Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 9, 2018

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf (2012), by Ambelin Kwaymullina


Dystopian fiction – especially of the YA variety – is not usually my area of interest, but the name Ambelin Kwaymullina was familiar to me because she has also written and illustrated wonderful picture books for children, so I brought The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf home from the library.   It’s an interesting book because it breaks the mould: yes, it has teen protagonists and yes, there is a teen romance, but for most of the book that is the least important aspect of the story.  Parents and teachers who don’t understand are absent from the story; instead there are much bigger preoccupations to absorb the reader’s interest.

300 years from now there has been a world catastrophe dubbed The Reckoning by the small group of survivors, and at pains to try to prevent a similar environmental disaster from recurring, the government is driven by the need to keep The Balance.  There are Accords to limit mining, to ensure sustainable development and to prevent the invention of dangerous technologies, and there is a Citizenship Accord which excludes Illegals who do not conform to the norm because they have special gifts such as being able to fly, to run fast, to sleepwalk or to interfere with the memories of other people.  These Others are kept in Detention Centres, but a small group called The Tribe has formed from teenagers who’ve run away before being assessed.  They live in the Firstwood, so named because it was where plants first regenerated after The Reckoning.

One of these mutants is Ashala Wolf, a natural leader in the group but as the story begins she has been captured.  She is interrogated by the ruthless Neville Rose and his sidekick Miriam Grey.  They use a machine which goes against the rules of the Benign Technology Accord to break into Ashala’s mind so that she will reveal the whereabouts of The Tribe and of a rebel group which is threatening the city.  This device which ransacks memory is used to convey the backstory of Ashala and her group while at the same time also ratcheting up the narrative tension.  Will she reveal all?  Will she escape?  Who can she trust? Who betrayed her?  And most importantly, can the corrupt regime be overthrown?

Amongst the mythical elements there is an appearance by the Rainbow Serpent, a wise and wily creature who adds a timeless spiritual dimension to the world Kwaymullina has created.

There are two more in the series: The Disappearance of Ember Crowe (2013) and The Foretelling of Georgie Spider (2015).

Marg Bates reviewed it at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader.

Ambelin Kwaymullina comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Update: 28/7/18 I have just read Ambelin’s contribution to Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia (edited by Anita Heiss) and I urge you to access this exceptional book and learn more about Ambelin’s background.

Author: Ambelin Kwaymullina
Title: The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf (The Tribe)
Publisher: Walker Books 2012
ISBN: 9781921720086
Source: Kingston Library

Available from Fishpond: The Tribe 1: The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf


  1. I was just coming to say I enjoyed this when I read it. I didn’t get around to reading the next books in the trilogy though


    • Hello Marg, it’s lovely to hear from you:) I think it might be one of those books that you do enjoy but are reluctant to read more in the series in case you get hooked and end up not reading anything else for too long! As a Game of Thrones TV series tragic, I don’t dare get the books to read…

      Oh yes, I have just got my copy of Outlander Series 3, and I don’t dare get those books either.


  2. […] see my ANZ LitLovers review […]


  3. Like you Lisa, I’m not an avid reader of science-fiction or fantasy novels. As a field of fiction, it continues to be on the rise among young and adult readers alike. When I first learned of Ambelin Kwaymullina’s The Tribe book series exploring issues of discrimination, forced incarceration, and alienation which are synomous with history of colonization, legalized exploitation of indigenous land, people, and culture in Australia and other global regions. The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf reminds me of some science fiction novels I’ve read by the late African American author Octavia Butler entitled Kindred and Parable of the Sower. Even though I read these novels for previous college courses, I enjoyed them because I didn’t feel overwhelmed with scientific information or complicated characterization, setting, or plot. Butler’s novels were accessible for me as an emergent reader of science fiction. Kwaymullina and Butler create strong complex female protagonists who critically think about their environment while devising means for challenging modes of domination in order to create a sustainable community for themselves and others which fosters an engaging reading experience.


  4. […] Kwaymullina (whose novel The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf I reviewed for […]


  5. […] Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, by Ambelin Kwaymullina (updated 5/6/19, see here), […]


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