Cover Image: The Wolf and the Woodsman

The Wolf and the Woodsman

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

The Wolf and the Woodsman is a gorgeous evocative tale.

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
• rich and evocative world-building, great atmospheric read
• compelling, lyrical writing
• love the writing and world-building, It’s immersive and atmospheric 

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
• pacing especially the last 10%
• I wish we could witness more resolution regarding certain aspects 

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐬: culture, religion, and identity are explored in this novel 

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫: fans of atmospheric reads set in a magical forest setting, fans of intricate world-building, fans of enemies to lovers

𝐂𝐖: torture, animal deaths, death, self-harm, gore (dismemberment, amputation, mutilation) antisemitism, child abuse, cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (@DelRey) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 𝐌𝐲 𝐟𝐮𝐥𝐥 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐛𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐧 𝐦𝐲 𝐛𝐥𝐨𝐠: 𝐛𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐬𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡𝐣𝐨𝐲.𝐜𝐨𝐦

𝐅𝐔𝐋𝐋 𝐑𝐄𝐕𝐈𝐄𝐖 𝐓𝐎 𝐂𝐎𝐌𝐄 𝐂𝐋𝐎𝐒𝐄𝐑 𝐓𝐎 𝐏𝐔𝐁𝐋𝐈𝐂𝐀𝐓𝐈𝐎𝐍 𝐃𝐀𝐓𝐄
Was this review helpful?
For me, The Wolf and The Woodsman was a really frustrating read. It has all the right ingredients - interesting world-building, a magic system unlike any I've seen before, and an enemies to lovers style romance that began with sexual and tension and banter.

I think the execution just wasn't for me. The first person present tense writing mixed was so descriptive that it lacked the pace required to keep it engaging. I found there was a lot of repetition and sometimes the sentence structure didn't have enough variety. Everything from the plot to the romance kind of fizzled out to me after the first quarter, and then the end is packed in quickly. There are also lots of stories told by the characters throughout which took away from the momentum for me to, as much as they added to the world-building.

The protagonist, Évike, and her relationship with Gáspár, reminded me lots of Nina and Matthias from Six of Crows. In fact, part of the plot reminded me of Mal and Alina searching for the Stag, and then the Firebird. I really liked the early stages of the romance but it lost momentum.

Overall, this wasn't to my tastes but it was still a solid debut with moments of beautiful writing and some really great characters.
Was this review helpful?
An exquisitely dark and heart-wrenchingly compelling fantasy debut ,weaving Hungarian history and Jewish folklore into a timeless tale of resilience, identity and survival. 

As the only person in her village without the magic of her pagan gods, Évike is treated as an outcast. When the King’s Woodsmen come to steal a pagan seer, her village offers her up for sacrifice—now she must pretend to be what she’s always desired. But after an attack from monsters leave only Évike and the one-Eyed captain alive, her ruse is discovered.

Not just a captain,Bárány Gáspár is actually the disgraced Prince whose father (the king) covets pagan magic to strengthen his power. Gáspár fears his cruel and zealous brother is plotting to overthrow his father and begin his own reign of terror. In order to save the kingdom,Gáspár and Évike form an uneasy alliance. As their tentative partnership develops into something more, they must now decide where their loyalties lie—and what their willing to give up for a kingdom that never cared for them at all...

Beautifully written and vividly atmospheric, I enjoyed the richly immersive descriptions and felt transported from wild woods and frozen tundra to the political intrigue of the capital,Király Szek. 

I loved Évike who was an incredibly strong character and her struggle with her identity (with her Pagan and Yehuli parentage) was deeply moving, I especially loved the scenes with her father.

The slow burn,enemies to lovers romance with Gáspár was perfection,though I would’ve loved to have seen a few chapters from Gáspár’s POV.I also thought the first half of the book was a little slow in pace ,but it picked up for the second half of the book.

The skillfull way in which Ava Reid captures the brutal and bloody realism of religious persecution,ethnic-cleansing and the cultural genocide of ethnic religious groups is exceptionally poignant. Made all the more profound in knowing that our world’s history is full of such horrors and atrocities, some even within our own lifetimes. 

I’d recommend to fans of Naomi Novik and Katherine Arden but, be warned it does deal in dark issues that may be uncomfortable or a trigger for some ,including: graphic violence,gore,torture,mutilation,animal death, self-harm, abuse and antisemitism.

Thanks to Random House UK (Del Rey) and NetGalley for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
I very much requested this book because of the hype surrounding it. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me.

That being said, I love that I pulled you straight into the world. I immediately had questions about these woodsmen and this magic. I wanted to know how everything worked. And it was definitely well written.

There was just something about it that I didn't really enjoy.
Was this review helpful?
The Wolf and The Woodsman had some interesting premises and I wanted to love it. Alas, it didn't live up to my expectations. Some aspects were good (the writing style and the Jewish and Hungarian folklore) but I had some problems with the pacing (which was too slow to my liking) and the characters. Particularly, I didn't like Évike at all. She was 25 years old but she was immature, childish and made bad decisions. Gáspár was a saint and deserved better. Consequently, I didn't care for their romance nor I rooted for them. It's a pity because it could have been a very good book.
Was this review helpful?
This book is BRILLIANT. There’s so much to unpack in this beautiful, evocative story filled with luscious prose and worldbuilding that’s brilliantly crafted. Reid constructs such a wonderful plot, and has you on the edge of your seat for all of the story, waiting to see what comes next for the characters. 

Let’s talk about the worldbuilding, because it lifted this whole story up from the bottom. Reid creates a lush, vibrant world, and crafts it from bottom to top. Throughout this story, you see different parts of the world, from Évike’s home village of Keszi to the northern tundras where walk the Juvvi, each part of the world is well drawn. What I loved most was how Évike tells Gáspár stories from the Wolf Tribe every here and then, and I loved how they tied into the plot, witch subtle details in these fables guiding the way through the story. Further on this, I simply loved the role storytelling as a timeless piece of art played in this novel: from Virág’s tales to the stories of the Yehuli, Reid manages to place down the importance of stories to a culture and people. Themes of colonialism also play a huge part in THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN, and I think Ava Reid did a masterful job of showing how different cultures and people have to suffer and live underneath the rule of a people who despise them and want to see their culture gone. 

The characters were beautifully drawn, and I loved each of them, no matter how wicked and harsh they seemed. Each of them had a motive, a clear desperation for something, and through this, they were all flawed, adding a relatable glean to each of them. I truly adored how Évike started to connect with the different cultures she was a part of, from never fitting in with the Wolf Tribe in Keszi to her finally connecting and understanding her relationship with the Yehuli, her father’s people. I love how Évike went from feeling disconnected from others, to learning that she can always find a home with those she loves. 

Plot-wise, this book was fast-paced, but it offered a look at different corners of the world, from the northern region of Kaleva to the capital of Király Szek. All the other themes of which I’ve talked about played a role for the plot, and I appreciate how Reid didn’t take out the more gentle, human scenes of this story in terms of the larger part of the journey Évike and Gáspár went on. 

All in all, this story was truly brilliant, and I adored reading it. I’m excited to see what else Ava Reid comes up with next!
Was this review helpful?
The Wolf and the Woodsman is a stunning standalone adult fantasy novel. The writing is haunting and beautiful in a way this is not flowery. However, be warned that it is not for the faint of heart, a list of content warnings can be found on the author's website here. If you're a fan of action packed stories then this might not be for you. Having said that although the first half of the book is spent travelling, it's not slow paced or boring. The enemies to lovers, slow burn romance between Evike and Gaspar is expertly crafted. Even when they arrive at their destination there's not a ton of action, yet it's still thoroughly engaging. The core of the book is about understanding the different nuances of culture, finding yourself, and rising up against oppression.
Was this review helpful?
It wasn't for me. First person pov, descriptions instead of dialogue, single pov character, slow - nothing was engaging enough and everything I dislike in a book presented in an interesting manner. Even the romance wasn't good enough.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for gifting me a copy of this book to review.

This is a hard one for me to review because I want to love it more than I actually did. The writing was okay, I felt the plot was a little strange as we spend the first half of the book looking for something, just to turn around when they are nearly there which just baffled me. We go from survival in the woods to politics in the city and I wasn’t sure about it. Some things that happen in the plot just aren’t explained which was annoying. 

I have to say I really enjoyed the atmosphere in the forest of this book. I liked the creepiness and the strange creatures that live in the woods. I also liked the magic system and how it featured sacrifice and balance. The magic was interesting and the different gods was a feature I liked. 

The characters I just couldn’t connect to. I don’t really know why but it happens sometimes. Evike the main character deals with trauma and her main motivation is survival. I found the side characters more interesting than the main two characters. I also didn’t enjoy the romance and how it happened, it is quite heavy in romance too which just isn’t for me. 

Overall I thought it was an okay. I wish I’d have loved it more but unfortunately I didn’t and that’s okay. I hope people who read this will love it.
Was this review helpful?
Quality Rating: Three Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Four Stars

Reid's novel felt very YA beside the books it compares itself to. That's not necessarily meant as a bad thing, but I do think the modernist, teenage style interferes slightly with the traditionally timeless fairytale tone. I don't think the 1st person present tense helps either; Èvike comes across rambly and preachy when giving away lore and worldbuilding, as well as presenting her as knowing everything there is to know for the sake of the prose, but then of course not letting her behave in that way for the sake of the plot.

This book is like four different stories in one; the last two are compelling, the first two not so much. Reid integrates a lot of really nice fantastical aspects from Hungarian and Jewish history and mythologies, but they're all used as placeholders to hurry the story along. In trying to do an epic akin to Novik or Arden in one book, Reid has lost the magic of folklore and wonder that make those stories such spectacles.

As much as I moan about comparing books to one another, Évike and Gáspár essentially follow Nina and Matthias' story from Six of Crows. I love that storyline and I think there's lots of room for variation, but I just wasn't convinced enough by the characters (who are frequently inconsistent and sometimes passive) for them to even begin treading a new path.

The Wolf and the Woodsman is worth the read if it sounds like something you'd like, but ultimately some creative choices left me underwhelmed and much preferring other authors in the same genre that execute their stories with more finesse and heart.
Was this review helpful?
I have spent a good month just wondering how to review The Wolf and the Woodsman. You know how those books you love the most are always the hardest ones to find the words for? Well that’s the case here. I am full of a lot of feelings, but not a lot of words to describe them. (And I also didn’t write any notes for this, because I was too into the book to stop reading. Woops.)

The book follows Évike, the only woman without power in her village, who is handed over to the Holy Order of Woodsmen as blood sacrifice by the people she had trusted. One of those Woodsmen is Gáspár, the crown prince. The two form a tentative alliance to search for the magic that will save Évike’s life and give Gáspár’s father the power to remain on the throne, fending off a bid for power from Gáspár’s zealot half-brother.

What drives this book for me is Évike and Gáspár’s relationship as it moves from enemies to reluctant allies to reluctantly (and angrily) attracted to one another, right up to lovers. I loved them. I’m still thinking about them months later. Theirs is the kind of relationship that just sinks its teeth into you and won’t let go. They are, by far and away, my favourite part of this book (I say, having loved basically everything about it anyway).

The other favourite aspect of this book that I had, though, was the story it told. It’s a fantasy world that considers the building of nation states. There are some things that you just don’t see a whole lot of in fantasy, and nation states are part of that. (As a side note, 2021 fantasy has some excellent books that explore the less-explored areas of fantasy and I’m loving it.) I think it’s especially pertinent now too, with the (re)rise of those sorts of politics (cough cough Brexit, but you can look into the past to find examples too. Think Edward I of England or la Reconquista). This paragraph is a mess, but what I’m trying to say is that fantasy is at its best when it doesn’t take simplistic, imperialist narratives, when it explores what you rarely get taught unless you take a subject to a higher level (looking at you, UK history curriculum). And I think this book provides the best example of that.

All of which to say, I think The Wolf and the Woodsman has firmly cemented itself as one of my favourite books of the year. Already.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!
3.45*
This is a really hard book to rate. On the one hand, it was relatively clear that this book was a debut and I maybe should not judge it too hard. on the other hand it maybe just wasn't the book for me. 
The biggest problem for me was the writing style. The ideas and the lore in the story were great but I just could not connect with the way this book was written. Then I was missing some character development. Some changes in relationships came out of the blue and needed in my opinion further exploration to make sense.
Around 50% I started really enjoying the story until the end. The Epilogue was not to my taste and I expected more. But all in all, for a debut it was a good effort, maybe I was just not the target group.
Was this review helpful?
On paper, there’s a lot to love about The Wolf and the Woodsman and it’s comparisons to Naomi Novik and Katherine Arden, however those comparisons set an incredibly high standard and, to me, the book didn’t reach those limits. For one thing, while the magic and folklore in these stories were endearing, creating depth and colour and a sense of otherworldly endearment, The Wolf doesn’t have that same charm. While I did enjoy the stories intertwined to start with (although a few bounced off my head), after a while they seemed out of place, another ‘do you want to hear a story?’ rather than interwoven into the plot. 

My main issue with this book, and one that made it hard to keep reading at times, was that I could not stand the protagonist Évike, she’s incredibly unlikeable. Évike is 25 years old but she is petulant and immature, she spends near the entire book goading, teasing, insulting and often taking her anger and frustration out on Gáspár by going straight for his vulnerabilities. And yet, she plays the victim throughout this, you learn at the start that she is ostracised and sacrificed by her village, how the girls, particularly Katalin bullied her, something she brings up a lot, and yet she cruelly teases Gáspár, calls him a coward, throwing his brother in his face etc, and yet you’re supposed to believe there is love in this coupling?? She constantly wants to have sex with him, you’ll read this a lot, she’ll make innuendos and suggestions to a man who has made a Holy oath and then throw it back at him, this is constant, you will constantly hear she wants to **** him, you will constantly hear about the kiss and that time he held her under the tree roots, because it is constantly mentioned. When you don’t care if the lead character dies, it’s hard to feel invested in the book. She’s also impulsive and stupid, if she is told not to something she will just because she won’t be told what to do - and obviously it gets her in trouble. I don’t think she grows throughout the book, I didn’t understand her or root for her.
Gáspár is a more interesting character (and a sweetheart), although a bit of a cliche, Katalin was my favourite character just because she felt a deeper, more promising character. 

I’m not sure if this is YA or fantasy, while I thought it was YA, the protagonist being 25 means possibly not. There was more gore in this than I expected though, and it didn’t feel particularly necessary. Also, I don’t need 2 pages of animals being sacrificed.

Trigger Warning: Self Harm
My last comment on this book relates to self harm. I haven’t seen this mentioned before but, for me, the idea in this book of self mutilation causing power, down to cutting yourself on your wrist to gain strength through blood, was a little unsettling and potentially dangerous. 

Thank you NetGalley for the review copy.
Was this review helpful?
This was an ARC sent to me for review: I didn't know much before jumping into this story - I'm happy that I didn't because I really enjoyed discovering every little bit of this world. The start of this novel was all about travel - and I'm not one to enjoy travel stories, but I loved the way the author managed to weave in so much world-building throughout our main character's travels. I loved the use of religion in this book and how unique all the religions were. However, getting more to the stationary phase of the book - it felt very much like something I've read and I didn't enjoy the castle dynamics nor really the characters present there. For a debut, I thought this book was beautifully written and the world-building was excellent.  I think everyone can draw parallels to our world's religions and it's a great book to read and think about.
Was this review helpful?
2.5 stars

I requested this book after it was likened to the bear and the nightingale,a book I loved.
This book ,not so much.
I didnt particularly care for the characters,who seemed a little dull,and the first part was slow to get going. Or at least felt it.
Lacking a little magic I think.
I'm willing to admit part could be due to my high expectations.
Was this review helpful?
3.5 stars

The Wolf and the Woodsman is a lyrical tale of survival, standing up for your people and beliefs and understanding others who have been brought up in different cultures.. 

We follow the story of Evike, a girl from a village in the forest where they are known as the wolf girls. They are terrorised by the woodsmen who come every couple of years to take a girl from the village to take to the king. One day Evike is taken, and along the way ends up in the custody of Gaspar, a wolfman who also happens to be the prince. The first half of the novel is them travelling through the forest to Kirnay Szek, the main city and developing a growing relationship and the second half deals with the political and religous strife in the city, including Gaspar's brother, who is a very fundalmentalist religous leader and is trying to take over the kingdom. 

The second half of the book was much better for me, I really enjoyed the political dynamics of the city and meeting Gaspar's father and brother and the political tensions brewing in the city. I also feel like Evike grew into her character a lot better and didn't feel like so much of a special snowflake, taking some of her fate into her own hands. The political situation is really interesting, reminiscent of the bear and the nightgale by katherine arden where the christain type patriachal religon is taking over the traditional pagan belief systems and people are being persecuted for it. The book also touches on the treatment of what I'm assuming are the fictional version of jewish peoples, I think the way religon is explored in this book is one of it's greatest strengths.

The atmosphere was stunning in this book, the author created such a vivid eastern european inspired world. The authors writing is also stunning, i'm very impressed if this is her debut, some of the crafting of sentences is exquiste. I also thought the magic system was very interesting, I liked Evike's power as well; almost being able to destroy magic. 

The reason I didn't enjoy this book as much as I could have I think was the characters, I wasn't that invested in them, they felt very standard characters, although like I said earlier this did get a bit better in the second half. Also I wasn't that invested in the romance and this book is fairly heavy on the romance, I just feel like the development of it came from nowhere, I guess forced proximity but I didn't really see any actions that would suggest attraction or things to like about the other person? I don't know if i'm making sense haha it's quite hard to explain. The relationship reminds me a lot of Nina and Mathias from six of crows with the witch/witchhunter thing, I do often feel let down by enemies to lovers (it's not really my favourite trope T_T) and I think that might have been the case here.
Was this review helpful?
Overall, this is a most enjoyable book, I loved the setting, the folklore and mythology was great and creates a wonderful, and at times, extremely creepy atmosphere. The main characters are interesting and it’s fascinating to watch them unfold and unbend as the story develops along with their relationship.

It does have a very YA feel but it’s classified as adult as the characters are slightly older (twenties) and it gives scope for greater violence and for the relationship to be consummated. It doesn’t, however, have the depth and layering that I would expect from a truly adult novel. Explanations of the magic system are thin on the ground and much of the plot is a backdrop for the romance between the lead characters. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I love a star-crossed fantasy romance but there was definitely the potential for this story to be expanded onto a larger canvas and other characters given more room to grow. I would totally up for revisiting this world, there is much that intrigued me, and I could see the expanded universe being absolutely fascinating.
Was this review helpful?
The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid is a fascinating fantasy book questioning power, religion and the feeling of belonging in a magic infused medieval Hungaria. This is a breathtaking romp with a wolf-girl, akin to the wildlings from the North side of the wall in Game of Thrones, a real treat. 
We follow Evike, a stubborn, strong, 25 years old heroine led out of her village as a sacrifice. The woodsmen, a fanatical zealot army, collect a girl from the savage tribe every few years, and this time it is her who is plucked out… the only girl without magic. And while the beginning of the book is all about trying to figure out what they do with the girls, discovering the cruel hardships Evike had to live through, it is so much more.
I greatly enjoyed the novel and there were many little things I particularly loved. I liked Evike’s curiosity towards other cultures and religions. Because she doesn’t believe the same as another, wasn’t brought up on the same stories, doesn’t shut her off them. She almost each time asked some questions and wanted to be included. She sees links, wants to know more, is willing to mix and learn and go beyond what she believes. I liked her open mindedness and found it refreshing because while it was inclusive it didn’t mean she lost any belief in her own gods and culture.
I loved that kindness is valued in this book, small and large gestures. There is a real reflection about what it means and how important little things are. And it is great that the message is relayed through a character who was brought up in a violent harsh world. I love to see characters that rebel against the wrong of their world, probably because I hate how some people reproduce the very patterns which made them suffer. 
I liked little details like how the wilderlings live in a matriarchal society. How the two main characters are so different on the exterior and so similar when you dig. I really enjoyed the monster lore and which we’d had more. I liked how the forest was so present it almost felt like a character of the book… There is so many wonderful things to say about this work.
I would really recommend it to people who enjoyed Uprooted by Naomi Novik and Deerskin by Robin McKinley, or any heavy forest setting with a strong heroine fighting for her survival in an unfair medieval world.
Was this review helpful?