Thank you to Del Rey Books for sending me a copy of The Wolf and the Woodsman for review!
Évike is the only woman without magic in her pagan village deep in the forest. She’s an outcast, supposedly abandoned by the gods because of her corrupted Yehuli bloodline. When soldiers from the Holy Order of Woodsmen come to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, the village surrenders Évike instead of someone with magic.
On the journey to the capital, monsters attack the Woodsmen and Évike, killing everyone except her and the captain. Alone and freezing, the two must rely on each other, revealing secrets they meant to keep. Évike has no magic, and Gáspár is no mere Woodsman.
Instead, he’s the disgraced but legitimate son of the king, hunting down pagan magic for his father. He believes it’s the only way to keep him on the throne. The other contender is his zealot brother who will kill everyone who doesn’t follow his religious beliefs.
Évike and Gáspár develop a tenuous bargain in an attempt to bring peace to the realm. As they journey from icy forests to the capital, they face witches made of dirt and stones, skull-crushing monsters, power-hungry kings and magic like they’ve never seen before. The two begin to bond; however, as Évike discovers her own magic and reconnects with her father, she and Gáspár must determine what sides they’re really on, and what they would give up for a nation that has denied them everything.
It’s clear that The Wolf and the Woodsman is a personal story for author Ava Reid. The novel is based on Hungarian history and Jewish folklore, and Reid’s academic background in ethnonationalist religion shines through. The book features three main religions: Paganism, The Patrifaith and Yehuli.
Pagans worship many gods and possess individual magic. The Patrifaith is based on Catholicism and the Yehuli faith is grounded in Judaism, with many stories adapted for this world. Reid shows how often and easily the dominant culture bends and twists legends to fit their needs and suppress those it came from.
The Wolf and the Woodsman is definitely for adults. There are references to and depictions of gore, torture and genocide, and most forms of magic come from body mutilation. You can find full trigger warnings for the novel here on Reid’s website.
That being said, the magic system is fascinating and unique, and the relationship between Évike and Gáspár is a perfect slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers romance. The Wolf and the Woodsman is atmospheric, brutal and violent, but still has moments of hope and love present too. It’s full of imaginative and evocative language and is perfect for fans of Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver and The Witcher series.
The Wolf and the Woodsman comes out on June 1 from Del Rey Books. You can order it now from your local independent bookstore or online at Bookshop.org.
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