Sunday, 23 May 2021

Review: The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

I downloaded this book after reading the blurb as the cover was not available at the time. I love stories based on folk tales and fairy tales (particularly ones I am not familiar with) and this sounded right up my street.

The Wolf and the Woodsman is a re-imagining of an event in medieval Hungarian history, woven with strands of Hungarian and Jewish folk stories.  Evike lives in a pagan village, hidden in a forest, the only one of its inhabitants without some kind of magical power. This is blamed on her father being an outsider: a 'Yehuli'. When soldiers from the Holy Order of Woodsmen arrive to claim a seer for the King, the villagers are only too happy to offer Evike up rather than lose one of their own girls.  But on the march back to the capital, the woodsmen are attacked by various supernatural forces and soon the Evike and the Captain are the only ones left. To survive, they will have to learn to not only trust each other, but work together.

Although I loved all the folk story and historical stuff, The Wolf and the Woodsman was a bit too gory for me! In order for a character's magic to work they had to use blood sacrifices, which usually involves blood-letting or the loss of a body part. I was uncomfortable with the parallels with self-harm and couldn't help wondering that if you had to sacrifice a finger every time you wanted to do a spell, what happened when you ran out of fingers? While the gore meant this read like an novel aimed at adults, by contrast the romance was a bit teenage-y and I'd have preferred more ambiguity about Gasper's character, rather than the too-early flagging that he's A Nice Guy Really.

Recommended to fans of grittier YA fantasy and books such as The Bear and the Nightingale (Katherine Arden).

Thank you to Ava Reid and Del Rey/Cornerstone for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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