The Mad Wolf's Daughter

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Mad Wolf's Daughter Book Poster Image
Mighty tween heroine rocks fun, thrilling medieval tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Besides a bit of old-school Scottish language (e.g. "nay," "lass") there's a lot of period detail about warfare and daily life in 13th century Scotland to stir many readers' interest in learning more.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of family, courage, loyalty, and kindness. It's important to keep an open mind and find the truth, even when it's different from what you've always been told -- and also to recognize that once a story about you is out there, you don't really control it anymore, true or false.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Twelve-year-old Drest is a true, clever and loyal member of the family war band, with courage and skills aplenty. But she also learns to challenge her family's conventional wisdom and do the kind thing, even when it puts her at more risk, or to use words instead of weapons. Her rescued captive/frenemy Emerick shows courage, strategy, and battle skills despite near-fatal injuries, and their young friend Tig is brave and clever trying to use his skills to keep them safe -- although many of his troubles stem from his ongoing pranks on the village bully. Some adult characters are courageous, kind, clever, and helpful, while others are evil, treacherous, and bloodthirsty.

Violence

Drest's father and brothers are captured, imprisoned, and slated to be hanged. Battles, daggers, and swordplay are part of the story. One character is sometimes near death from his injuries from a murder attempt, and a knife-wielding enemy threatens to cut off Drest's ear. Past violence -- the murder of town healers (and abandonment of their small children in the woods) as witches when their patients die, the poisoning of a whole village, the killing of a young woman who fled an arranged marriage -- has far-reaching effects. Along the way, several innocents get rescued from would-be killers.

Sex

In the past, a tragic series of events unfolds when a young noblewoman is promised to a man she can't stand in a dynastic marriage.

Language

A character taunts an enemy, "You've a head like a pig's bladder and it's full of the same muck." A character says his ribs "hurt like the devil." Another mentions how he slipped dung into the food of another kid as a prank. Drest and her brothers swap insults like "you crab-headed squid gut," often pretty much as endearments.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults and kids drink ale as their everyday beverage. It's the Middle Ages. Drunkenness isn't an issue.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Mad Wolf's Daughter, by first-time author Diane Magras, features an irresistible, sword-brandishing 12-year-old heroine in medieval Scotland who has to use all her courage and wits trying to save her warrior family from death at the hands of a cruel lord. And, along the way, a few other victims of mobs and bullies. Strong, affectionate family bonds -- and the possibility that people you love have done really bad things -- play a big role in the story. While the younger characters delight in outdoing one another's colorful insults, there's no profanity. Attempted murder, ambushes, and swordplay, as well as past treachery and killings, are part of the swashbuckling plot -- as are the good effects of kindness, cleverness, and diplomacy.

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What's the story?

Twelve-year-old Drest, THE MAD WOLF'S DAUGHTER, is the youngest member (and only "lass") in her family war band in medieval Scotland. When her father, the much-feared Mad Wolf, and her brothers are taken captive, soon to be hanged in a public post-Easter celebration, Drest has only her own resources, her brother's sword -- and the encouraging telepathic voices of her imprisoned but snarky-from-afar sibs -- to save them. First, though, she has to save a wounded young enemy knight who's just survived a murder attempt -- because he knows the way to the castle, and she doesn't.

Is it any good?

First-time author Diane Magras brings a spirited 12-year-old heroine, swordplay, peril, plot twists and betrayals -- plus lots of strong, quiet messages about kindness, and not believing all you hear. Warrior-girl Drest is appealingly relatable from the minute she tries in vain to warn her elders about an invading party -- and then has to go save them. Readers will cheer The Mad Wolf's Daughter as she braves many perils to rush to the rescue, in the process gaining surprising allies and even more surprising insights into herself and the Code of her father's war band. The satisfying conclusion is just a pause for breath, with a sequel due in spring 2019..

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Middle Ages, specifically in Scotland, where The Mad Wolf's Daughter is set. What other stories (real or imaginary) do you know about this era? Why do you think people today find it so appealing?

  • One of the lessons here is that you can't control your legend -- once people start recounting stories about you, there's no telling whether you'll like the stories, or even if they're true. Have you ever had this experience in real life? How did you cope?

  • Can you think of an example in regular life where talking was a good way to solve a conflict? Does this always work? What might get in the way?

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