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The Wolf and the Woodsman

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Member Reviews

(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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The opening lines to 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘰𝘭𝘧 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘰𝘰𝘥𝘴𝘮𝘢𝘯 captured my attention and held it to the very end. This is a beautifully written and enchanting read inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology, and the author does a masterful job portraying Jewish diaspora with respect and care. As a non-Jewish reader, my reading experience was enriched because I was able to relate the characters’ experiences and longing for identity and community to my own.

The plot kept me engaged, and the magic was interesting and original. At times, it felt as if the world-building took center stage, but I still found myself invested in the characters and their journeys. I ate up the interactions between Évike and Gáspár because I’m a sucker for a romance with some angst and tension, and that’s always something I look forward to in stories.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, atmospheric debut with real-life tie-ins that made it a thought-provoking read. I’m curious to see what this author writes next.

ʀᴇᴀᴅ ᴛʜɪꜱ if you enjoy Own Voices, adult epic fantasies with gorgeous prose, relatable characters, unique magic systems, and enemies-to-lovers romance.

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I was really intrigued by the premise and I honestly really liked the prose, but I had some trouble getting through this one. I didn't manage to finish it before the release date, mostly because I kept hitting violent bits that mad eye need to take a break and then forgetting to pick it back up. I do think I'll try to go back to it later, once I've forgotten enough to start it over.

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Evike is a young woman with a backbone. She has grown up mistreated and tormented yet she always fights back. She is the only wolf girl in her village with no powers. The Holy Order of Woodsmen arrive in her village looking for a wolf girl seer to take to their Partitian king as a blood sacrifice. Her guardian Virag disguises Evike as a seer and sends her with them. When the party of Woodsmen and Evike are attacked by monsters, only Evike and the one eyed Woodsman Gaspar survive. That is just the beginning.

The detailed setting. The finely drawn characters. The growth and inner turmoil of the characters. The tension between the characters. The moral dilemmas. And the setting. Yes. The setting. There is just so much to enthuse about. I read this book for hours in the middle of the night. It was an immersion into another world. Read it and find out.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this arc in exchange for an honest review.

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Évike lives in a small pagan village surrounded by walking trees. Like all of the villagers, she lives in constant fear of the Woodsmen of King János Bárány. Every two or three years, the Woodsmen have come and taken one of the wolf-girls of the village so that her gift of pagan magic might be put to use by the king. The women never return. When Évike was a young girl, her own mother was taken, leaving her to be raised by the village seer, Vírag. Now 25, Évike remains the relative outcast of the village, as she never developed any of the four magic talents possessed by the women of her home. She can’t spark a fire with a word, she can’t forge a blade with a song, she can’t heal the injured, and she has no gift of foresight. Blame falls on her father, an outsider who left the village again before her mother was taken.

When Vírag receives a vision that the Woodsmen will soon return to the village, a drastic decision must be made. She knows that the king has sent them to retrieve Katalin, one of Évike’s peers, and a burgeoning seer herself. Fearing the fate of their village left with only one, elderly seer, Vírag calls Évike to her hut. Quickly disguising Évike and Katalin as one another, Vírag tricks the Woodsmen into taking the one wolf-girl without a hint of magic. Évike is understandably bitter, as Katalin was one of those who bullied her the most in their youth. Now she must pretend to be her as she’s taken away to the capital.

The wild forest around Évike’s village isn’t the only threat along the path to the capital, however, and monsters are very real. Soon all but the captain of the Woodsmen group sent for her are killed. Her deception is revealed, but instead of killing her for the lie, the Woodsman reveals one of his own. He isn’t a mere Woodsman. He is Gáspár Bárány, firstborn son of the king.

Évike and Gáspár forge an uneasy truce. If she helps him find the turul, a powerful source of magic that could save the king from the manipulations of his second son, he will help her search the capital for her own father and protect her people. Time is short, and the journey will be perilous, but it may be that their growing tolerance for each other hides something more…

Ava Reid has provided us with a masterful debut novel, a blend of Eastern European and Jewish history and folktale that is sure to delight older fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse. Magic, monsters, and romance fill the pages, and the characters resonate with real-world people and events fantastically.

The Wolf and the Woodsman is available today.

My utmost thanks to NetGalley and Avon & Harper Voyager for an eARC in exchange for a fair review.

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Gorgeous, one of my new favorite fantasies. I hope Ava Reid continues to write stories like this, definitely excited for her next work.

Will update this review with a link to my full blog review when it is posted!

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The Wolf and the Woodsman is a darkly romantic tale of forests and fates, myths and monsters, kingdoms and killers. It’s a story that is by turns brutal and tender, a story of both the building of trust between two individuals and the building of nations - of the body, and the body politic. It’s a gorgeous, rich, haunting book, sharp as an icicle and fierce as a hawk, with a heroine I can't not fall for and a romance that will make you swoon.

I loved the pacing and structure of the stories within the story, the way the origin stories and myths behind the various magics and faiths are revealed over time, providing an echo and frame for protagonist Évike's own story, the way story is shown as propaganda, as a tool of nation-building, of mythologizing. Of making people into *a* people. There are so many stories, and I’m glad to have read this one.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for the advance review copy!

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I'm not quite finished with this book yet, but I'm LOVING IT. Enemies to lovers, Jewish rep, actually interesting characters....this book really does have it all. The only reason I'm not done with it yet is because I'm trying to enjoy every last moment of the book. Would absolutely recommend.

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Brilliantly done! I thought this would be the beginning of a trilogy, but it was tied off nicely. The writing was beautiful!

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Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.

I’ve read some powerful fantasy this year & Ava Reid’s The Wolf & the Woodsman is one of them, telling a story that hits like a bag of bricks. This book wrestles with questions of magic & faith & left me with a hopeful feeling, even if it is slightly tempered by what this romance reader would call a somewhat precarious HFN.

Unlike others in her village Évike can’t do magic. Every year her community must sacrifice one of their own to the Woodsmen on Woodsman Day & this year, it’s Évike, who’s sent in someone else’s place & against her will.

Despite the fact that she doesn’t quite fit in with the people in her community, like them she’s considered pagan & referred to as wolf-girl by the woodsmen.

But on their journey Évike wonders if there’s more to the enemy Captain who’s taken her & who leads their group than the sternness & eyepatch that first drew her attention. He blushes; he’s not a warrior despite his position as leader; he shows his feelings of guilt when his actions conflict with his religious beliefs.

But that’s the thing—no matter how drawn Évike & the Captain are to the other, he & his people believe that “faith”—in actuality, magic—is accessed most through bodily sacrifice. Thus his missing eye. & he holds himself to a set of impossible faith-based standards, which he himself struggles with because they don’t always match what seems morally best.

& she’s trying to determine her own path forward, as someone who doesn’t share his beliefs or his preoccupation with “perfection” & as someone who’s both tied to her village & ostracized within it. As someone who, as she says earlier in the book, wasn’t gifted with what everyone else around her was.

As the blurb says, TWATW is “inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology” & it’s full of stunning similes that make me see the world in a fresh way; it’s gory & often dark; it’s emotional; it’s colorful. Not to mention, it walks that line between hopeful & unsettling that makes books memorable.

4.5 ⭐️. Out today!

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A deeply immersive, lyrical fantasy that encompasses Jewish folklore, pagan folklore, and the fallout from empires built around religion. Evike is half-pagan, half-Yehuli and faces ostracism from both communities; however, no one ostracises her more than the ruling power, of the Prinkepatrian faith. After she's disguised as a seer and sacrificed to the Woodsmen by her own community, Evike is forced to exist with the Woodsman that she has feared her whole life. But she finds divides even within the Woodsmen, and that no community is completely united. This book explores a lot of complex topics and I would love to see a sequel to explore some of these topics further!

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Thank you to NetGalley, Avon, and Harper Voyager for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

TW: violence (on-page), self-mutilation, racism, grief, death of a parent, parental abandonment, societal ostracism, bullying (physical and emotional), antisemitism, torture (I utilized StoryGraph to help me and I recommend checking out the CW/TW there as well in case any of these are triggering for you)

This was such a beautifully written book. I love fairytales and this throws you right in. It reminded me of The Witch's Heart in terms of the storytelling. While I wasn't familiar with the background of the stories, I truly enjoyed reading this. It really spoke to how important history and stories are to a people's culture and this book represents Judaism, the struggles, the hope, and is such a beautiful book. I wish I could do it better justice in this review.

Honestly, this is a book I know I'm going to go back and reread and get more from each and every time. The romance was a subplot, but the sexual tension, the forbideness was building throughout. Both Évike and Gáspár are outsiders, tied to their religious beliefs, but can also relate to the other through shared experiences. A gruff, prince who also blushes and gets on his knees for the woman he loves. I loved how the physical intimacy and close-proximity of the journey forced them together. The book was a bit more graphic than I was expecting, but the writing was excellent, my reactions visceral.

I really recommend this for someone who appreciates fairytales, mythology, history, or is just looking for something different, with of course a beautiful romance.

Rating: 4
Steam: 2 (brief descriptions but ultimately fade to black)

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I really enjoyed the first 40% of this for the sharpness, the body horror-based magic system, the angry impetuousness of the lead, and the potential of the romance. I'm DNFing at 60%, though, because I've spent the last 20% hardcore scowling in frustration over inconsistencies and lack of development. I've ceased to care about the characters, too, so that's usually a good reason to stop.

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What a debut! This is not the type of book I would immediately reach for at the store, but man was this book good! The atmosphere of this book was perfectly done, I am usually the type of reader who gets lost in long winding descriptions but Reid was able to perfectly accomplish this. All her descriptions were meaningful and add to the story rather then acting as a filler. Reading this book I can tell a lot of research and heart and time went into it, again everything was purposeful and despite it being a fantasy world it had real roots that translated into our world. This is not a perfect 5/5 for me only because I thought the ending seemed a bit rushed, I felt like I was slowly walking through this book and then at the 50% mark I was suddenly running and running and before I knew it I was at the epilogue but not entirely sure how I got there.
I really fell in love with the Evike. I loved her strength and how honest of a character she is. There was never a time where I felt like her actions were coming out of left field and didn't fall into her character. I loved seeing her growth and the story line with her father was so close to my heart.
In terms of romance, it does not take the center stage in this book and honestly it did not need to. However, if you like enemies to lovers, this book does it well without losing the real plot of the book. At its heart this story is more about Evike's personal journey with romance as a secondary plot point.
I think readers who enjoyed The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue will also really love this book.

*ARC provided by Netgalley for honest review*

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I really don't know how to start this review since I have many thoughts about it. So my understanding is that this book is about antisemitism and I can sort of see that. It seems like every religion and culture is treated like trash in this story except for the Regyar. The main heroine Evike is part wolf girl and Yehuli. Which is just bad all around apparently. Even the other wolf people treat her like shit because she can't use magic (but she actually can later in the story).

So the King of Regyar and his adopted second son Nandor just pretty much want to wipe out the wolf people and the Yehuli. Gaspar, who is the King's legitimate son is hated because his mother was Merzani. The Merzani are another hated race of people. There is so much hate in this book. The King has soldiers that are called The Woodsmen and they have to commit to their faith by losing body parts and they have to remain celibate. Most Woodsmen are trained from childhood but Gaspar was basically forced into it when he hit the age of twenty and his father took one of his eyes. Evike and Gaspar are attracted to each other but Gaspar fights against it because he is a Woodsman. They eventually do end up together though.

This tale was hard to get through just because of all the hate in it. If you can get past that it's a good book. I'm not even going to lie I almost didn't read this book just of all the Twitter drama that she engaged in with several other authors when a certain's author's book was released. That wasn't cool and if they had beef with that author they shouldn't have waited two years to say anything. The fact they did it on her book's release day was really shitty.

Rating: 3½ stars

*I received an eARC from NetGalley and a finished early copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

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"The trees have to be tied down by sunset. When the Woodsmen come, they always try to run."

🐺

My goodness, Reid's prose is a delight. Her metaphors are original & evocative, her descriptions fresh & true. She uses strong verbs & creates a forest that is ALIVE--the setting becoming another character. 5☆ prose & world.

I really really really wanted to love this story. There's an absolutely magical land, a strong mc, a grumpy love interest... But, I just wasn't invested in their story, their mission or their stakes.

I read for relationships more than character, and I wasn't engaged with their relationship. I think it roots to not deeply caring about Gáspár's struggle or him as a character. But--there was nothing *wrong* with this story. I just didn't fall in love with it. I still recommend THE WOLF & THE WOODSMAN as the language is unbelievable, the world unique, and the characters could be ones YOU fall in love with.

I will buy her next book--this one just didn't shine for me.

🐺

WRITING CRAFT NOTES

1. In my opinion, character is primary. If I don't care about your character or their relationships (platonic or romantic), I'm out. Doesn't matter how unbelievable your world, plot, prose--I read for character. So, make sure they're layered & interesting. And--secondary characters need strong arcs too.

2. Reid has such graceful & evocative prose. I'll definitely study how she makes such interesting observations work so well. They sound as if they come from the character & are very beautiful.

🐺

I received this book from @Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

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First, HUUUUUUUGE shoutout to Harper Collins, Ava Reid, and their team for proving me with my FIRST PHYSICAL ARC! I'll be yelling about this (and this book) for ages!

Now let's get into it.

Y'all, this book was a certified banger for me.

Reid already had me with the premise. Outcasted characters coming into their destiny? Hidden magic? A tortured prince forced to reckon with the burden of his birthright? AND enemies to lovers? Sign me up!! There were some moments in the plot that felt a bit repetitive to me but because I found Ava Reid's writing style so delightful it didn't bother me as much as it could've. While the formula was similar, the execution was never boring. Their turmoil with their treatment at the hands of the communities they're a part of, their longing for acceptance, the loss they'd suffered, and their conflicting feelings were all very well depicted.

Also, this was ACTUALLY enemies to lovers. Not mild dislike or misunderstandings easily solved and paving the way to insta-love. No, Évike and Gáspár despise each other and even when things improve, there are years of hatred running through their history that makes their back and forth relationship believable. We watch them work through it, which was refreshing. And as frustrating as they were at times, to the point where I actually yelled at my book, they came alive from the page and I messed with that heavy. Also, the villains made you LOATHE them. Nice!

The book is marketed as a fairytale inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology and, yes! Brilliant! The themes, politics, and beliefs fueling the decades long hatred between cultures were well depicted and did wonders to keep the plot and character motivations in motion. Reid's bio mentions that they majored in political science with a focus on religion and ethnonationalism and I think that's why the intersection between religion, history, and their magic is so amazingly explored.

Basically, I need y'all to get on this. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for Ava Reid's future works.

Once again, thanks a bunch to Harper Collins/team for my copy, and Ava Reid for a fantastic read ;). THIS BOOK DROPS T O M O R R O W JUNE 8TH!!!! Go support this thrilling debut!!!!!! <3

...

CW: gore, body horror, graphic death, anti-semitism, child death mention, heavy child abuse, spousal abuse, deeply explored religious fanaticism, ethnic cleansing, genocide, racism, sexual content

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I thoroughly enjoyed the Wolf and the Woodsman as a story of magic and learning your own self worth but also for the way author Ava Reid blended the myths and legends of her Jewish and Hungarian heritage into the overarching story.

This story featured a great atmospheric setting, as Evike and Gaspar navigated their way through mysterious woods and eventually arrived at their final destination. And although they have a tense, fraught relationship, they also have something in common. They are both outcasts in their separate and distinct cultures. Evike is the orphaned pagan girl who seemingly has no magic, and Gaspar is captain of the holy order of the Woodsman and the rightful heir to the throne, but his mother was reviled for being an outsider. Together, they must find a way to prevent complete destruction of Evike's home as well as the Yehuli, of whom Evike’s estranged father belongs.

I adored Evike's relationship with her father and the Yehuli community. The more she learned from him the better she was able to see herself for her true worth. And she learns she must stand up for the Yehuli as much as her pagan family that once turned its back on her. I also loved the unflinching look at nationalism and the role of religion in building - and destroying - nations and cultures that are different.

There is a bit of romance here and if you love the enemies to lovers trope, you will definitely enjoy it. Personally, I could have done with a little less angst but this may just be me. I still highly recommend this one to fantasy and action fans looking for a unique twist based on history and heritage.

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Thank you Harper Voyager and Netgalley for the opportunity to be DESTROYED by Ava Reid's incredible debut The Wolf & the Woodsman. This book is so gorgeously written and gripping. As a reader, you can't help but be immersed in this brutal world and its horrors--human and otherwise.

JUST LOOK AT THIS BEAUTIFUL COVER. And it still doesn't do justice to what's inside.

"Do they not teach wolf girls that sometimes it's better to sheathe their claws?"

"That's all I've been taught, Woodsman. My entire life."

Born without magic and to a less than desirable (their words not mine) bloodline, Évike is an outcast in her village. So, when the dreaded Wolfsmen come to collect their sacrifice, her people have no qualms offering Évike up in place of a more powerful wolf girl.

But on the road, monsters (and other gruesome events) take the lives of everyone but Évike and the sexy...ahem...cold, one-eyed "Captain"(see disgraced prince Gáspár). For a moment, Évike's and Gáspár's desires (and fears, I suppose) intersect and they set off on a mission through the opposite of a relaxing beach vacation: the frozen, bitter tundra. They have no choice but to cuddle for warmth.

There's a lot more to this plot, but let's be honest--you can find a better summary than I can produce. I just wanted to get to the juicy bit(s).

Content Warnings (as provided by the author):
Gore, including graphic descriptions of dismemberment, amputation, mutilation, and immolation
Torture, including whipping
Animal death (graphic; the animals are not pets)
Self-harm, including self-amputation
Antisemitism
Cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing
Physical abuse by parents and parental figures
Graphic descriptions of vomiting

For the TL;DR just tell me if I should buy it crowd: Yes. It's that simple. Yes. But more specifically, if you like sharp, expertly executed fantasy with keen (and devastating) observations about the real world and prose that rattles your bones.

If you still need convincing...

I saw Alix Harrow call this book "unsettling but compelling" and that's truly the best way to describe it. The story drives, drives, drives forward from start to finish, never flinching away from gore or darkness. It flays open humanity's ugliest and most aching parts. Desperation, desire, loneliness, trauma, and betrayal are all right there on the page. I felt it in my throat from start to finish.

But while there is a lot of physical and emotional pain displayed between these covers, there's SO MUCH heart too. There's almost a feeling of having a festering wound opened and finally properly cleaned--still a lot of healing to be done, but you're not gonna fall off the back of a horse and die of infection. (Spoiler?)(My reviews are chaos, what of it?) The enemies to lovers, atmosphere FOR DAYS, and the sense you've stepped into a grim (not Grimm) fairytale are not to be missed.

Comparisons to Naomi Novik and Katherine Arden are spot on--lush prose and expert story craft. Ava Reid is a powerhouse and I anticipate (and hope!) we'll be seeing a lot more from them in the future.

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Romantic and lush and just so damn lovely, THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN was everything I thought it would be and so much more. When I saw it being touted as “in the same vein” as THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE, I knew immediately that I had to read it. The Winternight trilogy is, hands down, my favorite in existence and a book has to be incredibly special to be “in the same vein” as that one. Well, let me just tell you. This beautiful book earned that comparison and will proudly sit next to Winternight as my favorite books in existence.

Reid’s gorgeous and evocative prose transports readers to the frozen landscape of the tundra to the bustling overcrowded capital as two unlikely allies embark on a quest to stop a madman from seizing the throne in the capital’s kingdom. THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN is a fairytale, with nods to Jewish and Hungarian folk tales thrown in along the way. But, at it’s core, it’s a story of outcasts, of persecution, of two lonely souls searching for the history and the culture and the sameness that can define who they are and where they fit in this harsh, cruel world. What started out as a Woodsman leading a Wolf to her certain death slowly blossomed into a journey of understanding, acceptance and, ultimately, love.

The hardest books to review are the ones that capture your whole entire heart, and this spectacular book didn’t just capture my heart, it embedded itself in there. I can’t find the words to properly and coherently convey how much I absolutely adored this book, so I’ll just simply say read it. It’s lyrical and romantic and heartbreaking and hopeful, and it’s certainly a book that I’ll reread again and again until I’ve memorized the entire thing. I’m already calling this one my favorite of 2021 and I doubt that anything else I read this year will come close to besting this beauty.

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