Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I’ve read some powerful fantasy this year & Ava Reid’s The Wolf & the Woodsman is one of them, telling a story that hits like a bag of bricks. This book wrestles with questions of magic & faith & left me with a hopeful feeling, even if it is slightly tempered by what this romance reader would call a somewhat precarious HFN.
Unlike others in her village Évike can’t do magic. Every year her community must sacrifice one of their own to the Woodsmen on Woodsman Day & this year, it’s Évike, who’s sent in someone else’s place & against her will.
Despite the fact that she doesn’t quite fit in with the people in her community, like them she’s considered pagan & referred to as wolf-girl by the woodsmen.
But on their journey Évike wonders if there’s more to the enemy Captain who’s taken her & who leads their group than the sternness & eyepatch that first drew her attention. He blushes; he’s not a warrior despite his position as leader; he shows his feelings of guilt when his actions conflict with his religious beliefs.
But that’s the thing—no matter how drawn Évike & the Captain are to the other, he & his people believe that “faith”—in actuality, magic—is accessed most through bodily sacrifice. Thus his missing eye. & he holds himself to a set of impossible faith-based standards, which he himself struggles with because they don’t always match what seems morally best.
& she’s trying to determine her own path forward, as someone who doesn’t share his beliefs or his preoccupation with “perfection” & as someone who’s both tied to her village & ostracized within it. As someone who, as she says earlier in the book, wasn’t gifted with what everyone else around her was.
As the blurb says, TWATW is “inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology” & it’s full of stunning similes that make me see the world in a fresh way; it’s gory & often dark; it’s emotional; it’s colorful. Not to mention, it walks that line between hopeful & unsettling that makes books memorable.
4.5 ⭐️. Out today!
Give me that HEA, please.
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