reviews

Review: The Wolf and the Woodsman

Title: The Wolf and the Woodsman
Author: Ava Reid
Rating: 4/5 stars
Summary:
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.

Between this book, The Unbroken, and She Who Became the Sun, I’ve been getting a lot of the “sexy kneeling” vibes LOL

So many authors of books I loved were raving about this book, so I was very excited to read it. I read this book rather quickly, mostly because I thought I had more time before it was due at the library but then I got my “due in 3 days” reminder. Still, this book was really easy to race through and I probably would have read it quickly regardless. It took a while for the real story to pick up, but I enjoyed the first half of the book as we see the push-and-pull relationship between Evike and Gaspar. Gaspar is a (reluctant) instrument of the crown, while Evike is a misfit of two cultures and not enough magical talent to be respected by her community. In a way they are both outsiders in their own communities.

My favorite thing about the book was the gorgeous prose. It had a sort of mesmerizing quality even when the scenes being described were horrific and brutal. It makes sense that this is a rather bloody and violent story considering it is about colonization and war, but despite all the darkness and violence, there were a lot of really beautiful moments too. The book delves into the historical oppression of Jews and violence against indigenous people through a fantasy lens. Although this is a brutal subject, there is beauty in seeing how different groups of oppressed people have compassion for one another and help each other to fight and survive the tyrannical regime of the current empire.

I also really appreciated that the main character was really messy and unpredictable. Evike is “not like other girls” in that she doesn’t fit into her community and doesn’t have magic, but unlike the usual trope where the main character is somehow more noble or heroic than the others, she’s wilder and more self-destructive instead. I also appreciated her sharp tongue and strong sense of pride. There are a lot of powerful women in this story, and although sometimes they are pitted against one another towards the beginning of the book, you see that their relationships are complex and that when push comes to shove, they will fight for each other.

One thing that annoyed me a little bit was how much pining there was in this book. I know a lot of people love a good angsty romantic subplot, but I get really irritated when there are a lot of stares and blushes and sharp words thrown around to hide feelings. I did like the overall arc of Evike and Gaspar’s relationship though, and I thought the tricky business of generating empathy for a colonizer while still holding them responsible was handled well.

Overall I did enjoy this book and I would recommend it for anyone who isn’t put off by on-page descriptions of violence, mutilation, and ethnic cleansing. These were very heavy themes and present throughout the book, so consider yourself warned!

2 thoughts on “Review: The Wolf and the Woodsman”

  1. Thanks for putting this one on my radar! A Hungarian-inspired fantasy novel sounds like a lovely unique perspective, but it sounds like just enough fantasy tropes to feel familiar. I’m not huge on pining, either, especially when the reason for not just admitting feelings is tied to low self-esteem (*especially* on the side of the female character). So hopefully it isn’t too….erm….that.

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    1. The pining is more “you are my enemy and I’m not allowed to like you” and not because of low self esteem, I’d say Evike is pretty high on the self esteem scale!

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