The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid
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I was sent a copy of this novel by the publishers to review, however this has no bearing on my rating or review.
In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. 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.
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The Wolf and the Woodsman is an atmospheric and lyrical debut inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology. The story follows a young Pagan woman named Évike who was stolen from her village by a group of Woodsmen in the name of the king. Every setting within this story from the murky forest to the cities was described so beautifully and vividly, I was immersed within the story from the very first chapter.
Évike and Gáspár are both complex yet likeable characters, they band together in an effort to stop Gáspár’s younger half-brother who hopes to take the throne with the support of the people of the dominant religion and erase Paganism as well as the Yehuli people. The hatred for the Yehuli people within The Wolf and the Woodsman is inspired by Hungary’s bloody history towards ethnic and religious groups during the 12th century. I would have loved for this novel to be told from a dual perspective to gain more of an insight into Gáspár’s inner thoughts and feelings.
Ava Reid has written a fantasy novel brimming with grotesque monsters, mythical creatures, a blood soaked magic system and dark and sinister imagery. The Wolf and the Woodsman is a political and religious debut steeped in folklore and magic and dripping with evocative and imaginative language.
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