Member Reviews

Thank you so much to Elodie Harper, Head of Zeus and Netgalley for giving me the chance to read this book early – I loved it!
So, this is the third in the Wolf Den trilogy, following an enslaved woman who has worked up from being a slave to a freedwoman and courtesan, during the first century in Pompeii and later Rome. I was enthralled by the very first book two years ago, enjoyed the second one immensely and was desperate for this third part. And it really did not disappoint.
There may be spoilers for the earlier books in the trilogy here, but I’ll try and avoid them for the third in the series.
The story starts up three years after the end of the last one, Amara is now living with Demetrius, the influential older man who has offered to become her patron after Rufus has basically abandoned her. He is a close friend of Pliny the Elder, who is the man who freed her in the first place – giving her his name. She is now living a life of luxury in Rome, but it is a life that feels precarious as she watches how other men treat their courtesans, including the new Emperor and his brother, and fears that her patron, Demetrius is attracted to her but doesn’t love her. She is also worried about the threat of her old pimp, Felix and is suffering mum guilt as a result of not being able to be with her daughter.
However, of course, this is 79AD, so there must be some link to Pompeii and the disaster that destroyed it. Amara goes back to Pompeii, to her daughter, being raised by Rufus’ slave and her ex-lover, and the story invites us into that experience. The explosion of Mount Vesuvius was 100,000 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki, so the fear and chaos unleashed was incredibly intense, and Ms Harper gives us a front row seat into the lives of the people living through it.
As with the last two books, this is immaculately researched. You follow Amara around Rome and Pompeii, and the creation of the environment is so vivid, it feels as though you’ve been there yourself, and would probably know your way around! The details of the religiosity of the culture, the details of their clothing, their food, the social mores, are light touches but detailed too. This isn’t an academic book, but you feel as though you learn a lot about the way people lived at the time. Things like the Roman Emperor’s response to the disaster are exceptionally interesting, and quite modern in terms of people being cared for and compensation being given, whilst it also reflects the continuing idea of slavery and gladiators. The contrast is fascinating and explains why first century Italy is a worthy setting for a novel.
We spend time with many of the characters we’ve met before, Pliny, Felix, Philos, Victoria and Brittanica but it is Amara who always steals the show. An intelligent woman, who was valued by her father and is valued by the men who are around her, she lives with a wide range of fear and guilt. It felt so realistic that she spends the time looking over her shoulder wondering where the next problem may come from and time regretting her old friends and her mistakes. She is such a rounded character and has developed believably since the first book.
I was gripped from the moment I started, I didn’t want to put it down – just like with the other two books and some moments had me gasping out loud with shock and surprise. When I have time, I will definitely read these books again, because I’d love to read them one after the other.
Genuinely, thank you so much to the author for writing this amazing series. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be following you to Roman Britain, as you alluded to in the acknowledgements!

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The Temple of Fortuna is the much anticipated ending to the Wolf Den Trilogy, tying up Amara’s story as she has gone from a slave in the Wolf Den, to concubine freedwoman living in the House With the Golden Door and now, living in luxury in Rome.

This was a masterfully written story, like the front cover and the city of Pompeii itself, I felt Vesuvius looming over me as I read and the anticipation of knowing what was coming whilst the characters went about their lives was terrifying. The additional threat of Felix that was established at the end of The House With The Golden Door co-existing alongside the threat of Vesuvius heightened the stakes even more. The pacing was perfect and I found that I was able to move through the plot at a good pace without being bogged down awaiting the inevitable.

The characterisation of Amara throughout the story was wonderful to read, she is cunning, shrewd and perceptive and watching her navigate Rome was a refreshing deferral from the setting of Pompeii in the first two books. It was also interesting to see her navigate her status as a freedwoman and how, regardless of how much money and status she managed to acquire, she still anxiously tried to organise her money in order to protect herself and her daughter. Harper skilfully shows us a world where women are fully fleshed out figures in an Ancient society instead of demure baubles, we get to see Julia Felix, Livia, Drusilla and Britannica exist and thrive and act with agency as businesswomen, wives and athletes.

This book was clearly written with so much research put into it and the commitment to detail increased the sense of immersion. There were so many references to incredibly well known archaeological artefacts and existing people whom we know existed in Pompeii, like Julia Felix and Pliny the Elder, the dog floor mosaic and Drusilla’s snake bracelet. Furthermore, the quotes from letters, histories and graffiti at the beginning of each chapter really helped to anchor the story in the historical period and at times I often forgot that Amara was not actually a person we know existed at all.

The story has a satisfying conclusion and I enjoyed that it was left open. It does a fabulous job of humanising the citizens of Pompeii, many of whom we grow to love over the trilogy as members of Amara’s found family. It was an engaging and gripping tale that reminded us that the iconic plaster casts were once people caught it the midst of a disaster that they didn’t even have a name for. I just know that this is a story I will be revisiting and that Amara is a character that will stay with me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review, these thoughts are all my own.

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Having read over a hundred books via Netgalley, being granted the opportunity to read this advanced copy, has brought me the most excitement to date!
I absolutely loved the first 2 books in this trilogy and couldn’t wait to travel to Rome with Amara as we follow her journey with her patron Demetrius. Although she loves the wealth and privileges her new life brings, she cannot forget her past and those she has left behind.
A tragic death sees her return to Pompeii and reunite with all the characters I have grown to love and loathe. Secrets and danger soon resurface as she comes face to face with her nemesis Felix.
Knowing we were getting closer to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius built the tension even more.
For 200 pages, I held my breath and my heart thumped as I tried to guess Amara’s fate.
Beautifully written, Elodie Harper once again brings Ancient Rome to life, with her vivid descriptions and detailed knowledge. I also loved how she continued to start every chapter with a genuine quote from the era - poignant and so very clever.
A fitting and satisfying ending to a wonderful trilogy, thank you Netgalley and The House of Zeus for the opportunity to read this arc in exchange for an honest review - I’m so glad I didn’t have to wait until November!

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Thank you to Head of Zeus and Netgalley for the ARC for The Temple of Fortuna!

I'm going to keep this review as spoiler-free as I can, so I'll keep my commentary on the series as a whole and what stuck out to me the most, and not too much on specific plot details in Book 3. If you haven't read Books 1 and 2, please be aware of minor spoilers for those ahead.

The evocative nature of The Wolf Den was what first pulled me in when I opened it. It was very much a random pick off of a Waterstones shelf, and the blurb made me think "oh, this is going to be heavy reading, I should save it for later." But I'm glad I opened it that same night and didn't take breaks to open up another book until I'd finished. Book 1 felt cosier (odd choice of word I know, but hear me out) due to the fact the locations were limited and there was this core group of female characters I quickly fell in love with. Book 2 was a wonderful expansion, but more painful to read. I preferred the first two books but the way Book 3 tied up plot points was everything this series needed.

Firstly, Elodie's writing can't be faulted, at least not to me. It's exactly the style I adore reading: straightforward, with an emotional hook that leaves you re-reading lines just to process the feeling of being punched in the guts. I'm honestly so grateful to the author for choosing not to get graphic with scenes of sexual trauma and abuse within the brothel itself. We're surrounded by a world of media where the suffering of women (particularly in this line of work) is so often commodified for shock value. The imagination is a rough place, and it more than filled in the gaps without taking away from just how heartbreaking this series could be.

What stood out most for me throughout all three books is the Stockholm Syndrome that Amara formed towards her former master. So many of her actions began to mirror his (for her own survival) that it felt as if she had a constant question swirling inside her head: 'what would Felix do?' Abusive relationships are so often all-consuming, and I think the author covered this very well. I almost dread to think what their relationship looked like from the inside of Felix's head.

I went into this book expecting a villainous but fairly blunt portrayal of a pimp. I didn't for a second think this would be a book where I considered him as anything short of a monster to be defeated (and Felix definitely was). But despite how horrible his interactions with Amara - and indeed anyone - were, to the point where it sometimes felt too overwhelming to read (the author nailed it with his manipulation tactics), they were still some of the more interesting ones to me.

I felt this strange, fascinated horror each time Amara let slip in her own thoughts that she craved Felix's validation, or that she would have been loyal to him. I don't think she would have been able to manage it in the long run, because you can't grow crops in salted earth. Some people are past changing. The trauma bond was so deep seated, that it felt like it was catching Amara (and the reader) by complete surprise sometimes. For instance in Book 1 when *SPOILER* he was comforting Victoria and she lashed out telling her not to cry, in her head she compared how Felix had treated her grief over Cressa (with detached indifference).*SPOILER ENDS* It was very much an impromptu 'Amara, what???' moment but it made complete sense. He tangled her up with a heap of mental manipulation (for instance being summoned by him was torture, but not being summoned was also a form of torture), and then got caught up in the web himself and became obsessed. Because if Amara is like him and he recognises and loathes that, it makes sense the dynamic would go both ways. I definitely think he could have left her alone after Book 2 but it's this constant pull of hatred (and perhaps something more) that won't stop.

Realising Felix had completely drowned in the trauma of what happened to him in his past was definitely heartbreaking. As a trauma survivor myself, I understood the constant struggle to stay float and not give up on the parts of yourself that are worth saving. Because what's the point, when the world can often feel like an endless cycle of struggle and pain, heaped with memories you can't overcome? Giving into one's worst instincts and shutting off emotionally is tempting but so much more worse for your mental health in the long run, and I saw that represented in Felix's complete inability to maintain humanity towards anyone for too long. He felt like a dead man walking from the moment Amara noticed in Book 1 that he was incredibly lonely. But I couldn't muster sympathy for him. It had to be empathy only, because he grew up to spread the pain of what happened with him onto others in the worst way imaginable (Paris is especially depressing to read about, because his attitude towards the girls felt reminiscent of what Felix might have been at a similar age).

Felix being afforded a backstory like this actually highlighted just how much of a struggle Amara went through not to be like him and to survive him. Even when she began to outgrow Felix and achieve heights far past anything he'd managed, she kept feeling guilt over her supposed similarities with him. But whereas his past was a weight around his ankle keeping him at the bottom of the ocean, Amara was still swimming miles above. She refused to drown, and so was always destined to be free of him (which is honestly such a hopeful message to receive from subject matter that is so dark).

A scene near the end of Book 3 made me cry because it proved Amara's enduring humanity even after all that was done to her, and all the mistakes she made, fearing herself to be beyond salvation. It was such an unbelievably full circle moment, I'm in awe (once you read it, you'll know exactly which scene I mean). The trauma bond mentioned earlier climaxes in Book 3 and it's pitch-perfect. The quote *SPOILER*"And when you are dead, you are nothing"*SPOILER ENDS* is so simple but jarring and is going to stick with me for a while. It highlighted how quiet some of the worst moments of our lives can be, how insidious the trauma is when it creeps in without making a sound. It brought to mind how Britannica fought in Book 1 when she was first introduced to the brothel, and Amara wondered what happened to her own screams and how she'd managed to stay as silent as she did.

As always for this series, the portrayal of female friendships/relationships is a credit to the author's decision to trust the reader's intelligence. I feel that women are taught to judge other women far more harshly than they judge men. This is in large part thanks to the way society is structured, but in terms of popular media, female characters aren't usually written to have the same nuance as their male counterparts so the judgement stems from "they're just not as interesting". I've definitely seen a lot of subpar portrayals of women by authors of all genders, as if they can only be one thing (two at the most) and never have the freedom to be human the way the men do.

Fortunately, The Wolf Den trilogy has no problem defeating the allegations on this front. Some of the things done and said (by Victoria and Amara in particular) were horrible but never felt irredeemable. There was a context given for their negativity and it tied in perfectly with their character arcs. The girls of the brothel are very much their own people, and as so often happens in real life, outside factors came between their friendships and some ended up staying unresolved (I will never forgive Felix on this front, that nasty little man). Knowing where Victoria ended up in Book 2, reading Amara's thoughts on the whole thing was jarring. It definitely came off like she was grieving her, because it was a sort of death, even if there was never much life and freedom for Victoria to thrive in to begin with.

Reading about the girls finding rare snatches of happiness amidst their hopeless situation was so heartwarming. I'm honestly impressed the author struck that balance so well. Even though it's Ancient Rome and as prostitutes, the girls are meant to consider themselves at the bottom of the pole and just take what's given, they acknowledge their own mistreatment and the grief and trauma that comes with it. The narrative does come off quite modern in that sense, but it's the oldest profession in the world and deals with the mistreatment of women, both of which are universal topics. It definitely is an asset to the storytelling that the author chose to write it this way.

I'm definitely going to go back and re-read this book as I was already on a re-read of the first two. I'm sure there'll be more to catch later, but for now, these are my thoughts! Thank you so much to Elodie for writing this absolute masterpiece x

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I love the Wolf Den trilogy, it’s not an area of historical fiction that I had an interest in until I came across them either, it’s definitely one to pick up if you like that area of fiction

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The third part of the Wolf Den trilogy has finally arrived - to the great excitement and anticipation of the many fans of the first two books. I had not read either when I received the ARC for Temple of Fortuna, but I swiftly became absorbed in Elodie Harper's marvellous storytelling. She brings history vividly to life - from the funeral procession of the Emperor in Rome, to the dingy streets of Pompeii.

While it does make you curious to read the other books, this one can be read as a stand-alone, for sure. The reader is soon swept up into the life of Amara. Freeborn, yet at at times both a prostitute and a slave, she is now a freedwoman and a wealthy courtesan.

She is also a mother, though the true parentage of her child is a closely-guarded secret. Only a handful of people are aware that Amara's daughter Rufina is not in fact the child of her one-time patron Rufus, but the result of a forbidden affair between Amara and a slave belonging to Rufus, named Philos. Unfortunately, one of those in the know is Amara's ex-employer, the owner of the brothel where she was kept, so this is a source of some worry for her.

Now the mistress of a powerful man, Amara lives in the capital of the Empire - in Rome, with her patron Demetrius - while her little daughter stays with Amara's friend Julia, and is unknowingly taken care of by her father. Philos has been lent to Amara by Rufus for a limited time, to look after her child and manage her businesses in Pompeii.

But this is a infamous time in that city, and the eruption of Vesuvius is not too far off. What will happen to Amara's one-time lover, whom she encounters on a return visit to Pompeii, and to her daughter, her friends and her business ventures, once that happens...?

History is done great justice in Harper's writing, and this book is a must for those who are interested in that time period, as well as in a fascinating, dramatic story about surprisingly relatable characters. Four stars for this one!

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