The Wolf Girl
by Matthew Barron

"A breeze though, who remembered a breeze? Leandra imagined that's all she was, a breeze passing over the earth, barely noticed and soon forgotten."

Leandra is a farm girl sold into slavery by her father. (He is one of generations of farmers indebted to overlords and seeks to own the land that he and his family has worked for years.) At 12 years old, Leandra is underdeveloped, and many in the slave coffle assume that she is a boy. However, the most privileged and respected slaves are the gladiators, and groomed by her owner Gossin and his trainer Olkrolji, Leandra becomes a superlative fighter of wild beasts.

Barron's eloquent narrative quickly draws the reader into Leandra's emotional, social, and physical traumas and triumphs. She adjusts to life as a slave without surrendering to it. Her intelligence, perception, and a bevy of physical and emotional toughness combine to help her stay alive and gain respect by her owner and keepers as "a good investment." She wins audiences' respect and awe at the contests between wolves and people.

The author's style embeds every scene into the reader's psyche. He develops the gender themes well as he describes a great deal of cruelty—cruelty in a structure that obliges a father to sell his child to remain a free man, cruelty among the slave owners and trainers, cruelty shown to the slaves by their owners and trainers, cruelty between men and women, as well as among the slaves and between the gladiators and the wolves. Leandra survives and succeeds in this harsh environment.

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