This year is really blessing us with the folklore-inspired fantasy novels. And The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid is ready to compete with the best of them. I also really enjoyed The Second Bell by Gabriela Houston, and am super excited about For the Wolf by Hannah Witten. Forest-y, folklore-y fantasy galore, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey.
Many thanks to Del Rey and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC, all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 08/06/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.
But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman – he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.
As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all. (from Del Rey)
OPINIONS: This is simply a wonderful story. It is not an easy read – it addresses trauma, both personal and that of social groups – but as a whole, it packages them in a story that is a delight. Ava Reid’s debut is lyrical, compelling, heart-breaking at times and like with many of the great books that I’ve been able to read and review this year, I already have a finished copy organised and I am looking forward to re-reading it in its finished form.
I devoured The Wolf and the Woodsman – I think I read it in a little more than a single sitting. It is an addictive story with strong worldbuilding that draws the reader in. And I loved Évike as a main character. She is stubborn and gives few shits about what others want for her. She stands up for herself, her family and her people. And Gáspár is a soft boi hiding behind a tough shell – I don’t read a lot of m/f romantic stories these days, but this was one that I found worked really well for me. I definitely need more of Ava Reid’s writing and nuanced approach to trauma and social issues.
The story has a strong Jewish element – and with that I mean both in terms of Évike finding her father and his community, finding a place to belong, but also a community that struggles against prejudice, against prosecution. But ultimately, the book’s message is one of hope. And that is, I think, a large part of why it deals so well with difficult themes. I highly recommend this one.