I absolutely devoured this compelling environmental thriller, The Rewilding (Transit Lounge 2024) by Donna M Cameron. From the first page to the last, this story is a fast, taut, tight, nerve-wracking, tense cat and mouse game about a whistle-blower frightened for his life, an eco-warrior on a course of extreme action, and the unlikely relationship that builds between them.

I enjoyed Cameron’s first book, but The Rewilding is a huge step up in terms of literary writing, story crafting and character-building. She has clearly thrown herself heart and soul into this novel and it shows in the seamless, unrelenting forward thrust of the narrative, the complex and flawed characters, and the themes she explores, including climate change, ecological disaster events, ambition/greed, the risks of whistle-blowers around environmental damage, and the pros and cons of fighting against the system.

The magnificent cover features one of the main protagonists just as I imagine her: Nia, a wild woman with dreadlocks and grit who lives in a cave, both to escape from life and to conduct illegal but morally important duties. She is discovered by her very antithesis, Jagger, a ‘capitalist suit’ on the run from dangerous men after he leaks important and damaging documents about his father’s company. The mismatch and irony of Jagger in his literal suit (complete with ridiculous pointy shoes) meeting the world-wise, capable and feisty Nia is a delightful comedy of errors as the two realise that they might have to work together despite their very obvious differences. Nia is a plausible and mighty lead character, a female huldra determined to save the world, one ecoterrorist move at a time. The contrast between her and the slightly awkward and naïve Jagger could not be more stark.

This is a book for those readers who loved Inga Simpson’s The Last Woman in the World, with a similar two-part story: the first a thrilling, page-turning chase where both characters are literally running for their lives, and the second the environmental setting, which clearly interrogates the many different ways humans are ruining the planet, but also examines how some are trying to get it right, and rectify the damage already done. The question, of course, is time … on the global scale, will we have time to turn the earth ship around? And on a more personal level, will these two renegades run out of time before they are found and punished for their so-called misdeeds? The combination of these two exciting plots makes for a breathless contemporary thriller with crucial current issues at its heart. The mismatched love story threaded through the action provides moments of tenderness and hope amidst the gut-wrenching and tremulous chase scenes. Nature lovers will revel in the evocative and detailed joy and pleasure of the natural world, and radical ecologists will echo with the beat of time running out and the question of whether humans are capable of changing their habits before it is too late.

I loved the dialogue and the quirky humour in this book, especially when showcased through the relationship between Nia and Jagger. There are moments of hilarity, ridiculousness and fun amidst the seriousness of the overall situation, and these light-hearted sections allow the reader space to take the occasional breath in between the urgent, serious and threatening thriller aspects.

The book comes complete with a road trip playlist, perfect for anyone on the run with a purpose who needs a suitably encouraging and uplifting gritty soundtrack.

A well-written book that asks some big questions about humans, the world we live in, how we are to survive it, and whether we will even survive our own actions.