Member Reviews

The Wolf and the Woodsman is a dark fairytale more in line with the original Grimm tales than the whimsical ones of today. It is medieval fantasy with witchcraft, pagans, religious oppression and altered layers of history. There are elements of Jewish and perhaps Russian folklore. The plot is well paced and much of the book was not predictable; propelling me forward and keeping me curious throughout. The world building is so richly developed I can see why fans are likening it to novels such as Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale. The relationships are real and messy and raw. There is no insta-love or insta-forgiveness. 

Évike is the only girl born in her village without any magic. As a outcast life is bitter and often heart wrenching for her. When the Woodsmen arrive to take their human girl tax of the year they choose Évike thinking she is a seer to bring to their king. The path to the kingdom is treacherous in more ways than one. Harsh weather, betrayal, and monster-like creatures somewhere in between threaten their path.

Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast. He is the true-born heir to the throne. Rejected by his father he now wears the Woodsman clothes and axe. As their journey takes them toward the palace both of them must decide what side they are truly on and what they are willing to do to make sure their worlds do not crumble.

This book is written so well and there is not much about it I would change. However, there is a part around 70-80% that gets a bit, boring? That quickly fades; but I do think it would benefit from a bit of editing out to just tighten the story up.

Was this review helpful?

This ended up being a DNF at the 15% mark. While I really wanted to enjoy the story, I found that the pacing made it difficult to get through. While I may give this book another read at some point, this initial reading left me a bit disappointed. However, the prose is well-written, and I can see myself giving this book another try at some point because I have seen many stellar reviews.

Thank you to Harper Voyager and NetGalley for sharing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you NetGalley and Avon Harper for the ARC in exchange for my honest review. This book was a great take on a tale we all know. The setting and feel of this book is amazingly successful. The author does a wonderful job of making the reader feel they are actually there in the cold, dark, woodsy environment.

The characters for me did not grab and hold my attention. I was not drawn in by them nor was I rooting for them. I felt there were a little one dimensional— perhaps because we only get one point of view. The romance Also fell flat for me. There is however a strong dose of violence, torture, and physical abuse. Because of that this is definitely a book for adults even though I have seen it compared to some novels for younger readers.

Was this review helpful?

This book is gorgeously written, and I loved the Hungarian-inspired setting as well as the serious thought put into portraying racism and genocide, particularly against the Yehuli and Juvvi. The parallels between the fantasy races and their real-world counterparts are undeniable. However, I was not a fan of the romance. I like enemies-to-lovers when done well, but in stark contrast to the book's worldbuilding and tone, the romance seemed rushed and very YA; Evike starts swooning over Gaspar rather quickly. It's a major aspect of the book, particularly in the first half, and it fell completely flat to me.

(Mild spoilers: One of the scenes between Gaspar and Evike is centered around dubious consent via outside forces and made me highly uncomfortable - this encounter is then, oddly enough, reflected upon fondly throughout the novel.)

It's still worth reading mainly for the setting, magic, and the way it portrays the connections between politics and religious fervor. Fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo should enjoy this.

Was this review helpful?

2.5 stars. Thank you to NetGalley and Del Rey for allowing me to review this book in advance. I wanted to love this book, but I found it too disturbing. Ritual animal sacrifice/ animal death is a huge no.

I appreciated the intelligent writing, lots of words I had to look up though. It did beef up my vocabulary! I liked the folklore and the overall message rallying against religious zealotry, genocide and ethnic cleansing.

The plot line and the two MC’s meander around through the deadly plains and woods on some very high risk/low reward adventures. Obviously it’s meant to throw our two MC’s together and cement them into an enemies to lovers situation because of the forced proximity. I just didn’t get the chemistry between them. Gaspar is so flat and I feel like Evike uses him more than cares about him, I didn’t see much romance, at least not the kind people would kill and die for.

Overall, it just wasn’t for me.

Was this review helpful?

It’s hard for me to even put into words how much I enjoyed this book. The world building was wonderful and dark and twisted. While I am not Jewish I was captivated with the Jewish folklore that was woven into this story. The story itself reads like a horror story with the strange wicked creatures and the hatred inspired by real antisemitic history in Hungary. I really enjoyed the slow burn romance that was also included in the story. It was a wonderful addition to the heavy topics of oppression and ethnic cleansing. Évike and Gáspár has such a beautiful romance it never felt forced and I felt that it was an honest and believably beautifully formed relationship. They were each other’s match and Gáspár kneeling after their love brought him to his knees was swoon worthy. I highly recommend this book.

Was this review helpful?

The Wolf and the Woodsman is a fabulous debut fantasy. Full of everything I love when I’m seeking out a new epic adventure. There is such depth to this world-building and the plot arc is complex- full of sacrifice, past abuse, talk of cultural identity, and scenes of persecution and oppression. I don’t know if I’ll do a good job of it, but I’ll try to hammer out some words in a workable review.

Evike is the only woman in her village who has no power and therefore is the one who is sacrificed when the Woodsmen come to take a seer back to the king. She is angry and indignant and determined to escape. The journey is hellish and full of monsters. It doesn’t take long for Evike to realize that the leader of the group is none other than the dishonored prince, Gaspar Barany. When everyone but the two of them ends up slaughtered, they must carry on with their journey toward the capital city, despite their distrust and outright hatred for each other. But that hatred slowly turns to something like friendship, and trust starts to build until a true affection and devotion is all that’s left.

When the two reach finally reach their destination that’s when readers realize the horror of what the king is actually doing to the women taken from the pagan villages and the details of his extensive plans to consolidate power.

I wish I could dive deep into this plot, but as I mentioned above there is so much going on. And readers really should experience the plot arc unfolding for themselves without any spoilers. This is a story about abuse of power, prejudice, nation-building, and ethnic cleansing. It’s also a book about sacrifice and love and forgiveness. There is a love story amidst all the violence and hatred between two very different, yet connected people. Both Evike and Gaspar are fractured and stuck in survival mode, but they are also both smart, resourceful warriors who see the wrongness of what the kingdom is doing to what it considers its lesser residents and want to do something about it.

This is not an easy read by any means, most epic fantasy isn’t. But it is a compelling, fantastical adventure that will stay with its readers long after they’ve read the last word. It does leave off in a hopeful place, but I would have liked a little more closure in regards to Evike and Gaspar’s relationship. In the end, I was at peace with how this book wrapped up.

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed this book. The world building was great and the characters were complex and interesting. I had seen a lot of hype before requesting this on netgalley, and the hype was deserved. It was good.

However I do need to say something. If your book needs a pronunciation guide, PLEASE put it at the beginning. This book had a multiple-page guide at the end, where I learned that I’d been pronouncing nearly everything wrong for the entire time. That was frustrating.

Was this review helpful?

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I was hoping for more of a fantasy romance, and there's just not a lot of ROMANCE in the romance plotline - despite a large chunk of the book being Evike and Gaspar traveling together. I wanted an epic enemies to lovers love and it just sort of... fell flat for me.

Also, ALL THE CONTENT WARNINGS. I can't even. Ava Reid says, in a Goodreads review comment of her book, that this has a "'magic system based on body horror,' which is I think apt - and so, naturally, there are a lot of graphic, on-the-page depictions of gore." She also notes that "Religious persecution, cultural genocide, and ethnic cleansing are at the core of this book."

I don't know, I was expecting more romance and more fairy tale, and instead got pages and pages of Evike hating everything and lashing out in pain and hatred because that's all she's known for so long. This was just... really hard to read. I did feel some sympathy for her by the end of the book, and found myself pushing to finish it because I needed to know how it ended, as for much of it Evike is town between her two heritages and her growing love for the enemy. It's like being between a rock and a hard place and a pit full of spikes. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it - it was an okay and often thought-provoking read with the occasional really great moment, but also a lot of slogging through the muck. I don't think I'll be reading anything else by Ava Reid in the near future.

Was this review helpful?

I just know it's a good book when I'm trying really hard to read slowly so I could savor it. Unfortunately, as much as I didn't want it to end, it did. *cries myself to sleep*

I honestly can't decide what I love most about TWATW- the author's evocative and lyrical writing, Évike's strength and character growth, the simmering slow-burn romantic tension of a doomed love or the lush storytelling inspired by Jewish folklore and Hungarian history. I am so utterly in awe of this beautiful, atmospheric, brilliant book.

I don't know what to tell you. From the first moment I heard about TWATW, I just knew I had to read it. This is one of my most anticipated 2021 releases and I'm so happy to say it's pretty effin' BRILLIANT.

I loved being immersed in this brutal, haunting and enchanting world. Ava Reid weaved a story so addictive and captivating in its honesty and rawness. Her heart and passion in telling this story shone through the pages. She created a cast of complex characters that are impossible not to root for. Witnessing Évike go through her journey of finding her identity, self worth and place in the world was nothing short of fascinating. My heart ached for Évike. And Gáspár? This prince with a broken, tortured soul also has my heart.

Needless to say, TWATW is one of the most memorable books I've read this year! Will definitely read this again!

"I am one small star in a huge and brilliant constellation."

"You can’t hoard stories the way you hoard gold, despite what Virág would say. There’s nothing to stop anyone from taking the bits they like, and changing or erasing the rest, like a finger smudging over ink. Like shouts drowning out the sound of a vicious minister’s name."

"This sudden fearlessness is like a song that begs for singing, the words and the melody bubbling up in me boldly, loudly."

I received an ARC to read and review. Quoted excerpt/s may change in the final print.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an electronic advanced reader copy. Everything here is my own opinion.

This book had a lot of fun aspects. I loved the stories and lore that were woven within the story. Our main characters, Évike who is "wolf girl" and Gáspár who is a "woodsman," share lore and stories back and forth; and that is about the extent of their similarities. When Gáspár needs the help of a wolf-girl to save his kingdom and Évike offered up as a sacrifice, things get a little complicated. Both have strong feelings about the other's culture and religion and are not afraid to say it.

What I absolutely loved about this book was the lore woven in, the tension between not only the main characters but some side characters, and just the atmosphere of this book. I feel as if this one would make a great mini-TV show series.

This book was a little slow for me. Not only that, but sometimes I felt the lore woven in, which I adored on its own, took away from the main story being told. The first half of the book I felt like nothing was happening, but I was still interested to see what would happen in the end. It was good for a standalone, but it left me wanting more and feeling as if something was missing.

Was this review helpful?

As a fan of Naomi Novik and Katherine Arden I was captured by the title and description of The Wolf and the Woodsman. It didn't disappoint. Although reminiscent of Spinning Silver and the The Bear and the Nightingale, Ava Reid wove her own compelling tale of fantasy and mystery. I enjoyed her storytelling and found I couldn't put the book down.

Was this review helpful?

3 Stars

The Wolf and the Woodsman was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. However, it did not live up to expectations.

The writing was beautiful from start to finish. It was very descriptive, and while I appreciated that, I also got overwhelmed by it. The number of descriptions made this book feel so long and took me forever to finish a chapter. In fact, some chapters almost put me to sleep.

Our main character, Évike was not what I was expecting. I expected someone who wouldn't be brave and strong like she turned out to be. And I am so glad I was wrong about that. Évike was brave and stood up for people who didn't deserve her kindness. Gaspar was kind of frustrating, but not too bad. Their relationship from enemies to friends was so torturous. One of the longest slow burns of my life.

The story at first was so inviting, and I was so intrigued about where their story would go. But nothing happened for the first 50% of the story. The plot did not move forward at all. , Évike and Gaspar journeyed to find the answer to their problems. While they did come across some terrible creatures, it did nothing for the overall story. When they did get to the city, I did love those parts. Évike reuniting with her father was one of my favorite moments. I am so glad that aspect was included.

This book had its moments, and while I did not care for most of this story. I am still glad that I read it. I look forward to reading more Ava Reid in the future.

Was this review helpful?

This is the story of Évike, who is a pagan girl from a remote village. Every couple of years, the Woodsmen come from the capital city, and they take one of the magical girls from their village for the king. This time when they come, Évike, who has no magic to speak of, is disguised as one of the magical girls in their wolf cloaks and given to the Woodsmen. Halfway back to the capital, they are attacked by monsters. Only Évike, and Woodsmen’s captain, Gáspár survive. Only Gáspár is more than meets the eye, he is actually the king’s firstborn son, which means per their religion, that he is the heir. Gáspár’s father is trying to collect pagan magic to win a war, and his overly-zealous and cruel half-brother is attempting to undermine him to seize the throne. As they journey together, Gáspár and Évike make a pact to stop his brother from seizing power, and many shenanigans are had along the way.

Reader, I adored this book. I picked it up late one night after finishing another, figuring that I could get a chapter in before having to sleep and then suddenly it was 3am? How did this happen? I have no idea, but I’m pretty sure that I can’t put this book down. It’s so easy to just pick it up and read it for hours and hours.

Évike was a really likeable character, to me. She’s often understandably snippy, to Gáspár or to other people she meets. But she is navigating a world where everyone has been cruel to her, either for being magicless, being pagan, or, as she comes to meet her estranged father, exploring her Yehuli heritage. The book is told from her POV and she told her story very well. I also really liked Gáspár and how the relationship between the two of them changed over time. It was such a torturous slow-burn. So good. Loved it.

This is such an evocative and immersive book that is inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish folklore, and watching Évike, a child of two cultures that the rulers of the kingdom have no love for, try and find her place in the world, was very gripping. Even though it can be quite gory at times, and full of feels, I still read this book in just two sittings, because I could not put it down. What a fantastic debut!

Was this review helpful?

4.5/5 stars

TW: racism, antisemitism, self harm, genocide, dismemberment, gore, descriptive animal death, physical abuse, torture. This book is an adult read and not targeted towards young adult readers.

After reading the description earlier this year, I quickly added The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid, to my list of anticipated reads! After trying (and failing) to win one of the stunning ARCs, HarperCollins Canada was kind enough to approve me for an e-ARC and I literally dropped everything to read it. I’m also 99.9% sure now that one of my book boxes will be featuring a special edition of this book next month and you have no idea how excited I am to get it and re-read it!

The Wolf and The Woodsman is told from the perspective of Évike, a young, mixed-race woman who comes from a pagan village where every woman, except her, can harness different magical powers gifted to them from the gods. Her lack of magic and mixed blood makes her an outcast and the subject of bullying from other women and villagers. When the fanatical Patritian king sends his Woodsmen to bring back a pagan girl from Évike’s village as a blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her village and handed over to them. But soon after leaving her village, the group is attacked by monsters, and the only two to survive are Évike and a Woodsman named Gáspár. As both reluctantly rely on each other to survive, their prejudices soon turn into understanding before simmering into something more.

From the first line of the book alone, I knew this was going to be a story that I would adore. The brutal and magic-filled world of The Wolf and The Woodsman is so perfectly brought to life that I’d get anxious each time the plot brings Évike and Gáspár back into the forest, unsure of what might lurk in the trees waiting for them (though it quickly becomes apparent that the bigger monsters were among those living in the cities and villages). The plot focuses heavily on nation-building and the lengths that those in power will go to maintain that power and oppress those who look and believe differently. Having grown up in a secluded village, Évike quickly finds herself dragged into these power struggles, very aware that minor shifts could very well mean the end of her village or even her estranged father’s people.

I found Évike to be a character that could be a little tough to like at first, but as you read more about her childhood, it made me a lot more sympathetic. Throughout the book, she hangs on tightly to her grudges against all who have wronged her and allows these grudges to influence her decisions. While she initially sees it as a death sentence, her journeys after being given to the Woodsmen help her eventually find peace with her past and become more at ease with her identity.

While it didn’t feel like the main focus of the story, I adored Évike and Gáspár’s relationship and how it progressed throughout the book. It is a very slow burn romance that starts with them absolutely loathing each other. I’ve seen their relationship often being compared to Nina and Matthias’ relationship in Six of Crows. While there are indeed some similarities, I personally think that the romance progression in The Wolf and The Woodsman was far more beautiful and believable (granted, they had an entire book to develop their relationship while Six of Crows was split between multiple POVs).

One thing I should note, in the e-ARC, the pronunciation guide is at the end. If the finished copies follow the same format, I highly recommend carefully flipping to the guide first before starting the book. Many of the names will be new to most Western readers, and some words whose pronunciation looks obvious are actually pronounced quite differently.

If you’re looking for an atmospheric enemies-to-lovers story with complex world-building and monster-filled forests, this is the book for you! The Wolf and The Woodsman comes out on June 8, 2021, and can be pre-ordered online at your local bookstore! If you pre-order it before June 15th, you can submit your receipt online to receive a digital edition of Folklores & Fable, which includes four original fairy tales from The Wolf and the Woodsman. You can also pre-order signed and personalized copies from Kelpers, which come with a GORGEOUS print by Rudebeetle.

Was this review helpful?

Evike lives in a pagan village as the sole woman without magic. Ostracized and bullied, she has little love for the village seed who raised her and her sister, or so she thinks. One night, the Woodsmen come to take a seer to the King. The King is not a ally of the pagans, rather he and the other people of the land believe in a different god who has no tolerance for the old magic. Evike is dressed as a seer to prevent the ones with real magic from being taken. The Woodsmen, who Evike and her people fear, are much what she has learned. They make blood sacrifices to their god for power and their own kind of magic. But one of the Woodsmen seems different and she learns he is heir to the throne, but is challenged by his younger bastard brother who is prejudiced against not only the pagans but other ethnicities, too. Evike and the prince make a pact to find the turul, a bird of legend that contains the power to see all things.

I enjoyed the story overall. Evike is strong-willed but she quickly moons over the prince and her wondering at his feelings for her the first half of the book was overdone. But once they make it to the Capital city, the writing is more focused and not the adolescent ramblings of a girl with a crush on the first nice guy she meets. The blurb says this story is based on Hungarian history and Jewish folklore. I wish an afterward went more into depth about this background.

Thank you Netgalley for the free ARC.

Was this review helpful?

Ava Reid’s The Wolf and the Woodsman was so much fun to read. Definitely read this if you’re a fan of Novik’s Uprooted. I saw some similarities with Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy (simply because of the paganism-monotheism clash). Even so, Reid’s novel is still very different in terms of graphic detail, complex and multiple systems of magic, as well as pacing. Personally, the ending seemed a bit abrupt to me, like a total deus ex machina, but I didn’t mind so much. Also, the romance in The Wolf and the Woodsman is very much at the forefront.

This book is for you if you like adventure-quests, magic lost and found and lost again, Judeo-Christian-pagan themes/mythology, fantastically creepy monsters (no joke), an underdog heroine, or noble eyeless princes. I appreciated how Reid draws some very obvious and significant parallels between the Yehulis in the novel and the Jewish community. I did find the main character, Evike, a tad whiny, which would make sense if she weren’t twenty-five years old. I also thought the villain, Nandor, fell a little flat—I just wanted to see more of him! Overall, this was a very compelling read—I finished it in a day, if that says anything.

Was this review helpful?

The Wolf and the Woodsman is a fascinating debut! I've been seeing a lot of these woodsy red riding hood-eske books and I'm defiantly not mad. The romance was perfect and the magic system fascinating; ya'll should be keeping an eye on this author.

Was this review helpful?

While I had high hopes for this book, it ultimately wasn't for me. An exciting first chapter led into what felt like a long survivalist slog with two characters whose constant bickering didn't endear me to either. The enemies-to-lovers dynamic is a trope that I normally enjoy, but in this instance, my lack of attachment to either Gáspár and Évike as characters made it harder to root for their romantic success.

Where the book does excel is in its writing and dark wildwood setting. The descriptive prose does an excellent job of bringing you into the world, and the world-building raises a lot of questions about the often-fraught relationship between state and religion. I can imagine plenty of readers who will love this book for exactly the reasons it didn't work for me, and I would still be interested in reading another title from this author in the future.

Was this review helpful?

Where do I even begin with this review??? I have been sitting here for a while trying to formulate a proper review, but all my brain is thinking is OH MY GOD THAT WAS SO GOOD WHATTTTT!!!!

I want to start off by saying this is absolutely an adult book. There is a lot of body horror, gore, and violence along with genocide and sex. It is very graphic, so be aware!

The Wolf and the Woodsman is advertised as being inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology. Évike, a twenty-five-year-old pagan lives as an outcast in her village on the outskirts of the Ezer Szem forest. She is the only woman in the village who cannot use magic, and she is half Yehuli- one of the most hated people in all Rágország. All her life, she has been trained to fear the Woodsmen, the king’s Holy Order of ax-bearers who bring a seer to the kingdom as a sacrifice to the King. However, Évike’s village betrays her and offers her as the sacrifice to protect the seers of the village. On her way to the village, the convoy gets attacked by ravenous monsters in the woods, and all that’s left of the party of Woodsmen is the cast-out, true-born heir to the throne, Gáspár Bárány. Together, Évike and Gáspár team up and plan on overthrowing Gáspár’s zealous brother Nándor who intends to take over the crown and destroy all the pagans and Yehuli in Rágország.

Religion and devotion to one’s people are a huge part of this story. The three main ones that we see here are the Patrifaith- the main religion of Rágország, the pagans, and the Yehuli. The Patrifaith are trying to make Rágország free from all pagans and Yehuli. But I did notice that all three of these religions had certain things in common, specifically in their magic and their stories. I loved that throughout TWATW, I could see ties between all three.

This story is enchanting and perfectly captures the fairytale aesthetic of being in a dark forest on a quest filled with magic, monsters, and danger around every turn. The mixture of Jewish folklore and Hungarian history (which I am unfamiliar with) made this book extremely captivating for me. It is so important to have a story with underrepresented people and cultures, and this book perfectly wound together Jewish stories with the fantasy genre. I felt that this story was very personal to the author, and I could tell when reading it how much it meant to her. The vivid imagery and poetic writing made me fall in love with this story, and I can’t wait to see what other books Reid will write!

Hands down, this is one of my favorite books, and I will be recommending it to everyone!!

Slight spoilers (not too much, I knew this going in and did not feel upset):

At first, I was very caught off-guard by all the violence. But, as I kept reading, I slowly got used to it and realized how vital to the story it is. To use magic, the people in this world must give something of themselves away, whether that be energy to heal, or a severed pinky finger to wield fire. I also was expecting a slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers romance, and this did not disappoint!! I really loved Gáspár (he was my favorite) and, even though she made me mad at times, I adored Évike.


My favorite part of this book that made me step away for a second and say “OMG this book is just so damn GOOD” was in the very last chapter when Nándor and Gáspár are fighting and Évike, with no more magic from Ördög sends an arrow flying at Nándor. She says “This is a power I’ve always had, one that I’ve earned, one that can’t be taken from me by some capricious god. The wood rough against my palm, the tail of the arrow brushing my cheek. It does not matter whose histories sing in my blood” (Reid). (I read an advanced copy, so this is not a final quote). Throughout the story, each religion had some aspect of another religion tied to their own. Évike especially has gone through her journey using powers, ideals, and tactics from each of the three major religions of Rágország. In the end, she relies on her instinct, the one thing she learned on her own, and the one part of her that has stayed true throughout her entire journey: her prowess with a bow and arrow. It just blew my mind how perfectly the story came full circle and how, despite all the magic Évike came to wield on her journey, she ended it all with her own skills.

Was this review helpful?