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The Wolf and the Woodsman

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Member Reviews

Evike, a wolf-girl, is chosen to be her village's sacrifice to the Woodsmen. After some disasterous incidents, she is forced to work with her enemy to survive.

Re-tells and re-imagines Hungarian folklore, Jewish history, and the religious politics of the Byzantine Empire in a Hungarian-inspired world filled with magic. So much storytelling!

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Unfortunately this book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. BUT this is definitely a case of me not connecting with the book, rather than the book itself.

Let's start with what I loved!

My favorite part of this was hands down the mythology and historical elements woven throughout this. You can clearly see what historical persons, events, and cultures inspired different elements of the book. And putting a fantastical spin on it allows the reader distance and a less biased view on historical events. It's a style/choice I continuously love.

And the mythology elements beautifully written and told. I loved how the stories interspersed throughout and how well they highlighted the cultural overlapping despite these 2 groups hating each other (sound familiar?)

And overall, the writing was stunning. This book is lyrical without being overdone or difficult to read. It reads exactly like a myth or epic fairytale. I loved the writing style and definitely want to read more from Ava Reid in the future!

Where the book fell short for me, was the pacing and characters themselves.

This book is very much so a travel fantasy which at it's core, isn't my favorite, so take my review with a grain of salt here.

The entire first half of this book follows the heroine and the woodsman as they travel the country in search of a mythical creature to grant them the power they need. And this is where most of the pacing issues stemmed from for me.

1. In this end, this entire first half wandering felt quite pointless. They wander forever and absolutely nothing comes of it. So I was left feeling like, why did we spend so much time here? (one could argue it was for character development but I cover than in point #3)
2. I had difficultly keeping track of how much time was actually passing. I never knew if days or weeks were passing while they were traveling because we were jumping from event to event. And because of that
3. I never believed in the connection the main characters developed. For me it felt like they went from hatred, to cuddling in a tree once, to love with no real groundwork. Évike brings up constantly how many times they "broke Gáspár's woodsman vows" and I feel like I missed something... Because I'm pretty sure it was only cuddling for warmth and one instance of witchcraft. It just really hampered my enjoyment since their relationship is critical to the plot and development.

Overall this book was just okay for me. But I am a very character driven reader, so missing that believability and connection was a big miss. The writing, overarching plot, and themes themselves are fantastic though! So if you're a plot driven reader, definitely take my review with a grain of salt!

This review is live on Goodreads and will be posted to my blog on 6/21 @9am

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I went into this book prepared to love it but ended up feeling disappointed.
When the Woodsmen come to take the seer from Evike’s pagan village for the tyrant king’s blod sacrifice, her villagers offer Evike instead. The captain of the woodsmen Gaspar is the King’s son and he has his own secret agenda for the seer. Whag happens when Gaspar discovers the villagers treachery by substituting the seer with Evike who has no magic and the subsequent turn of events which sees these two enemies developing feelings for one other forms the rest of the story.
I loved the Russian folklore and the the wintry atmospheric setting of the book. But that’s about it. I couldn’t get invested in the characters or the plot.
The pacing was very slow and it kept dragging on and on without reaching anywhere for a long time. The characters were also lacklustre. I couldn’t bring myself to care what happened to them even after the halfway mark.
I ended up dnfing the book at about 60% because of the above reasons.
It could very well have been a me problem rather than anything wring with the book, so if you like slow paced slow burn enemies to lovers romance with lots of Russian folklore woven in with a little but of magic the definitely try this out.
Unfortunately this didn’t work for me and I dnfed so I am going with 1/5 stars indicating only the dnf status and not a judgement on the content of the book.

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I absolutely loved this impressive fantasy debut novel! Merging together myths and stories of Hungarians, Jewish tales, and some Greek mythology, it all combines into a unique and riveting whole. The characters all leap off the pages, too! I felt emotionally connected to them. I couldn't always predict where it was going, and so I was always eager to pick this one back up! The world-building is also solidly accomplished (who doesn't love a book with a map?). It's so well-written - lush and vibrant without dipping a toe in the too florid territory. I really hope that there will be a sequel!! Not that this one isn't a complete story - but there does seem to be a bit of a set-up, should the author want to continue - I know I certainly will be anxious to read it (or anything else) Reid writes next! Plus, the cover art is absolutely gorgeous!

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So I enjoyed this to a certain an extant. The violence was a lot a times but its a good use of Hungarian and Jewish fantasy I just was expecting more from the romance which for me was rather underwhelming

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Originally, I was planning to review this formally; however, due to unforeseen circumstances, it’s a blog post instead.

There is simultaneously a lot I liked about this book and some things I was frustrated by. The writing was beautiful and the plot, dealing with mixed heritage in a sensitive way and exploring European Jewish history through a fantasy lens, was quite original. I also really enjoyed the characterization of the love interest, Gaspár, and was always left wanting more of his characterization. Évike, the protagonist, was a compelling character, alienated from the community where she grew up as an outcast, but ultimately choosing to defend it. I enjoyed the Hungary-based setting, while still questioning some worldbuilding choices/apparent inconsistencies.

The fact that some religions and historical figures were depicted as in real life, names unchanged, which others were reimagined for the fantasy landscape, left me slightly dissatisfied, as the boundaries between historical and secondary-world fantasy were blurred. However, this freedom allowed Reid to reimagine history in interesting ways–for example, the story ends with the building of a more equitable multicultural kingdom rather than an empire or a nation-state.

I have to agree with Liz Bourke on Twitter that the final battle came out of nowhere–it didn’t seem to be the type of confrontation or resolution that was being set up by the rest of the book. Overall, I enjoyed reading The Wolf and the Woodsman, thanks to its interesting themes, prose, and main characters. But it won’t become a favorite.

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The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid is a must read. Great world-building and strong characters. Magical and dark, it will definitely keep a reader glue to its pages. Very much recommend.

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Alright. I’m going to admit that I received this book early from NetGalley way back in January, and I still haven’t finished it. I’ve picked it up and put it down at least 3 times. I found the world of Évike’s danger-filled forest intriguing. I loved every bit of the mythology, from the forest creatures to the far-northern climes.

However. And you knew there had to be a however coming. This book is paced soooo slooooooowly that I couldn’t stand it. It felt like I read *forever*, slogging through this story, but according to my e-reader statistics, it was 4 hours and I got to 52% of the book. I can generally read 300 pages in about 2 hours if I’m motivated. The entire book almost (as much as I read) was characters traveling, and when I gave it up, they had only barely reached the city that was their destination. By that time, I was so frustrated with the pace that I didn’t have enough trust in the author to want to go through the obviously horrible racism and prejudice that was clearly coming.

I know, I know. It’s based on Hungarian history and Jewish mythology. People are poor and oppressed and wrongfully accused of doing hideous things. That’s what really happened, even if this is a fantasy land version of it. And I just don’t want to read it. I feel guilty about this because it sounds so good. But here’s the thing. This is the author’s little blurb when you google her website:

Ava Reid paints a rich and complex picture of a kingdom steeped in ancient magic, straining along seams of religious and cultural tension.

I want to stress this bit: “… along seams of religious and cultural tension.”

Speaking as a left-leaning someone who lived through the years 2016 to present in the US of A, I have to say: no, thank you. I’m an agnostic feminist, raised Southern Baptist by a Confederate-flag waving country boy, married to a black man in America in this our year of 2021.

I do not *need* any more religious or cultural tension, thank you very much.

That doesn’t make this a bad book. Clearly the opposite, since it was released to some acclaim. It’s an International Bestseller, even. And if you really enjoy what appears to be a slow (slow) burn romance, then this book might be your new favorite thing. Unfortunately, it’s just not for me. I’m rating this 3 stars.

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Brought to you by OBS reviewer Caro

“If girls can be wolves, can’t men be beasts?”

The Wolf and the Woodsman is a book of adventure and fairytales with a girl determined to save her village and loved ones by angering the gods. At the beginning of the story, Évike is an outcast in her village. She resents everyone else for the magic abilities she doesn’t have and does not hide her temper or her rebellious personality. But once she is forced to take upon the disguise of the village’s seer, Évike complies, knowing the consequences.

Évike has no magic, and once in the woods her survival instinct kicks in. All those years of training and teaching herself how to survive without magic, finally comes in handy. As her cover is revealed, Évike finds the way to stay alive and strike a bargain with the surviving Woodsman. The scared Évike that left the village as a sacrifice begins to find her way through life and the bigger conflicts outside her small village.

This book has so much action packed fantasy scenes and stories within the story, that I want an additional book where I can read all the stories Évike and other characters would tell each other. When Évike leaves her village she travels through the woods where she and the Woodsmen encounter several creatures, all which were very interestingly described. Eventually, Évike’s journey changes and she comes across many thrilling obstacles including finding her own magic and a new vision of life.

The Wolf and the Woodsman is my favorite fantasy book of the year. I was invested in the characters, the story, the history within the book, and how they would defeat the bad guy. Évike’s journey takes her away from her village thinking that without magic she wouldn’t survive, but she demonstrates abilities that help her more than magic she once wished for.

Along the way, she meets people that attempt to hurt her and others that she eventually trusts and learns from, and some old enemies become allies. It was also interesting to learn everything that happens when the wolf girls are taken to the capital, along with all the lore the capital people believe in. Definitely a book with so many details and rich background plot.

If you’re looking for a fantasy story with great action and interesting scenes, then The Wolf and the Woodsman is for you.

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The Wolf and the Woodsman is a dash of fairy-tale, a dash of the magical, and a heaping dose of reality-bites.

Content warning: There’s bodily mutilation, torture, and more than a bit of gore so read at your own risk.

Évike is an outcast orphan in her village, magic-less and unwanted. When the Woodsmen come for their sacrificial wolf-girl, her village foists her off on them, to save those who do have magic. She’s understandably angry at their callousness and her fate at the hands of a King who takes wolf-girls – and never returns them. Her anger doesn’t abate as she learns that the land she’s born into, the land she lives in, bears no love for her kind nor her people.

The ruling class are an ethnocentric bunch, using minorities for their skills – and discarding them after. The King’s bastard son is riling up the masses with anti-minority rhetoric while the heir is shunned because he’s half-“other” mixed race. (Almost sounds like real life if you’re a minority. If you read to get away from reality for a bit, The Wolf and the Woodsman might not be the book for you.)

The story moves in spurts, with slow lulls while Évike and Gáspár figure themselves out, and frenetic action when they’re running or rushing to or from something. All the stop-and-go had me putting the book down multiple times, unsure if I was going to finish reading it. What saved this for me, was how gracefully Reid describes the Yehuli and their culture – you can feel them come off the pages. I wanted more interactions between Évike and her father, more comfort for her in the sense of belonging to someone, to something.

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A fast read, but largely because I kept hoping it was going to... well... change.

This is a pretty bleak and gory fantasy, and the challenges faced by the main character get pretty repetitive. Everyone is grumbly and misanthropic. The religious set-up is largely Evil Patriarchal Faux-Christianity versus The Ancient Pagan Ways, and while I award points for that pagan religion deriving from more interesting roots than is the case in a lot of fantasy novels with that basic shape, the plot surrounding that conflict plays out pretty much exactly like you'd expect. There's also Not!Judaism, which really was Judaism in literally everything but name.

This is also an adult fantasy that reads a lot like a YA. That may well be an attractive factor to many readers! It's adult-themed in terms of gore and a little bit of sex, but it's YA-styled -- first person present narration from the viewpoint of a young woman who must Defy The Rulers and Save Her People. Évike is supposedly twenty-five, but I had to keep reminding myself of that, because she reads like she's seventeen. The opening scene will feel very familiar to YA readers: an group of girls in an isolated village sniping at each other, but tensions are high because there will soon be A Choosing. The romance is predictable from go. The plot beats were, when they weren't just circling around themselves, what I would expect from a YA narrative.

For me, this was a solidly middle-of-the-road read, nothing too surprising, but worth getting through. I wasn't as blown away as the hype around the book had wanted me to be, but I imagine it will find a great many enthusiastic readers.

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Talk about s l o w b u r n.

This can describe both the characters and the story itself, and I mean both in a good way.

This story begins with a journey and an alliance with the MCs, wolf-girl Évike and woodsman-cum-prince Gáspár. The journey builds and builds the further you get into the book. It starts as a search for an elusive magical item so Gáspár can take his rightful place as heir, but turns into a journey towards understanding of cultures and co-existing. I describe this journey as slow burn because this story builds and builds, layer by layer until you get to the inevitable part where you're like "finally," and everything makes sense. It takes a while to get there but the journey is worth. This is definitely one of those books where when you do reread you're going to catch so much stuff you missed the first time! The story is so detailed and intricate.

Then there's the slow burn with the MCs. The t e n s i o n is just sprinkled into all their interactions. And it makes your heart sing everytime you see it on the page. This is not a YA book and while there's not steam steam I give this some 🔥🔥 for the definite tension.

I really enjoyed this story and those of you that are into fantasy combined with mythology, magic and fairy tales will definitely like this. I would totally recommend this for fans of the Serpent & Dove series.

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The Wolf and the Woodsman was everything I hoped for and more. This folkloric fantasy debut from Ava Reid follows Evike, a pagan woman who has been treated as an outcast in her village of "Wolf Girls". Evike has not only been scorned because of the man who fathered her, but also because she's the only girl in her village without any magic powers. When the Woodsmen come to take away yet another girl, it's Evike who gets taken. A sacrifice for the protection of someone else in her village. As the plot unfolded and twisted itself down grim and harsh paths I read with bated breath and finished this in two sittings.

This book was whimsically dark as Reid knit together Jewish mythology and Hungarian history. The writing was absolutely beautiful. Rich descriptions of the world woven throughout fantastical stories and Evike's own stinging inner dialogue. I was so immersed in the story that I didn't want to drag myself back out until I was finished reading. I'd like to note that the body horror and gore described throughout are not for the faint of heart. The Wolf and the Woodsman is an adult novel and I would heed that warning. If you're a person who is sensitive to graphic descriptions this might be a book that needs to be passed on.

The grim fairytale-esque sheen that covered the surface of the story revealed thought provoking horrors once peeled back. A corrupt kingdom, filled with impoverished peasants who stood atop the backs of the pagans and the Yehuli because they believed themselves to be more worthy of an upward climb. An impending war that has caused a turning tide in the kings own men. It was fascinating and terrifying to read it all unfold because I was so invested in Evike and her survival. Over the course of the book, Evike put every ounce into protecting such fragile relationships that developed over the course of the story. As she interacted with her peers and eventually her father I couldn't help but hope that these characters would hope for the best for Evike just as I was. For her to want to save anyone but herself was heartbreaking because even after years of being treated as less and fighting for her survival she still revealed a caring nature in these moments.

Now, not only was Evike caring but she was powerful in her own way. The self discovery journey she went on through the course of the book proved to be beneficial in numerous ways. Her power in bringing men to their knees was hands down one of my favorite parts of this book. She intimidated a king but her enemies-to-lovers relationship with Prince Gaspar was perfection. They were never meant to be and yet as their banter and curses turned to something more I couldn't stop reading. As I reached the end of the novel I couldn't help but see all the beginnings that could unspool from it. This was a standout read and will definitely be one of my favorites for the year.

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The Wolf and the Woodsman is a stunning debut fantasy with an atmospheric setting, compelling narrative, and complex characters with an enemies to lovers component. The story follows Evike, who is considered cursed by those in her village because she is the only pagan woman without magic. When Huntsman come to collect a pagan as a sacrifice for the king, she is offered up. But when things go sideways, she strikes a deal with one of the Woodsman, Gespar - track down a legendary item in exchange for her freedom.

Their journey is laden with obstacles and the oppositional nature of their religions is the focal point of their conflict. The battle of wills and wits between them is a reflection of the underlying tension between the two groups. As the story moves, we are also introduced to the Yehuli (Jewish) people, who have also been persecuted. The interactions between the three groups crafts a powerful, evocative narrative of what it means to build and sustain a country, even when that country has disregarded you.

Evike has been an outcast her entire life and no longer feels she has much of anything to lose. After so long feeling powerless, her desire to cultivate power on her own terms resonates strongly throughout the story. Gespar, as the disinherited son of the king, is her mirror. He has lost all his power and feels trapped in his own life. Though on opposite sides, they are balanced and united in their feelings of displacement in their own communities.

There are a number of secondary characters that add more dimension to the story as well as depth to our main characters. The most prominent is a Yehuli man that, as they connect with him, forces them to see the potential of resolving the heightening religious tensions by disregarding egoism.

A theme that wound through the story (outside of challenging your beliefs) was balance. The power between Gespar and Evike - a Woodsman and a pagan on opposite ends of a genocidal conflict - was balanced by their shared despair as outcasts in their own communities. As people who their communities had hurt, yet they desperately wanted to help them.

As different as they were, the Yehuli quite clearly brought their similarities into sharp focus because of how fundamentally different the Yehuli were to both of those groups. Both are traditions steeped in legacy, in pride, taking a stance of breaking before bending. The Yehuli are a contrast to that and force Gespar and Evike to consider how that tenacity is hurting both of their people, particularly because the concern with legacy and pride is a source of the scorn they have both faced from their people.

Overall this was a gorgeous debut with a thought provoking story. I find myself mulling over the themes every day, even weeks later, and forming new connections and seeing parallels that were intricately woven into the story.

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I thought The Wolf and the Woodsman would be a perfect fit. With the novel being compared to Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale and Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver, I was desperate to get my hands on this one. However, The Wolf and the Woodsman did not live up to those it was compared to, in my opinion.

The plot of this novel was meandering and seemed to go nowhere. The pacing was very slow, and it left me utterly bored for most of the book. The gruesome aspect of this world’s magic was intriguing, but it was also incredibly graphic so this book is not for the faint of heart.

Our main character, Evike, was very unlikeable. She seemed spiteful at every turn and had me feeling quite annoyed with her pretty early on. The romance between Evike and Gaspar did nothing for me, and I didn’t see the spark between them. I’m all for the enemies to lovers trope, but their constant bickering and goading, on Evike’s part, became irritating quickly.

Others have really enjoyed this one, but it definitely was not for me.

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Born from a pagan woman and a Yehuli man, Évike is the only woman in her village without magic and power. She is insulted and looked down upon, beaten and shunned for her powerlessness. Each year, a group of woodsmen comes to the village to collect a pagan woman and take her to the king as a sort of sacrifice. Évike, though powerless, is disguised as a seer and taken. She discovers that one of the woodsmen is the prince, Gáspár. He fears his brother, Nándor, is going to kill him and claim the throne for himself and start an even more terrible reign than his complacent father has led. Both Évike and Gáspár are outcasts for different reasons and they must rely on each other for help and safety as they travel to find a way to defeat Nándor. Évike discovers that magic isn’t out of her grasp as she once thought it was and Gáspár learns that maybe love is worth denying his faith for.

There is a lot of world building here. A lot of mythical creatures and stories that build the world as Évike and Gáspár know it. They both come from different religious backgrounds, one pagan and the other more traditional, each with different stories to tell. We learn about this world as they reveal to each other exactly what motivates them. Though Évike was shunned by her village, she was basically raised at the leader’s hip, learning from her the history of their world. She has a million and one stories to tell and is very adept at telling them. Her and Gáspár both believe in their gods fiercely but Évike is much more willing to bend her views, especially when she discovers that she can have magic after all. She can finally feel the power of it in her veins and no longer feel like an outcast, even as her adventure takes her further and further away from what was once her home.

I love Gáspár’s agony as he falls for Évike, how it goes against his every faithful bone in his body when he thinks of her, when he kisses her, when he kills for her. He feels so guilty for loving her, which makes his love feel so genuine. Her love for him is just as strong; he is a woodsman, one of the men who routinely come to her village and take girls away, one of the men who came to her village and took her mother away from her and making her more of an outcast than she had been, with little protection.

The creatures described are delightfully creepy. I will say that there is a lot of gore and some torture, as well as anti-semitic talk and genocide. The magic Évike and Gáspár wield is also dependent on blood sacrifice, even bodily sacrifice in the form of self mutilation. It can be quite disturbing. Along with the creatures, the history of the world is rich and terrible, so many facets of which I will never understand. I feel like I need to take a course on Jewish and Hungarian history to fully understand the nuances of everything. But because our lovers come from two different cultures, their storytelling not only serves to educate the other, but the reader as well, in terms I can easily understand. I just know there’s more depth to this already deep story that I’m not getting because of my lack of knowledge of these things.

The metaphors and deep storytelling pulled me in so easily, horrific images kept me reading because I wanted to know what happened next. Twisty storytelling and surprises pulled me in again and again. Nothing happened that was completely impossible within this world, though at times the passage of time itself was very fluid and didn’t make much sense. There were some pacing issues in the middle bits that could have used more fleshing out but this book was already quite long and they were passed over gracefully enough. I think I just wanted more.

I liked the description of Évike’s naivete as regards the Yehuli. She knows nothing of how they are and how they work, that they were part of the city long before anyone else came along. She thinks that it might be a good thing for them to be evicted from the city, so they can live in Yehuli only villages, somewhere away from the antisemitism and attacks. She is quickly disabused of this notion by her father but it just goes to show how idealized this vision was and how it applies to our own world with regard to so many things. Isn’t it better to be among your own people? To be isolated away from the hatred? To be safe on your own in some far off place? No, it just serves to isolate you and put you all in one place so that it’s easier to attack you all together.

I loved the characters, particularly Gáspár and his struggles with his faith aligning with his budding love for Évike. The monsters and mythology were utterly fascinating and I’d’ve loved to see more of it, particularly those siren-like creatures that lure their victims by appearing innocent, as all sirens do. I appreciate how Évike came into herself and gained confidence and how she came to understand her past. She doesn’t forgive her people for how they treated her, nor should she. I liked the first part of the book better than the latter half, which became very political and has a battle. I recommend this book for fans of Naomi Novik.

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this was beautiful. i love enemies to lovers and this hit the hammer on the nail. ava’s writing is beautiful and i can’t wait to see what she does next

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Wow, that was incredible. The voice, the characters, the WORLD, the myths. This is easily one of the best books I've read this year & definitely one of my all time favorites.

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This is one I absolutely thought I would enjoy, as a fairy tale with beautiful writing is one of the things I most enjoy in a book. And yet....

I don't know. Sometimes the writing was quite beautiful, and sometimes it was just that little bit strange that made the words tangle and trip me up.

I actively disliked the characters from the beginning, and that never changed. They became slightly more interesting once they were separated from the others and became closer, but they still mostly just irritated me.

I wasn't interested in the brutal religions and that ended up being a lot of what the story was about.

It's just not for me, I think. However I can see it being popular with others who don't mind the characters and writing style.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Avon Harper Voyager for providing an e-arc to review.

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(6/8/2021) 5 stars. Happy book birthday!

The Wolf and the Woodsman is a dark tale about nationalism, politics, identity, and love. Love for oneself, family, one's people, their country, one's culture, and what you're willing to sacrifice for them.

The story follows Evike, a "barren" (magic-less) wolf-girl and Gaspar, a Woodsman Evike gets stuck with. Gaspar and Evike are two faces of the same coin; both struggle with their identities and are black sheep within their communities. This discrimination affects both of them as they try to figure out where their loyalties lie.

One of the main themes of the story is the negative effects of nationalism. Reid has mentioned that this story is inspired by real life scenarios (the situations with the Yehuli parallels the Israel/Palestine issues) as well as Jewish mythology (which I am sadly not well-versed in). The victims are plenty and the consequences can be dire. For groups like Evike's community of "pagans", the Yehuli or the Juuvi who dare worship different gods than the one worshipped by the crown, survival depends on hiding whether it be physically or hiding one's true self and you can't help but wonder why must people be so cruel to one another? Why can't people of different beliefs and cultures and identities live together in harmony?

The romance is top notch. There's so much tension between Gaspar and Evike and shifting power dynamic makes it easy to support a romance between the two despite the nature of their relationship.

I hope there are more stories by Jewish authors because these stories need to be told - the mythology is so interesting and I'm sure there is /a lot/ to portray. It's a gate ready to burst.

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