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The Wolf and the Woodsman

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Member Reviews

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!

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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/">

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"The Wolf and the Woodsman" is a beautifully written tale blending history and mythology in a way that is both entertaining as well as rich with details. Reid masterfully crafted this unique tale.

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Combining the magic and worldbuilding of the works of Naomi Novik and the folkloric storytelling of THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE, debut author Ava Reid’s THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN is a luscious, vivid fantasy rooted in Hungarian history and Jewish mythology with searing connections to our own time.

In the pagan village of Keszi, Évike is the only woman born without any magical powers. While the other females --- wolf-girls, nicknamed for their cloaks made of wolf skin --- in her matriarchal village call upon the magic blood within them to make fire, heal wounds, forge metal and even see the future, Évike alone is cast aside, despite her abilities to hunt and keep her community fed through the long, harsh winters. When we meet Évike, Keszi is gearing up for Woodsman Day, when soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of the Woodsmen to take a pagan girl as a sacrifice to the King of Régország, a Patrician who has made it his mission to cast pagan gods and practitioners from his kingdom. Shielded from the rest of the kingdom by Ezer Szem, a magical forest full of walking trees and vicious animals, Keszi is one of the last remaining pagan villages. For the sheer insolence of existing, they must sacrifice one woman to the king each year.

Keszi cannot survive without its magic. When the village seer foresees that the Woodsmen will take their training seer, Katalin, she disguises Évike and sends her in Katalin’s place --- like a lamb to the slaughter. Raised her entire life with the knowledge that her kingdom’s capital views her and her loved ones as abhorrent, savage monsters, Évike is shocked at how utterly human her captors are, even as she remains filled with justified hatred for them. The Woodsmen are, like their king, Patricians who worship the Prinkepatrios, a flawless being who demands blood as a means of justice and mercy. Discord among the soldiers reveals to Évike that the kingdom is failing, at war with neighboring Merzan and losing soldiers and blood daily. Unsurprisingly, it seems that the majority of the kingdom blames pagans like Évike for the bloodshed. When one soldier attacks her in the night, screaming that he must do what the king will not by “[ridding] the country of pagan scourge,” she realizes that there’s far more hate and vitriolic propaganda behind the religious divide in Régország than she realized.

Régország is full of dark magic, vicious animals and the aforementioned clashes of religion and culture. On their journey to the kingdom, the soldiers and Évike are attacked, leaving her alone with the one-eyed, broody captain, Bárány Gáspár, who soon reveals himself to be not a soldier at all, but the only legitimate son of the king and heir to the throne. The product of a mixed marriage, Gáspár has become disgraced within his kingdom and has lost his citizens’ faith to his more bombastic brother, Nándor. Nándor is a religious fanatic with a gift for charming the masses, using pre-existing prejudices against pagans and the Yehuli (a religious group resembling Judaism) to fuel his journey to the top by blaming any issues in the kingdom on the people who suffer the most and take the least.

As Gáspár explains, his father is a hypocrite, a man who decries pagan worship yet still requires its magic to win his war and preserve his kingdom. Gáspár is a true believer --- as his many self-inflicted scars demonstrate --- but he knows that his father and brother have gone too far, and he will need Évike’s help to travel north to track down the turul, a mythical bird who granted the pagans the gift of sight. With the turul, he can win back his kingdom and keep Évike and her people safe. Like his scars, Gáspár’s missing eye is a testament to his faith. Although Évike knows that his faith likely means that he hates her more than he loves his kingdom, the fact remains that they are alone in a world full of blood and gore with a common enemy, and they will have to band together to find the turul and make it to the capital alive.

Dark, romantic and unforgettable, THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN is as steeped in real, traumatic history and gore as it is luscious worldbuilding, captivating magic and a slowburn love story to rival any classic romance. Ava Reid writes magic, myth and folklore so well that you almost forget how poignant the themes of nation-building, propaganda and religious persecution are until they smack you right in the face. Through the eyes of Évike, a mixed-race, mixed-magic wolf-girl at the bottom of her kingdom’s hierarchy, we see the rampant effects of cultural genocide, and the ways that generations of trauma seep into your heart and mind. Her journey to find herself --- including reuniting with her estranged father, a Yehuli tax collector --- forces readers to confront themes of anti-Semitism, ethnic cleansing and the sheer pain of being “other” in a world that demands homogeny. And yet, somehow, the magic system is so vivid, full of imagination, beauty and horror, that you cannot put the book down even for an instant.

Reid captures everything that makes fantasy great by laying bare these complex, difficult-to-discuss themes against her magic backdrop and giving readers no choice but to pay attention and engage. Her magic system is based in body horror and gore, and the forests of Régország are full of ghastly, wicked creatures. I worry that some may classify the novel as “grimdark” and turn away, but to do so would be a mistake. Reid’s imagination is endless, and though the pages are full of violence and blood, they are equally full of centuries of Jewish mythology and history, epic breakdowns of religious and ethnic genocide, and, most haunting of all, Évike, a young woman desperate to define herself and to live.

Written with a timelessness of spirit, a magical world that knows no bounds, and characters who will make your heart pound and your eyes well up, THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN is an intricate, gut-wrenching fantasy that will set the bar for dark historical fantasy for years to come.

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A perfect debut by a marvellous author. The Wolf and The Woodsman is good book that everyone who likes a good story. Ava Reid is a author to be watched

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I adored this lush fantasy with all my heart.

It took me all of three months to read it. This has nothing to do with the content of the book, and everything to do with the fact that I wanted to take my time and savor the prose. Reid is a gripping wordsmith; she knows how to weave stories out of printer's ink and conjure settings out of thin air -- THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN is tangible proof of her skill.

I also loved the work done on each character. Even minor ones that served only for a couple pages were fleshed out and given a life of their own. I would like to take note of the work done on worldbuilding as well: I understand that a lot of the worldbuilding was based on history and existing geopolitical relations juxtaposed with some fantasy. Nonetheless, I want to take note of how *astounding* the worldbuilding was. THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN builds its own myth, its own history, its own culture from ground up. It is truly expansive.

Needless to say: highly recommended! [4.5 stars]

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I ended up drifting away from this book in the middle and never returning to finish it, largely due to plot and pacing issues, but I liked what I read before that enough that I plan to try this author again.

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One of my favorite reads of the year, THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN is a stellar example of how to write a dark fantasy story that makes an impact. THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN digs deeper than some fantasy stories that don't often comment on themes such as colonialism, genocide, war, racism, xenophobia. But this one does in a way that is heavy but dealt with in great care. With the influx of many European inspired stories, this story feels more realized and that's maybe because of the author being Hungarian as well as Jewish herself, since the story is heavily inspired by the history of Hungary and Jewish mythology.

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Ahhh I really loved this. This is one of the two wolf books I was hyped for this summer, and it blew me away.

You can definitely tell this is a debut in some ways, but the largest part was the repetition in the narration. We often got the same string of thoughts multiple times, which led to some banter feeling repetitive. It was also common that Évike would take the reader through a specific train of thought, only to then start a conversation about those thoughts. It led to the reader sometimes reading the same thing twice, in short succession. While this overall didn't take away from the reading experience too much for me, it was still something I certainly noticed.

Besides that though, I was in love with the story, it's world, and the characters. The two main characters have the dynamic of Nina and Matthias in Six of Crows, and I loved that. It meant their journey was full of banter as they slowly started to warm to each other, while also forcing both characters to reckon with their own cultures and upbringing, and how that informs their opinions and feelings about each other. It meant there was a lot of room for personal growth outside the specific plot, and I just grew to love Évike and Gáspár more and more.

I also loved the folklore that backed most of this story, and the reverence with which these stories are told shows a love and care for them on the part of the author. This had to be my favorite part of the book, even beyond the dynamic between the two main characters, and I loved reading the story that seemed to accompany each new scene in the plot. It was so tightly woven together in that sense, where Évike seemed to carry a story for each new thing that she and Gáspár faced. It made this novel overall feel richer and deeper, a story within a world of even more stories.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book, and it was one of my favorite reads in April/May. I can't wait to see what Reid writes next!

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I wanted to love this book but I just didn’t. It felt like such a long read & there were points I just wanted to give up on this book. I think the writing was good and I really loved all the Jewish & Hungarian folklore involved in the story. But the magic system didn’t feel fleshed out enough for me and ultimately it was just to slow.

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I really, really wanted to love this book. Eastern European folklore is having a real moment right now, but the combination of Jewish tradition and Hungarian history was something I hadn't seen yet. Unfortunately, while this book has a super compelling beginning and start, the middle sags almost unbearably.

It's clear that Reid does her best thinking when it's about religion and identity, which permeates 0-30% of the book, and then 60-100%. It gets so far off track in that middle section, though, that it struggles to refind its footing at the 60%, and doesn't get back into the swing of the story until 75%ish. The politics are lost in the lore, and I honestly think we could have skipped Évike & Gáspár's whole road trip for some more political action, which is not something I think I've ever said before. So much is left to the last 13% of the book that I really didn't see how it could be solved without a sequel, but it is, if a bit too neatly.

Some really gorgeous prose is studded throughout the book, even where the plot is fumbled, which makes the reader feel like they're stumbling on treasure in the tougher parts of the book. I'll pick up the next book by Reid, even if it won't land at the top of my TBR.

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I finished this newer fantasy novel (published in June 2021) a few days ago.

3⭐️ for the mixture of Eastern European folklore and world building. One star docked for the length. Portions of the story felt extraneous, adding little to the plot or could have been more succinctly written.

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The Wolf and the Woodsman absolutely swept me away with gorgeous prose, the most carefully kindled yearning, and stories of all kinds. To anyone who has ever felt torn between worlds, like they don't truly belong in any one place, this book is an ode to your pain, your longing, and a balm to your soul.

I loved how the world felt so grounded and real, and the way magic and lore was inextricably seeped into its bones. There was a moment in which I worried the book would over-dedicate itself to the politics of kingdoms and ruling, but in the end the story always swung back around to Évike's struggle to make peace with herself and her own power (or lack of it).

Évike and Gáspár's slow-build barely-there romance is so pervasive and powerful that it feels criminal you are made to feel such love for them and between them. The power that Ava Reid wields in one single sentence between these two holds the emotional weight of a mountain - surely if she had been anymore forthright in writing their romance I would have perished from the intensity of emotion it evoked. She and Gáspár are two sides of the same stubborn coin, and he is so deeply soft underneath the mask of propriety he has built to survive, just as he softens Évike's thorny exterior.

This book will definitely stay with me for a long time.

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The story involved more gore than I expected. Story didn't grab me enough to get past the gruesome parts.

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i didn’t like this as much as i was expecting too. i was really hoping to love this book but it was honestly just in the middle for me, the romances was kinda bland and i didn’t really love the main character. it just didn’t bring anything new for me.

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This book had an interesting world building but it was also pretty slow paced and I got bored many times. While the romance itself was a major part of the story, I found it to not be convincing enough and I really didn’t know why they fell in love. The book did get better in the second half but I’m still not sure if I wanna continue the series.

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I was unable to finish this because I didn't feel like I wouldn't be comparing it to "For the Wolf," which I read very recently. I gave it a shot, and when there were too many similarities I had to set it down. I'm hoping with some distance I'll be able to enjoy it with fresh eyes.

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Évike, a wolf girl as she is frequently called, lives in a small village and happens to be the only woman without magic. The Woodsmen come to the village in search of a seer. Évike’s people disguise her and offer her as the seer. Évike is soon on a journey with the captain of the Woodsman as they make their way through the dangerous forest and get caught up in plots to overthrow the crown.

This is an incredibly slow paced book that didn’t pick up until late which left me frustrated and at times bored. Nothing seemed to happen for the longest periods of time.

Part of this, I think, is because of how it felt like it was repetitive at times. Sometimes I felt like I had already read that part, when I know that I hadn’t. Between the thought process of Évike and some of the sentence structures, there needed to be more variety.

The Wolf and The Woodsman has a lot of ingredients that could make it an absolute banger, but this didn’t end up working for me. This was a solid debut with some good writing and interesting characters, so I am interested to see what this author writes next.

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This read very YA to me; the characters felt younger than their ages, and the religious and ethnic metaphor was a little too literal. I think the world was interesting, but there were a few moments where I was confused about what was happening because there wasn't quite enough world building. I would still recommend this to adult patrons who enjoy YA fantasy.

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“Will you tell me a story, wolf-girl?”

🐺I decided that instead of strictly reviewing the book I’ll tell you all why I loved it so much, apart from it being absolutely amazing.

🐺All through my life I had a love and hate kind of relationship with the country I was born in. I absolutely adore the scenery, the cities, the lush culture, the food and I can say a million other things that would scream home to me. But I also struggle with the political views and many other things I’d rather not get into on my platform of happiness.

🐺 As a Hungarian person I can’t tell you @avasreid how absolutely happy I was to see a book inspired by Hungarian folklore and legends, infused with Hungarian words and names. In the land of Fantasy that I love this was a rare treat for me. It somehow combined my love for my country and my love for english fantasy literature in one moody but delicious tome.

🐺 I also love how you were not afraid one bit to tackle all the uncomfortable truths of our past, present and hopefully not our future in a way that still left enough fantasy elements to take you on a wild journey of emotional turmoil.

🐺 This book is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read and I am sure that it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I would also advise everyone to check out the trigger warnings before diving into this one❤️

🐺 I received this gorgeous edition from @illumicrate , even though the dustcover is pretty too, I have to say I am in love with the naked cover.

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