The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid – My Review

“If it is a choice between drowning in the same river that has dragged me down a thousand times or walking into a pit of fire that had never burned me once, I will choose the flames and learn to bear it.” 

― Ava Reid, The Wolf and the Woodsman

My Quick Review:  The Wolf and the Woodsman is a deep and richly written book. The world depiction is powerful and haunting, and the main characters, Évike and Gáspár, are the true epitome of fire and ice. With fearful mythological beasts, and beautifully written characters, the prose and poetic writing of this novel is certainly something you should not miss.

Category: Adult Fantasy

Age Rating: 18+

Pages: 448

Publisher: Del Rey

Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy (2021)

Trigger Warnings: dismemberment, amputation, mutilation, whipping, self-harm, antisemitism, ethnic cleansing, cultural genocide, physical abuse by parental figures/parents, vomiting, animal death, torture.

Synopsis:

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. 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.

“A bad memory shared between two people carries with it only half the pain.” 

― Ava Reid, The Wolf and the Woodsman

My review (may contain slight spoilers):

I was extremely lucky to receive an ARC of The Wolf and the Woodsman from Del Rey, and couldn’t wait to read it. I had no idea what I truly expected from this book, as I had heard very little beforehand, however I am so glad I had the chance to read this beautifully written book.

Before I say anything on the plot or characters, I will say that the writing style within these pages was lyrical, beautiful and truly captivating. The imagery of the world was described in such detail that I truly felt a part of the story whilst in the pages. Extremely dark and unflinching at times, Ava Reid has created a heart wrenching portrayal of Hungary’s bloody history that does not shy away from the horrors associated with cultural genocide, religious persecution and bigotry, and has wrapped it up into a beautifully written and enlightening fantasy novel. The mythology depicted throughout this book through storytelling from Évike to Gáspár, is wonderfully deep, rich and diverse, and provided a wonderful backdrop to the story that unravels within these pages.

As for the main characters of this novel, Évike is a strong willed, seductive, and proud heroine. She refuses to revoke her culture, or character, and is emphatic in her views and goals. I think what I loved most about the slow-burn enemies to lovers romance, is that this strong willed heroine is the one to seduce the pious and surly Gáspár, making him question his stringent beliefs and all he has been taught from childhood. She quite literally has him wrapped around her little finger, and the power that this invokes is extremely refreshing.

I did find the pacing of the plot a little slow at times, but that comes with the territory of a slow-burn-romance. However the overarching story was rich and compelling, with a diverse range of horrifying monsters, beautifully written characters and exquisitely described settings.

In conclusion: The mixture of old folklore and the callous writing style fuse beautifully in a magical tale within The Wolf and the Woodsman. The main heroine is feisty and dominant, and the romance between Évike and Gáspár is powerful, fuelled by true hatred for one another at the beginning and slowly developing into something truly beautiful. The plot twists and turns and is unpredictable at times, fuelled by beautifully wrought symbolism and mythology, this is definitely not a book to miss.

4/5

“If there is anyone I would damn my soul for,” Gáspár says, “it would be you.” 

― Ava Reid, The Wolf and the Woodsman

Interested in this book?

Find it here / Add it to your GoodReads shelf

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