Twelve year old Hazel Shepherd, her older brother Jed and younger sister Molly, are reluctant parishioners of Lambsridge; a tiny hamlet way out in the Welsh countryside whose claim to fame – and infamy - is the wolf sanctuary within Lambsridge woods.
Hazel yearns for the bright lights and buzzing teenage camaraderie of Newtown, though she and her fellow ‘Lambers’ fall way short of acceptance from the Townies at Newtown school.
Her estranged parents harbour secrets about their tempestuous relationship; secrets that revolve around the sinister Lambsridge traditions Hazel and her siblings are forced to endure by their mother and brutish Uncle Bleddwyn.
For three days each month the women and children of Lambsridge are locked in the church within the boundaries of the wolf sanctuary, whilst their men – and a few women, including Hazel’s mother – go on the ‘hunt’.
Enough plot giveaway! Albeit written for a young adult readership, I think this book will be enjoyed by all ages. I thoroughly lapped up the first in the Lambsridge series and found myself turning pages with eager anticipation. The story is told, for the most part, by Hazel; a bright, insightful young girl with a tough, defiant side to her nature. Her masterfully drawn character draws you along her tumultuous journey to discover the truth about her mother’s irrational obsession with the hunt and the secrets hidden within the fences surrounding Lambsridge wood.
This is a beautifully crafted tale with solid, visual characters that you can love and hate. Masterfully paced, with moments that we can all identify with in some way, the reveal unfolds with tantalising expectation.
My only tiny disappointment was that I would have liked to ‘hear’ more from Hazel’s woodland admirer, from a more simply ‘lupine’ point of view. She is perhaps a little too mysterious and silent throughout, given her crucial involvement at the end of the story.
But, having said this, I look forward to finding out how the relationship develops in the next book.
All in all, a superb read!
(reviewed 61 days after purchase)