In the vein of Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestseller Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.
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.
Title : The Wolf & The Woodsman
Author : Ava Reid
Format : Paperback ARC/Audio
Page Count/Running Time : 448/13 hours, 9 minutes
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : DelRey UK
Release Date : June 8, 2021
Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 4 star review
Unique fantasy standalone
Dark and sinister moments
Get lost in the visual imagery
This felt like such a fresh story to me with three different belief systems intersecting through the characters. It was a story told in the forest, plains and sometimes cities and villages. I was happiest reading when the story was in the forest even though that where the monsters were.
Evike was a character to get behind, she was complex, morally grey on occasion and resillient. She was ever at the mercy of whatever people she was with. Her self discovery of her lineage, the faith of her father and the Yehuli people were fascinating and the chinks of light in this tale. Gaspar, woodsman and a man with many facets, was equally complex and how their grudging collaboration evolved was great reading. The friendship was a slow burn for sure.
There were monsters, witches, creatures with powers, kings with powers, megalomaniac princes and the kind of tales told to really give you the chills. This easily scared reader coped with it all and it conveyed a murky atmosphere of not knowing what was around the corner. There were some dark and gory moments but they truly added to the story.
I was fortunate to read the hard copy and audio for this and the narration was superb. The characterisation and dialogue fitted that dark atmosphere I described so well.
I thought this was a great debut, a standalone to recommend and I can’t wait to read more by Ava Reid.
Thank you to DelRey UK for the early review copies.