Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little corner of the internet. Today I’m looking at one of my latest reads, The Wolf and The Woodsman by Ava Reid. This stunning book absolutely took my breath away. A fantasy wrapped between Hungarian history and Jewish mythology that captivated me with every chapter, I honestly think I’m going to struggle to review this one, because I’ll just babble about how lovely it is!
Stories don’t have to be true to be real…
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.
There are so many messages that come through from this book. That we can all find something that unites us. That sometimes we are the better person without knowing it. That it’s okay to have spikes and throns. That knowing and believing in something are enough.
I could go on.
The book is a journey that is both physical and emotional, striking the cords of everyone who has ever been at the bottom of the pack, and those who didn’t stop anyone from kicking them when they were down. When it becomes clear that our two lead characters need each other, they grow close in ways they couldn’t ever have predicted.
I loved both Évike and Gáspár as characters, Évike with her refusal to trust anyone at all, and Gáspár with his constant silent presence. As they grow together, and start to understand each other more, he comes to see her barbs as a defence from years of verbal and literal whippings, and she comes to see that his bravery outweighs his fear, calculating several moves ahead, regardless of the situation. When they are faced, ultimately, with trusting each other with everything they have, they are both weighing the scales with tiny fragments of damaged persons, hoping they are making the right choice.
I said I’d struggle with reviewing this book and I was entirely correct in my assumption. It is one the most powerful, enchanting, magical reads I have ever come across, and the world will be a better place for it being in it. It seems almost impossible to believe that this is a debut novel. Ava Reid works with her words as well as her spell crafters work their magic.