loved this so much. It’s not so much about the history, although the setting is obviously critical to the whole story, it's more about the characters of these female workers. Although they exist in a different place and time, where people were traded as commodities and women were second class citizens, Amara and her friends face similar issues to women today and I think that’s what makes their story so compelling. We can relate to them and their strength and will to survive. Their life stories, of how they ended up in the wolf den, were so varied; Amara, a talented and educated young woman, sold into slavery by her mother; Dido, a beautiful and innocent girl, captured when her village was raided; and Victoria, a powerful, desirable and yet vulnerable she-wolf, abandoned on a rubbish heap as an infant, but regardless of their history they and others find themselves bought and forced to work as prostitutes by the callous Felix. Each of them must endure cruelty and violence on a daily basis and yet they maintain their will to survive. They have each other and they have hope. No matter how unlikely, there exists the faint possibility of a life beyond the brothel, just as many of them had a life before it. Being bought as a household slave or a concubine or even having their freedom bought and being granted the title of freedwoman – all are attainable. We follow Amara as she tries to find a way out, a way back to her former life of freedom. Amara must take every opportunity which presents itself if she is to escape this life, but at what cost?

It should be noted that although The Wolf Den revolves around the sex trade and does contain abuse and violence it is covered tactfully without too much detail. This isn’t a book so much about prostitutes, it's more a book about women.

Like a breath of fresh air – it surprised me just how much I could identify with these women, how much I cared for them and how much I am looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.

S Harper

Clever, tragic, compelling and totally immersive! A brilliant book about slavery in Roman times that resonates today in light of reports of modern day sexual slavery. Well drawn characters who you will be rooting for long after turning the final page. An absolute triumph for Elodie HARPER who has dealt with a difficult subject with sensitivity and grace.

Such a clever book! The main character Amara is determined to escape her life of slavery in a Pompeiian brothel (caused by the death of her father). The subject of sexual slavery is dealt with sensitively and the other women enslaved with Amara are also fascinating characters. I did not want the novel to end and found that it was hard to accept not knowing the fates of Amara’s friends Victoria, Beronice and Britannica. Whilst the story has resonance in light of modern media reports of trafficked people, the skilful writing of Elodie Harper has vividly recreated this aspect of Roman life and made it accessible to the present day.

Jennifer Stoddart

A great historical novel dealing with the seedy side of Ancient Pompeii. These 'She-wolves' are not to be underestimated, as a pack they are stronger than their masters could ever imagine.

The Wolf Den follows the daily lives of the sex workers enslaved at the titular whore house. The narrative takes place in Ancient Pompeii and takes its inspiration from graffiti found amongst the ruins of the town. The women find strength and hope in the little acts of kindness that they share and their hopes of betterment. The underbelly of Pompeii's sex trade and money lending is told with a vividness that at times makes for unpleasant reading forcing you into the lives of the unfortunate females (and males).

The main character Amara's desire to elevate herself once more is beautifully arced as she realises her power and how best to utilise her intellect and skills. The conflict that Amara tussles with as she decides to better herself in the knowledge that in so doing, she relinquishes her old life is elegantly crafted and bittersweet.

Elodie Harper creates beautifully rounded characters – these are not tragic slaves, the women all in their own way fight back manipulating their desperate situation into a forum for growth and develop a keen camaraderie that gives them ultimately the power to endure.

There is darkness but also hope. If you enjoy historical fiction, then this is worth a look.

Helen Precious

Can a girl sold into prostitution ever escape? Read Amara’s story to find out!

The Wolf Den is set in Ancient Pompeii and tells the story of Amara, a young girl from a middle class family who through family tragedy finds herself sold as a slave and then into a brothel. The brutal treatment of such girls means a sad and very often short life and every girl will do whatever it takes to achieve their freedom. The brothel owner rules with a rod of iron and allows his girls little freedom and even less money so Amara’s wishes seem hopeless and she appears destined to remain a prostitute until she is no longer useful to him. Her life is a catalogue of violent sex, beatings and she sees friends and rivals killed. Will she ever escape? No spoilers in this review - you will have to read the book to find out!

Sue Packer

The Wolf Den is an incredibly well-researched novel that is also a gripping read.

Wow! If you didn’t know anything about the seedy side to Roman times, you will do now. Elodie Harper has taken a group of fictional characters and thrown them right into the middle of Pompeii, AD74, complete with brothels, murders, sisterhood and kindness (plus a whole lot of scheming and manipulation). And while the author is subtly educating you into the goings on of the Roman society, the different hierarchies and traditions (you’ll even meet Pliny (not sure which one)) it is at the lowest, saddest side where she has decided to place the main character, Amara, who shouldn’t be in the position she is but is determined to survive. In The Wolf Den no one is safe and no one is completely ruthless - each character has his/her reasons for their actions. This is a gripping read that will keep you glued to the page.

Heather Byrne

I must admit to the novel leaving me wanting more and I am hoping that there will be a follow up novel that continues with Amara's journey.

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book when I first started reading it but my advice is to stick with it - it gets better....a lot better.

This is the story of Amara, a Greek woman living in Pompeii. The daughter of a Doctor, she has been educated, can sing, play a lyre and can read and understand medical texts. Sadly, following the death of her father, Amara's mother sold her as a concubine. Amara's master's wife soon became jealous of Amara's beauty and sold her into the brothels of Pompeii. Shocked by what she has to go through, Amara struggles to survive. Forming close friendships with the other prostitutes Amara soon learns that to truly survive she needs to buy her freedom, and that freedom will come at the cost of her friendships.

Not shrinking from the horrors of the brothels and the abuse at the hands of the brothel keepers this is an intriguing read. I struggled to get into it at first but soon found that I wanted to know what happened. Amara, Dido, Victoria and the other prostitutes are wonderful characters that you soon come to care about, sharing in their traumas along the way. It's an uncomfortable read but that discomfort comes from the abuse being hinted at rather than overtly and graphically portrayed.

I must admit to the novel leaving me wanting more and I am hoping that there will be a follow up novel that continues with Amara's journey.

Alison Bradbury

Elodie Harper Press Reviews


'Wonderful ... This deliciously gripping novel casts the familiar setting of Norwich and its surroundings in a grim and haunting new light' Sarah Perry, on The Binding Song.

'A splendidly unsettling debut' John Connolly, on The Binding Song.

'One of the most chilling, atmospheric debuts I've read' Claire Douglas, on The Binding Song.

'Chilling, intelligent, and highly addictive. Superb' Will Dean, on The Death Knock.

'Riveting and scarily believable' Laura Purcell, on The Death Knock.

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781838933555
Publication date: 02/09/2021
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781838933531
Publication date: 13/05/2021
Format: Hardback

ISBN: 9781800248564
Publication date: 13/05/2021
Format: Audiobook

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About Elodie Harper

Elodie Harper is a journalist and prize-winning short story writer. Her story 'Wild Swimming' won the 2016 Bazaar of Bad Dreams short story competition, which was judged by Stephen King. She is currently a reporter at ITV News Anglia, and before that worked as a producer for Channel 4 News. The House with the Golden Door is the second book in The Wolf Den trilogy. The first book in the trilogy, The Wolf Den, was a Waterstones Book of the Month for fiction and a Sunday Times Top 15 bestseller.  Follow Elodie Harper on Instagram: @elodielharper

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