The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is Ambelin Kwaymullina’s first novel. It is based in the far future after a devastating cataclysm has left the world reshaped into a single continent, and the remnants of humanity living in a small number of cities and adhering to a philosophy of Balance to prevent future catastrophes.
Some people are born with special abilities (e.g. the ability to run abnormally fast, turn their dreams into reality, start fires, cause earthquakes etc). These people have been deemed to be a threat to the Balance and are kept in detention camps.
Ashala Wolf is the leader of a tribe of young people with abilities that have escaped detention and live in the wilderness. The story opens with her captured and about to be interrogated for information to help the authorities capture her fellow rebels.
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is a young adult piece, so I don’t think I was exactly the target market. For the most part the heroes are young and the villains older, and the story plays out with a strong teenage sensibility.
For all that I wasn’t exactly the intended audience, I enjoyed this novel. The pacing was good, with a lot of action to counter-balance the teenage angst. The writing was clear and crisp and brought me along for the ride smoothly. I finished the book quickly.
I thought the novel had an interesting structure. Without giving spoilers, there is an event part way through the book which casts things in a new light and allowed for the more gradual introduction of information about the broader world in a way that was credible and avoided too much info dumping. There is a lot of use of flash back and memory to tell the story, but it is done in an interesting way.
I enjoyed the references to Australian Aboriginal culture. Because of the near civilisation-ending nature of the cataclysm, there aren’t the same kind of racial divides as there are in contemporary society. However, Kwaymullina makes it clear that Ashala is one of the last descendants of Aboriginal Australia and weaves in Aboriginal mythology into this far future tale. While I can’t comment on the authenticity of the representation, I found it interesting to consider the perspectives on connection to land and people that the book explores.
There are other themes that will resonate with an Australian audience, such as the granting of citizenship, the nature of detention and even the ability to carve out a place for humans in a harsh and unforgiving environment. Both the “normal” society and rebel society have a strong connecting theme of living in harmony with the enivornment, they just disagree what constitutes harmony. Respect for land and the environment pervades every aspect of the story.
While this is the first book in a series, the story is self contained and finishes without invoking a large cliff hanger.
An enjoyable story that I’d have no hesitation in recommending to a young adult audience.
I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.
This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.