I received this book for free from the Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid
Published by HarperCollins on June 8, 2021
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, Jewish
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In the vein of Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestseller Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.
In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.
But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.
As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.
I loved this book! Every once in a while you stumble upon a special kind of story that completely transports you to a different world. I almost felt like I was living in the book with the characters while I read this amazing story. I cared about the characters and wanted to see things work out for them. I found the book impossible to set aside once I started reading and thoroughly enjoyed the entire reading experience.
Évike lives in a pagan village where the women all have some kind of power, all of the women except for Évike. The Woodsmen come every few years to claim a girl for the king’s sacrifice and the village sends Évike despite her lack of power. She has already lost her mother to the Woodsmen and feels very betrayed to be sent to her death by her village. Things don’t go well on the journey to the capital and Évike is alone with only a one-eyed Woodsman who is so much more than he seems. Gáspár is the rightful heir to the throne and is facing his own set of challenges.
I loved the way that this story is told. It was a dark fantasy filled with vivid imagery. Évike and Gáspár get to know each other and learn about each other’s world through the stories that they share. Évike has a lifetime of stories that she has heard time and time again growing up in her pagan village. I loved experiencing the lore of her community through these stories and it was great how they were relevant to the things they were experiencing. Gáspár had his own stories to tell. I loved the connection that these two form during the time that they spend together.
Once they make it to the capitol, things heat up and there were quite a few surprises. I loved getting the chance to see how some people lived within the city. I also thought that the politics of the city added a lot to the story and there were some pretty big surprises along the way. I had no idea how Évike and Gáspár would successfully navigate all of the obstacles being placed in their path.
I would highly recommend this book to fans of fantasy. I should probably note that this is an adult fantasy with a fair amount of violence and sexual content. I found this book to be incredibly well-written and filled with plenty of excitement and even a bit of romance. I will be first in line to read more of Ava Reid’s work in the future.
I received an advance review copy of this book from Harper Voyager.