Cover Image: The Wolf and the Woodsman

The Wolf and the Woodsman

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Member Reviews

The Wolf and the Woodsman is a book that pushes both its characters and readers on how far they're willing to go and how much they're willing to sacrifice for their faith. Set amidst Hungarian history and Jewish folklore, this story is absolutely captivating with an atmosphere and cast that slowly grabs its reader and pulls them into a cold and cruel world. Évike is a wolf-girl who has been shunned her entire life for her mixed blood and lack of gifts. When the king's Woodsmen come to claim a seer, Évike is disguised and sent into the forest as tribute, betrayed by her people, and forced to the same fate as her mother.

Right from the get-go, this story was immersive with so much atmospheric tension both from the danger of the woods and from the unknown that comes with being taken by the Woodsmen. Évike is one of those characters who embraces her status as the outcast and literally survives this book through sheer determination and will. Her strength is astounding and that's what makes her so admirable and impactful as the main character.

Both Évike and Gáspár are tested beyond their capabilities throughout this book on different fronts and it was both fascinating and rewarding to see them work through their differences. I loved how (for the first time in what feels like forever) we have two characters who don't seek to change their beliefs and personalities to fit someone else but continously challenge each other to become better human beings. The discussion of religion and of ethnic and cultural cleansing also delved deeper into the horrible acts committed throughout history and opens up this space for conversation for both the characters and the readers to examine personal biases and why the fear of someone else plays such a huge role in hatred.

There are honestly so many thoughts I have for this book and all I want to do is dive back in because I know there's so much I can still learn from Évike's story. For a debut, Ava Reid absolutely blew me away and I'm waiting eagerly for her future works.

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Overall, I enjoyed Ava Reid's YA debut. With hoards of monster run-ins, danger galore, and the enemies to lovers trope that I personally love to read, The Wolf and the Woodsman is a dark, action-packed standalone that's sure to entertain fantasy readers of all tastes.

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** Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!**

Haunting, brutal, magical, beautiful, and whimsical, The Wolf and The Woodsman by Ava Reid is the type of book that sinks into your soul and takes root there. The book is so full of contradiction it feels like the story shouldn’t work, but the mythology is so apparent in the story and beautifully ties the world together so wonderfully that you find yourself getting excited to see where the next contradiction will pop up. While at first glance the story seems to be whimsical, but you soon find that even the most beautiful things have their own sharp edges. While parts of this book can be difficult to read, ie: dismemberment, torture, Antisemitism, ethnic cleansing, and gore, the story that is woven is so powerful that it is hard to not be overcome with emotion while reading it.

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From the very first chapter, the very first line, this book captivated me.

As a half-Jewish woman, it was incredible reading a magical fantasy about a woman coded as half-Jewish. The book felt like a love letter to Judaism.

But even beyond that, I was fully engrossed in the story. Folklore, cultural world-building, and violence were woven throughout the book to stunning effect. And of course, the enemies-to-lovers romance between Évike and Gáspár stole my heart. Perfect if you’re a fan of Matthias and Nina from Six or Crows or wished Zutara became a thing in The Last Airbender.

It was dark. It was steamy. It was powerful. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Despite some pacing issues and some repetition that I feel could have been whittled down a little, <I>The Wolf and the Woodsman</I> was an enjoyable and immersive story that felt like a New Adult fantasy/romance, fusing a YA plot/character arc with more adult trappings of violence and sexuality (not gratuitous, just more than YA would allow) and featuring a protagonist in her early 20s who often feels more like a teenager. The story recasts early Hungarian history in an alternate version of the real world, where the magic claimed by various religions—Christianity, paganism, Judaism—is real and, though never explained through stated rules, feel well-built and fitting for their cultures. Character development is a bit rushed near the end (tied closely to the pacing issues) but overall the world building and character relationships shine through to give the book its strengths.

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The plot line for this one was ok for me until the inevitable love story happened. It felt unlikely and a little forced. It pretty much killed the whole story for me. There are some great characters here and could be enjoyable if you are looking for romance with your adventure.

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This was a stunningly beautiful story! I loved the writing, the characters, the politics and religions, the romance. But even though I love slower fantasies, I think this one was just a little too slow for me. Overall, a fantastic fantasy that I highly recommend!

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I'm just saying, Ava Reid needs to have 23040593 more books if she writes this way. The Wolf and the Woodsman is the dark, romantic fairytale of my dreams.

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3/5 Stars

** I received this as an E-ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review, Thank you!**

I have some really mixed feelings about this book. I'm going to say a lot of this is coming from personal preference. I just don't think the writing and the plot were for me. I will say that it had some entertainment value and I was able to finish reading it. However I wasn't connected to any of the characters, nor did I really even care about them. I feel like the book dragged a little bit, and I can't say that I wasn't a little bit disappointed and let down by the plot. Overall this was an easy book to read, it was just not the book for me,

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This was definitely something.

I loved the world, the lore, the stories....just wow. The incorporation of cultures that don't get a ton of representation in books, was pretty awesome to see, and while I cannot speak to the authenticity of their portrayal in this novel, I enjoyed the feeling of reading something different. Ava Reid has written something, dark, gory, full of political unrest and religious conflict and she has done it pretty dang well.

While I normally love a good standalone, I wish this one had a planned sequel. Without spoilers, all I will say is that I think there is a lot more to be said about the outcome of the religious and political conflicts than the way it was wrapped up here (things just aren't that easy, especially in a world that was built to portray that things are never that easy).

Overall I was entranced and entertained.

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It was so easy to see inside of these two main characters, their insecurities, their losses and pain, which made the story undeniably compelling, I personally found the first half very slow, but the second half was gorgeously rendered.

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The Wolf and the Woodsman is highly anticipated by many, including myself. It is a whimsical, lyrical sort of read and I typically go into those wary but with it being labeled as adult, I figured "oh, the author can add some really brutal moments within the whimsy" and they definitely did but it didn't live up to the hype for me. Before I get into what really did me in. Let me briefly explain what I did like. My favorite part of this was hands down the mythology and historical elements, Hungarian and Jewish to be specific woven throughout. Pagan magic is huge in here and You can clearly see what historical events, and cultures inspired different elements of the book. And putting a fantastical spin on it , mmm, just lovely.

I did follow along with the audiobook because with all of its Hungarian and Jewish notes, I didn’t want to mispronounce everything, I wanted to here all the mythological gods said properly and I highly recommend if you have the chance to experience the story through the audiobook. Narrator does fantastic, she gives the main character proper raw anger in her voice. It’s great. Speaking of anger. I normally hate books where the two love interests are constantly arguing but the main characters personality at first is written in a way that it fits. It all felt organic and justified but then she meets the sweet love interest and she bullies the living hell out of him. It is so bad. She judges everyone fiercely. I totally get she's an outcast in her village and treated horribly, so it does feel like she's a survivor of some sort. But man, it really affected all the other characters especially the love interest. I feel like his personality was just stuck. It couldn’t grow because Evike, the main character was poking and prodding him so much. Evikes name should be changed by one letter and just be called evoke. Because that’s all she did. Evoke my anger.

That’s why I gave this 2 stars. I couldn’t stand the main character, the constant arguing. It reminded me of a YA book which I feel can have lots of arguing between the main couple. It feels like page filler. I'm definitely bummed that I didn't love this more but it wasn’t for me.

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The writing of the book is the stand out star which makes this a must read. The vivid settings and genuine characters capture the reader's attention from the first page. I learned a lot about lore I had never even heard of before. At times I was intimidated by the newness of the tales, but easily found myself invested and enjoying the book

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/REVIEW// *ARC provided by @netgalley in exchange for my honest review.* [I also purchased the audiobook via @librofm]

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

// ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

// Adult Fantasy

Another book to add to my home library shelves.

In the vein of Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestseller Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.

This book is deep, dark and descriptive. It had me captivated within the first 80 pages and I loved the world building. The research that must have been done to write this story is incredibly evident in the writing and world building. While the world building is incredible it is also approachable for those who find fantasy to be a challenging genre to read.

I loved the historical aspects, the dark fairytale story and the enemies to lovers aspects of this book.

// Content Warning: Violence, Death, Mature Content, Murder,Torture, Antisemitism, Cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing //

// Release Date: 6/08/2021

If you are looking for an incredible audiobook this is the book for you. This is such a beautifully written story and it just as beautiful read-aloud.

#TheWolfandtheWoodsman #NetGalley

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This was honestly a tough read, which makes me sad, as it was a book I had been looking forward to reading.
Don’t get me wrong- it wasn’t a bad book! There is this whole genre of fantasy type books that have so many made up words and names and geographical locations that is just so hard to read them. For me it’s just so hard to get through to the story itself. And without being able to get in to the story- it makes it hard to enjoy.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Before I begin my review, I would like to discuss some grievances I have with the publishers of this book. This has nothing to do with the author or book, as this is out of their control. I take issue with the poor distribution of ARCs to Jewish reviewers. This book was promoted heavily as a Jewish OwnVoices story, so it was disappointing to see so many gentile reviewers and an absence of Jewish voices. I am Jewish, and upon requesting this book months prior, I was declined, only to suddenly be approved the day before the book was published? This is a widespread problem in publishing, despite the rise in more diverse stories. OwnVoices reviewers should always be prioritized, but the opposite could be said for the distribution of this book.

Now, with that out of the way, let's talk about this book! Because-- wow. This book was amazing.

This book gave me everything I was promised, amazing Jewish folklore and even more amazing characters. This book was truly a character driven story. Though that's not to say the plot wasn't equally as engrossing. The world was complex, yet I felt like I could simply step into the world during the author's wonderful worldbuilding. This book truly is one of the most beautiful depictions of Jewish culture that I've ever seen. Reading about the Purim celebration felt like a warm hug.

The main character was so complex, but I found myself resonating with her motivations and emotions throughout the story. None of these characters felt underdeveloped, each of their stories felt completely authentic. While the romance definitely takes a back burner in much of the story, that is not to say it isn't compelling. I really enjoyed the character's dynamics, and really felt like I got to know them through the author's writing.

This book was nothing short of enthralling, and I have nothing but praise for the author.

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This book made me feel all of kinds of things from the very first line to the last! I love absolutely everything about it! Reid's writing is lyrical even when it's horrific, painting pictures of both scenery and people with such vividness it's hard not to feel *something*. Evike and Gaspar are both incredibly complicated, complex, and very *human*, which Reid beautifully demonstrates throughout the book. Their relationship isn't an easy one, and yet it feels very natural in the way it progresses. Oh, and their banter. And their philosophical arguments. (My absolute favorite bit is when Evike is trying to understand Gaspar's religious faith; his god demands bloody sacrifices from followers, while Evike's are just kinda around. She says "our gods aren't perfect, so why would they demand perfection from us?" That stuck with me. It still stays with me. I love it!) The push and pull they have to and from each other is wonderful.

Another thing I really loved was the parallel between the Yehuli culture/society and real-world Jewish communities. When Evike watches Zsigmond write notes in his holy book that are more like questions asked of god ("you say this, but you did this, why is that?" "this makes no sense, what gives?"), that is 100% how my Jewish friends view their relationship with god; not to cower and obey without question, but to learn and understand and disagree at times (I remember reading a story about two men/rabbis arguing over something, god tries to cut in and one of the men says "you stay out of this"). With inclusions like the story of Queen Esther and the Golem of Prague reshaped to fit in TWATW's universe, it's hard to miss the parallels between fiction and reality.

I'm so very glad and grateful that this book is out in the world and able to be shared by everyone. It is truly a wonderful, emotional story that I hope more people come to know about.

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This was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and it ended up being a slight letdown, but wasn't bad by any means. Mostly the pacing felt a bit off, like instead of being one fluent book, the story was getting told in chunks that were sewn together, and sometimes it was easier to see the seams. There were a lot of explorations into cultural identity that were really interesting, and the writing was very solid. The romantic element was good, but I never felt like it got fully developed or explored enough. Overall I just didn't totally connect with this the way I wished I would.

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In her impressive debut, Ava Reid creates an immersive world full of magic, folklore, adventure, and love. One of the strengths in this stirring novel was its world-building. Magical powers, complex deities, and lurking monsters, this world was exciting and original. I enjoyed the various aspects of the different religions present, along with intricacies behind them (note: the Jewish religion is prominent, along with pagan, and others). The power of religion affected the power of the characters and the brutality that occurs in the novel, make an interesting magical system. There was a lot going on in this story/world and I mean that in a good way. I wasn’t overwhelmed by complexity or felt that anything was unnecessary to the story; rather, there was a lot to explore and be excited about. I really enjoyed the development and depth of the characters, not just the main ones, but also secondary. The protagonists Evike and Gaspar were born to hate and fear each other. I appreciated the gradual development of their appreciation, friendship to love as they battle together and grow to understand that cultural differences don’t decide whether a person is good or bad, right or wrong. While I really liked Evike, there were some instances where I didn’t like the choices she made and felt like they didn’t fit with what I imagined of her.

This atmospheric and dark folkloric tale was truly magical, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in fantasy adventures with vivid characters, darker themes, mythic figures, and a budding romance. Thank you Harper Voyager for the gifted copy in return for an honest review!

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A rich fantastical tome with a strong enemies to lovers thread. Definitely recommend for fans of Slavish folklore.

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