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All booksContemporary fictionOnce There Were Wolves
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy
Contemporary fiction

Once There Were Wolves

by Charlotte McConaghy

Quick take

A woman journeys to Scotland determined to save the wilderness—but tragedy bites just as her new life starts to settle.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Psychological


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_ForbiddenLove

    Forbidden love

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Whodunit


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Rugged


Illustrated icon, Icon_Challenging_Indicator


This book contains plot points about and depictions of violence and sexual assault.

Why I love it

Alexandra Chang
Author, Days of Distraction

It's so rewarding to encounter a book that not only propels you forward with plot—I need to find out what happens!—but simultaneously makes you feel for and think deeply about the lives on the page. Charlotte McConaghy has done just that in this evocative novel that asks big questions about our responsibility to others, not only the people around us, but the animals and nature with which we share this earth.

The story is narrated by Inti Flynn, a biologist leading a project to rewild Scotland's Cairngorms National Park with wolves. She arrives, with her twin sister Aggie, to find the locals not entirely welcoming to the project's endeavor. Just as things are starting to look up for the wolves and for Inti, conflicts deepen both within the town and within Inti herself. A farmer turns up dead in the woods and it's unclear who or what is to blame. Inti wants nothing more than for the wolves to survive and thrive, but traumas from her and Aggie's past continue to haunt them. Who can she trust? Who needs her protection? How can she ensure not only her own safety, but the safety of those she loves?

McConaghy writes landscapes—both external and internal—beautifully. When I finished this book, I felt more alert and awake to the world around me. That's the kind of reading experience I think we all need more of.

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Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team of biologists tasked with reintroducing fourteen gray wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but Aggie, too, unmade by the terrible secrets that drove the sisters out of Alaska.

Inti is not the woman she once was, either, changed by the harm she’s witnessed—inflicted by humans on both the wild and each other. Yet as the wolves surprise everyone by thriving, Inti begins to let her guard down, even opening herself up to the possibility of love. But when a farmer is found dead, Inti knows where the town will lay blame. Unable to accept her wolves could be responsible, Inti makes a reckless decision to protect them. But if the wolves didn’t make the kill, then who did? And what will Inti do when the man she is falling for seems to be the prime suspect?

Propulsive and spell-binding, Charlotte McConaghy's Once There Were Wolves is the unforgettable story of a woman desperate to save the creatures she loves—if she isn’t consumed by a wild that was once her refuge.

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Get an early look from the first pages of Once There Were Wolves.

Member thoughts

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All (14530)
Love (8833)
Like (4828)
Dislike (869)
14643 ratings
  • 60% Love
  • 33% Like
  • 6% Dislike
  • Lisbon, OH

    Loved! There was such a reasonable explanation that gave an “oh my goodness” and “woah” factor to the end. I was so into the characters that I couldn’t put it down and felt so many emotions throughout

  • Wichita Falls, TX

    10/10!! The narrative from instinctual to “civilized” thinking, or primal to more “educated” thoughts/actions are in all of us! We are all animals capable of anything, and it depicts that beautifully!

  • Albuquerque , NM

    I struggled getting into this. At p 77, I thought… it’s so highly rated, maybe it’s worth it. At p 98, I finally felt hooked. And the rest? It was worth it. Big trigger warnings (see others’ reviews)

  • Clinton Township, MI

    I really enjoyed this book. It kept my interest,I kept wanting to get back to it but didn’t stay up until 2:00am to finish. The whodunnit was easy to figure out, normally dislike that, but didn’t mind

  • Nashville , TN

    Even when I was sure I knew what was happening, I was wrong! Read this book in 2 days, it was so enthralling! The bond between Inti and Aggie was so strong, this book was very emotionally heavy. ????????

  • Raleigh, NC

    Once I started, I couldn’t put it down and read the whole thing in one sitting. This book is dark and though you don’t always know where it’s taking you, you just have to keep reading to find out.

  • Cando, ND

    I loved the rewilding storyline of this book! Inti had such a complex development I needed to know everything! Plus it had an ending I didn’t see coming. I absolutely loved everything about this book!

  • Boerne, TX

    It’s hard to write a novel that compelling and relatable and yet teaches the reader moral lessons without preaching too much. The author has done that and with achingly beautiful writing, too. Amazing

  • Gettysburg, PA

    One of the best novels I’ve read recently, perhaps ever. A compelling plot and moving, fully fleshed-out characters kept me engaged to the very end. An expansive work that will make you cry and think.

  • Pewaukee, WI

    Didn’t love at first too much time spent on the wolves in the beginning with little development in the story. By the last 75 pages I was crying almost constantly and it all came together beautifully.

  • Lakewood, CO

    This blew me away. Not an easy read—profoundly painful at times—but I loved it. The atmosphere, the characters, the setting, the story. The injustice was realistic but balanced. The end was perfect.

  • Milwaukee, WI

    I LOVED THIS BOOK. The story was great, The who done it aspect, the romance, the sister bond and nature! If you like Kristin Hannah books, you’ll like this. In my opinion, a little better than those!

  • Maple Grove, MN

    I almost don’t have words. This book took me on a journey, I came out of it feeling the forests of old, the landscapes of today and both the faults and wonders of being human. Wow. Finished in a day.

  • Chicago , IL

    This book was a bit of a wild ride. It started off slowly, then it picked up very quickly and couldn’t put it down! I was surprised on who did it. VERY emotional heavy especially women being abused.

  • Hibbing, MN

    4.5 ⭐️ Could not put this down! I did find some story lines cheesy but I understand why the author chose to include them. I also called the major plot twist. Otherwise loved the book and wolf info!

  • Pontoon Beach, IL

    While the ending felt rushed and a bit predictable, I found this to be completely enthralling. Gorgeous worldbuilding, good pacing, and mysterious in the right ways. Pages 66-68 slayed me!! 5/5 ⭐️

  • Westminster, CO

    Couldn’t. Put. It. Down. I thought I knew who did it. But I was so wrong. I’ve never connected to a story so well before, the good and bad of nature and humans show stark parallels and opposition.

  • Eagle Lake , MN

    Such a great read! Could hardly put it down! You just don’t know which direction the book is going to go and when you think you know you are so wrong. I will definitely be rereading this book again.

  • New York, NY

    I was expecting a standard murder mystery but omg this was so different - gets very emotional, and has a twist I didn’t expect. Loved the naturalist/conservationist elements. Note heavy DV triggers.

  • Cincinnati, OH

    Completely absorbing, unique storyline, couldn’t put it it down! Wish the wrap up would’ve been longer but that’s just because I wanted to stay with the characters and watch them continue to grow

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