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.
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.
- Title: The Wolf and the Woodsman
- Author: Ava Reid
- Publisher: Del Rey
- Genre: Fantasy, historical fiction, adult, retellings
- Targeted Age Range: Adult
- Trigger Warnings: 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
- Rating: ★★★★☆
I thought I’d take the time today to review one of the books I read in June! The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid is a debut fantasy, inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology. I really adored this book: it had everything that I love in a fantasy, and it was such a great read from start to finish.
This book was on the slower side of pacing, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. The slower pace allowed Reid to set the scene so beautifully, carefully crafting a world so beautiful and intricate it feels as if you’re being transported. I loved the world this book was set in; Reid has a writing style that makes everything just seem so magical. Whether it be throughout the scenes set in the capital, the forest or even the frozen tundra, this world really comes to life throughout the pages. If you’re someone who values worldbuilding and setting in your fantasy, this one will be for you.
I really loved all of the characters in this book. Our protagonist, Évike, is so interesting to read about. She goes through such a wonderful journey throughout this book. We really get to see her grow and develop, growing only stronger when trouble finds her. Reid really took a lot of care when constructing her ensemble of characters, and they each felt different from another, which is something that quite often doesn’t happen in fantasy. Gáspár was a great match for Évike, and I loved watching their dynamic. This book is very much a slow burn romance, but it’s a very satisfying one. Despite romance not being the focal point throughout this novel, fans of fantasy romance will be satisfied with the budding romance between our two protagonists. We get to see Évike and Gáspár slowly grow to care about each other, trusting each other more and more as hard circumstances are thrown their way. As a big fan of slow burn romance, this was done very very well.
This book, if you didn’t know, is inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology. I’m neither Jewish or Hungarian, so I cannot speak to the accuracy of the retelling, but I thoroughly enjoyed the references throughout. It was a very interesting aspect to the book, and makes me even more interested to learn about them further. The inspiration taken is seamlessly crafted into this fantasy world, and adds only more and more depth to the careful construction of the book done by Reid. I loved every minute of it, and I would love to see her future books take on similar inspiration. As stated previously, I am neither Jewish or Hungarian, and therefore I cannot speak to the accuracy of the history and mythology used in this book. As more reviews by Hungarian and Jewish bloggers are released, I will update this post with links.
All in all, The Wolf and the Woodsman is well worth your time. I recommend setting aside a good chunk of time dedicated to reading it due to it being on the slower side, however you won’t regret it. Ava Reid’s debut fantasy is a complete triumph, and I cannot wait to see what she writes next.
Ava Reid was born in Manhattan and raised right across the Hudson River in Hoboken, but currently lives in Palo Alto, where the weather is too sunny and the people are too friendly. She has a degree in political science from Barnard College, focusing on religion and ethnonationalism. She has worked for a refugee resettlement organization, for a U.S. senator, and, most recently, for an AI robotics startup. The Wolf and the Woodsman is her first novel.