Cover Image: Hunt for the Shadow Wolf

Hunt for the Shadow Wolf

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Slightly confusing structure-wise and language-wise, but nonetheless an interesting history on wolves in Britain. I didn't even realise before reading this book how little we actually know about wolves apart from them appearing in legends and fairy tales, and how much a wolf is something mythical rather than a flesh and blood animal that can live close to us.

Interesting examples from introducing wolves to ecosystems in other countries should give everyone some food for thought, especially with how much deer there are in some parts of the country, which could probably benefit from wolves culling the flocks there.

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This is the kind of book where you have to trust the process.

For the first 50% or so, I thought this would be a 3-star read for me. Interesting, yes, but Gow's style is meandering and unfocused. It was hard to determine what exactly the point was to the chapters until you got over halfway through each one. His prose tends to wind around each topic, but he is a good storyteller, so the lack of direction wasn't enough to make me put it down.

And then, somewhere around the 150-page mark, it suddenly became clear. I think it was the chapter on the methods we historically employed to destroy wolves—to utterly eradicate them—when Hunt for the Shadow Wolf came into brilliant focus. I studied conservation biology alongside writing in undergrad, and I was definitely in the "let's please restore predators to our ecosystems to regain any semblance of balance" camp before starting this book. I am not the reader Gow needs to convince. And by the time you reach that seminal chapter, Gow has already revealed that most of our fears about wolves are founded on myths. Wolves consumed what we cultivated—livestock—and out of that, we created a monster of pure malice. We put them into our theologies, folklores, laws. Our hatred for them so far outstripped any actual harm they enacted that it would be comical if it wasn't so sad and macabre.

At this point, when Gow begins to detail the many ways we killed and tortured them without thought or question, a reader like myself finally begins to understand just how deeply we have failed.

Oh, I thought, this is not just about restoring an ecosystem. It is about a complete reversal of the way we see ourselves in our world... in a sense, it is about atonement. For that moment of clarity alone, Hunt for the Shadow Wolf is well worth your time.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley and Chelsea Green Publishing for my copy of Hunt for the Shadow Wolf by Derek Gow in exchange for an honest review. It published March 7, 2024.
This book began as very interesting, but it definitely had a huge theme of pro-introducing wolves in habitats they aren't currently in. I come from an area where that has happened with not great results, so I read this with caution.
Aside from that aspect, the history was interesting, but I found some of the chapters to be rambling, and didn't always stay on topic. Some chapters were much more compelling than others.

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Arc provided through NetGalley

Unfortunately this book wasn't what I'd hoped it would be. I had hoped for an exploration as to why historically and nowadays the wolf is such a hated animal. This webt more into individual stories of it's extinction. None of which were pleasant to read obviously.

The story that was there was often jumbled. It would start a stoty, go into a few different stories (related or not) and then finish the original story 30 pages later when I'd forgotten about it already.

Due to this being a review copy I don't blame it for any spelling or grammar mistakes. But oh my, were there a lot of them. That definitely needs to change before it's eventual release.

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I have been obessessed with wolves since I was. good kid. In Colorado we just reintroduced them this year and this book felt like such a timely read. I loved learning about the past and historical/folklore understanding of wolves. I wish the author included a bit more modern conservation efforts and such but overall I enjoyed this book.

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Most physical evidence of wolves in Britain is not reliable, but it's likely that they went extinct in the 1600s. However, many local stories and legends conflict with this. Gow spends much of this book meandering through the countryside, following dead-end leads from one small village to another, looking for any reference to wolves. He scours church bulletins, old club photographs, graveyard stone sculptures, family legends, taxidermized appendages, and more. Several reputed wolf skeletons are scattered throughout northern Britain, but they're probably just big dogs. While interesting, it's the other aspects of the book that catch my fancy.

The mythology of wolves looms large in our human brains. Wolves have always been powerful and mysterious creatures, so it's no surprise that we've historically used parts of their bodies for treating ailments, like a wolf forefoot relieving breast pain, a wolf heart curing epilepsy, or even hanging up a wolf head to scare off sorcerers. In the northeast of England, "woof" meant cancer of the stomach, and lumps, knobs, or open sores were also called "wolves". The thirteenth century Italian physician Rogerius described facial lesions that he thought were reminiscent of a wolf's bite as lupus, which is why we now refer to the chronic autoimmune disease as Lupus.

Scottish folk tales include many instances of children being taken away to be raised by wolves, and one clan in particular became known as "the race of the wolves". It's unclear if any of this is based in truth, but there is mention of the specific wolf child Dina Sanchar, who was caught in 1872 and forced into an orphanage, and who spoke only in grunts and barks for the rest of his short life. This story was apparently Rudyard Kipling's inspiration for The Jungle Book.

The pastoral symbolism of Christian iconography certainly puts wolves and foxes and other predators outside the bounds of the righteous. The Brothers Grimm use wolves, especially their presence in dark forests, to great effect, and even the Venerable Bede (673-735) mentions wolves in a description of a wild forest in Sussex. Combined with modern concerns about attacks on livestock, modern farmers and ranchers campaign against the reintroduction of wolves.

On a personal note, the author refers often to two captive wolves adopted by the wildlife park in Kent where he worked. Nadia and Mishka were cute but always a little wild, and Gow's personal relationship with them allows the reader to see these two animals as having distinct personalities and personal agency. These sections add a nice touch.

There's a few things that are difficult about this book, including some of the history. We've punished wolves for a long time. Wolves were viewed as criminals by society throughout the middle ages and often hung from tree limbs. Louis XIII King of France set his dogs against an old wolf for sport, and it was common to cut the hamstrings of a wolf before the fights. In the mid 1800s, a wolf was captured, strung up, it's paws tied together, and it's lips sewn shut. Several more instances of wolf torture are within these pages, but I'll spare you the details.

Unrelated to the content, I find this to be a confusingly arranged book. The structure is sporadic, and there's no coherent narrative, so it's quite an unsteady reading experience.

In the end, this is a book that encourages environmental stewardship and conservation and a sense of hope for moving forward. In both the Americas and Europe, many wolf species have been re-introduced to the wild and are doing quite well. In a European report from 2022, nearly seventeen-thousand wolves have reoccupied landscapes in twenty-eight countries from which they were once eradicated. Solutions to protect livestock are increasing too. Since Gow is arguing specifically for the reintroduction of wolves in Britain, he mentions several scientific studies, young environmentalists, even tourism dollars to champion his cause.

Recommended for environmentalists but Brits in general!

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Thank you NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Great read. I have been fascinated by wolves since I was a child and loved reading the different stories and enjoyed the historical sections as well. Definitely recommend it to anyone, but especially to those who love this incredible creature.

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All of my best friends are people who hyper focus on specific animals. I have crow people, chicken people, octopus people, shrimp people, and wolf people. I have a friend who breeds dogs who chase wolves off of ranches, which has increased the wolf population at Yellow Stone, which led to an increase in beavers, pleasing my beaver obsessed friend.

So naturally I had to read this one. I was much pleased with it and will be recommending it to my friends.

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What an enjoyable read! This book discusses the history of wolves, and mixes it with current-day events and stories. At first I was a bit distracted by the writing, there are a lot of unnecessary unusual words, but as soon as I rolled into the story it worked for me, especially during the myths.

The history and stories of wolves in Britain are told and combined with some of the author's own experiences of working with wolves in captivity. The book touches upon the current state of wolves in Europe and the controversy around them. In the Netherlands, recently a few wolves have settled and packs were formed, which really divided people here: nature enthusiasts embrace the wolves, farmers want them shot. From the book I learned Denmark was in a similar situation, which I didn't know.

Wolves are now no longer present in Britain, but the author explores the possibility of their reintroduction. I hope it will one day happen. If we learn from all the measures taken elsewhere, wolves could coexist with us, in Britain and everywhere in West Europe. Wolves are an important part of the ecosystem. They keep populations of deer, rodents and foxes in check. Most ecosystems in West Europe lack a top predator. The wolf could fill that role, just like it did a few hundred years ago.

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Thank you so much to Chelsea Green publishing for giving me access to an ARC. This was definitely a case of judging a book by its cover because I was immediately drawn in by it. This book isn’t my usual type of read but I felt like I learned so much and this book will be something that I think for a while.

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I really enjoyed reading this, I enjoyed learning about wolves in Britain. It was written well and I could see the research done in this book. Derek Gow writes a great book and I can’t wait to read more from Derek Gow.

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This book unveils secrets of the wolves that once roamed Great Britain before being hunted to extinction. Though unjustly depicted as savage, wolves left an enduring mark through folklore, myths, and records of grand estates. Piecing together fragments of their mysterious history, this journey reveals the majestic lost creature that civilization tried to erase.

This book contains interesting information, though it was difficult to follow at times. It wasn’t organized to create a meaningful narrative—more a series of stories moving back and forth between myth and history. It’s disturbing to discover how the superstitious attitudes about wolves continue, despite facts demonstrating that wolves are a keystone species, and reintroducing them restores ecosystems to a more natural state.

Thanks, NetGalley, for the ARC I received. This is my honest and voluntary review.

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Agreat mix of folklore and history. I enjoyed it immensely. Will be ordering for my library and hopefully one of our bookclubs.

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Thoroughly enjoyable account of the history of wolves and Britain and the opportunities for the future re- wilding. Loads of historical and contemporary stories of wolves across the globe. Thank you to #netgalley and the publisher for an advance copy.

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Truly amazing how medieval our views about wolves still are in so many countries in the world, hopeful that views are slowly changing and maybe the coming years will see a shift to the better for us and wolves.

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Derek Gow's Hunt for the Shadow Wolf explores the troubling, compelling and often frightening image we have of wolves in their natural habitat—one that we are diminishing with each passing year. Gow, a seasoned conservationist, looks at the image crafted by popular fiction and the industrial world which looks to create a monster out of the wolf.

The book delves into the historical context of the wolf in folklore, pop culture and myth. Gow expertly navigates through fact and fiction while highlighting the natural role wolves play in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. The author's passion for wildlife conservation is evident, and he makes a compelling case for respect and not fear for wolves.

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Short book with lots of tales of wolves in Great Britain - both from historical perspectives and his own experience.

As an American, it was hard to imagine the places but the writer was amazing about blending together descriptions (when needed) and the folklore of wolves. The book feels like a thesis or dissertation about the folklore and ending of wolves in Great Britain but I really enjoyed it.

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Derek writes about the wolf, our relationship to wolves and all that we have lost through ridding the countryside of wolves so incredibly poignantly. I expected to love this book but I didn't expect to be moved to tears in the first few chapters. This does everything nature books strive to do - it captivates you, it moves you deeply and it leaves you hopeful. I was so drawn in that if you had asked me at any point what I was reading I would have been surprised to tell you it was a book on wildlife.
I can't recommend this book enough.

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A Fantastic history of the Wolf! From the day the last wolf walked British soil, to tall tales and stories surrounding supposed wolf encounters, this is a fantastic, rich book filled with history, facts, and a few myths and legends to tie everything together.

while the book was a little dry for my taste, the accounts and the history of the wolf kept me well engaged, and excited to learn more. If your interested in wolves and their history, this is definitely the book that is going to scratch that 'I need to know' itch.

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Okay, I could not actually finish this through no fault of the book itself so I'm giving it five stars. The problem is that the formating is SUCH a mess it's nearly impossible to read.

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