This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger warnings for this book: self-harm, body horror, gore, abuse, death, religious persecution, animal death.
“It’s hard to think that it took me so long to realize that the shape of our wounds is the same”
LISTEN Ava Reid knows how to corrupt a holy man.
So, so close to being perfect. It seems like the first half of the book is fairly pointless; however, it does really pull together in the end when the storyline becomes a bit clearer and the stakes are ratcheted up.
One thing I did enjoy was the fairytale aspect of this: trees that move, magic birds and bears, cabins on chicken legs in the deep woods, wolves and witches who feed toads and worms to their victims, magic prayers, and dark, cold nights spent curled next to an enemy turned lover. All the makings of a class fairytale. However, it falls just short of being as compelling as I would have liked.
Additionally, I did enjoy the romantic aspect of this story; I loved their dynamic and the eventual softness of the connection, though I wish it had some more time to blossom, and a little more time was spent on building tension and depth within their relationships. I love the soft strength of Gaspar and the bold anger and wanting of Evike. I just wish they were a bit more fleshed out as characters and that the overall storyline was more congruent and a little less dense. There's an almost “inhuman” or distanced aspect to the narration that can make it difficult to read at times and can feel a bit like sloughing through mud to try and get to the point.
That said, I would compare it to a Naomi Novik book in the sense that the narration is almost removed from the story. and the bear and the nightingale, with their broad incorporation of fairytales and magic. However, the latter is a much more gripping story.
For a debut, I found it pretty decent, and I already have plans to pick up another one of her books.
As a side note, there are a lot of trigger warnings for this one. None of it bothered me even a little, but if you’re sensitive to that type of stuff, maybe steer clear.
Ava Reid is a brilliant new talent in fantasy—her lush prose, beautifully flawed characters, and dreamy fairy tale worlds are immersive and unique. Loved this one!
Sadly this book just didn’t grab as much as I hoped it would. I put it down and picked it up multiple times but I just couldn’t connect with it. Super bummed.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this advanced reader's copy and the opportunity to read this early. Review has been posted on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me an advanced copy of this book to read and review.
I loved this one! The pacing seemed a bit off in spots, but I think that had a lot to do with the nature of the plot. I enjoyed how fleshed out all of the characters were - not a single one of them felt like a placeholder. They all served a purpose.
This unfortunately just wasn't for me and I ended up DNFing it. I can see the appeal but at the end of the day, I just wasn't connecting with the characters or the story. I think at the end of the day, this type of story just isn't for me.
I have really mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, the mythology and folklore that inspired this book shine through beautifully. You can tell the author respects the stories that built the basis for this one. But this felt so dense at times. The hardcore world-building did make me very intrigued where the world itself was concerned, but I think it made it hard to connect to the characters. I forgot almost everything about them within a week of reading this one. I'll be reading other books by this author probably, but this wasn't a favorite.
The hype around this book is well deserved. I was hooked from the very first page and fell so in love with this entire book that Ava Reid has written. I can't wait to read everything that she writes in the future!
I had a really hard time getting into this book. While the premise was really creative, and I enjoyed reading about the socio-economic and religious politics that were happening, I felt the ending was very rushed and kind of tied up with a neat bow. I don't know if, when it comes to entire countries changing their opinions of long held beliefs, that change is that quick to happen.
MEAT AND BONES:
Evike does not have the power her fellow village girls do. She is not the typical Wolf-Girl that must be sacrificed to the fanatical King in order to keep her pagan village alive. Her own mother was sacrificed when she was young, and her father, a Yehuli man from the capitol, has not been back to the village since. Left defenseless, she experienced abuse at the hands of her fellow villagers. However, it still comes as a surprise when a wolf fur cloak is wrapped around her shoulders and she is made to look like one of the village seers that the King has requested of them. When an envoy of the Holy Order of the Woodsmen come to collect their wolf girl, she is the one thrusted into their arms to be carried to the capitol to serve the King, whatever fate that may bring.
As she travels through the dangerous and monster infested wood, all of the woodsmen are killed with the exception of Evike and the enigmatic one-eyed captain, who is revealed to be Gáspár Bárány, the first born son of the King himself and heir to the patriarch. They realize that they must rely on one another in order to stay alive. As they face danger after danger, they grow closer and realize that there is a common enemy they both have. Gaspar’s own brother, already deemed a saint, has gained a following that may upend the right of succession. If he were to get his hands on that kind of power, it could potentially damn half of the country, pagans and Yehuli alike, wiping them from the world in great, bloody swaths along with the magic that protects the secret places of the world.
Although both have been long been outcasts in their own rights, Gaspar and Evike realize that they must do what they can to stop the destruction that would kill so many innocent people. It won’t be easy. Their journey takes them through forests filled with danger to the frozen tundras of the north, and to the bustling, dirty streets of the capitol, where Eviké is reunited with her father and finds not only community among the Yehuli there, but also a secret power she never knew she had. But will that power be enough to protect the ones she loves and save the kingdom from the evil hands wrapping themselves around its throat?
MIND AND SOUL:
This book is amazing. It’s brutal, vicious, bloody, and filled with magic. Evike is a brutal heroine made tough and full of teeth by her past. She secret longs for the community and inclusion that she never had the chance at. Gaspar is all shadowy toughness on the outside, with a spicy and sweet gooey center. I loved taking this journey with them. It is not a journey for the faint of heart. There is absolute cruelty in the pages of this book as well as some very descriptive, violent scenes. But there are also moments of absolute beauty. When Evike reunites with her father and gets the chance to spend time with him, it is heartwarming and gives Evike something tangible to fight for beyond just her growing relationship with Gaspar and the village that she quickly lost fondness for. Not only that, but she finds something hidden inside of herself that she never knew was there, something powerful and tangible.
Beyond its lush descriptions and bloody depictions is a story of growth and change, of learning to love yourself even in the rough parts, and finding acceptance in the most unlikely of places and situations. I absolutely loved it and I am so excited for Ava Reid’s next book. I hope it’s just as bloody, brutal, and beautiful as this one.
Thank you to Netgalley and Avon Harper for the copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
To me this read like Nina & Matthias fan fiction. (This is not at all a criticism - I love Nina & Matthias! IYKYK) I was very invested in the blooming relationship and the bumps that come with the territory of enemies to lovers. While I personally gritted my teeth at some of the gore, I wouldn't call this a horror book like I've seen others call it. It's a dark war fantasy, definitely, but not horror. There is blood magic and graphic scenes, but nothing like what Game of Thrones has, which isn't considered a horror novel. I didn't find myself wrapped up in the story like I had hoped - I wasn't compelled to keep reading into the night - but I did enjoy it and I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.
I think my sky-high expectations tempered my enjoyment of this book. The synopsis sounded so good, and the comparisons to "The Bear and the Nightingale" and "Spinning Silver" - two of my favorite books by two of my favorite authors - made me positive I'd enjoy this one.
I did not. I couldn't even finish it.
Perhaps I wasn't in the right headspace to enjoy this tale, and I'll likely go back to try to finish it someday, but for right now I need a break.
I expected a well-written, deep, dark, rich fantasy - I got a well-written, shallow, blah fantasy that reads much more like YA than Adult. So disappointing, especially because it's based on some super interesting mythology but alas. Not for me right now.
I mean, if you want to read Game of Thrones based fan-fic with a bratty protagonist who is actually a grown woman, this is for you. But it should not be compared to Katherine Arden and Naomi Novik. I'm pretty sure "wolf-girl" is in her twenties so there is no reason for her to be so ridiculously childish. This book had promise but did not deliver.
A delightful book full of adventure, action, and thrills. Fun to read, engrossing world building, and very descriptive imagery made it feel like it was cinematic. It's hard to resist the story as it drives forward. Would recommend.
The Wolf and the Woodsman reminds me of tales I have read regarding the exploits of the Teutonic knights and their crusades against the Lithuanians with a mix of Russian/Ukrainian themed folklore and Jewish myths for spice. The wolf is Evike, a pagan mix raised in a village who lacks the magic of her peers. The woodsman is Barnay Gaspar, the mixed blood prince trying to serve his father the only way he knows how and also trying to save his country. The two team-up out of necessity, but proximity and other urges come into play. The book is quest for many things. A fantastic bird, a place in society, and finding someone who accepts you for who you are. The fun is in the plotting and changing circumstances the characters encounter. The ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel. An interesting read.
There were a lot of red riding hood/wolf/woodsman books this year! While I enjoyed the fantasy stuff, the romance seemed kind of half baked and far too much of a young adult dramafest for an adult book.
A wildly inventive and achingly beautiful debut! Ava Reid is a fantasy writer to watch out for! I adored this book!
This was a mostly enjoyable fantasy read. It was pretty predictable though and the world doesn't feel all that unique (do we really need more fantasy antisemitism??). It was an engaging read though, even if I wasn't enjoying it the whole time, and I did really connect with the main characters. I thought there was some nuance in the world building which does help it stand out a bit from the many, many Eastern European/Russian analog fantasy worlds that are out there, but overall I don't think it really brings anything new or interesting to the table. Also, just a pet peeve in the writing, but holy hell there are a lot of flushed cheeks in this book!
I am a member of the American Library Association Reading List Award Committee. This title was suggested for the 2022 list. It was not nominated for the award. The complete list of winners and shortlisted titles is at <a href="https://rusaupdate.org/2022/01/readers-advisory-announce-2022-reading-list-years-best-in-genre-fiction-for-adult-readers/">