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The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid – Book Review!

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.

My Review.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review and can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.

If you know me then you know that if a book mentions the words ‘folklore’ or ‘mythology’ that it’s almost an instant add to my TBR, so as soon as I read the description for this I just knew I would love it. The Wolf and the Woodsman is steeped in Jewish folklore and history and with them Reid creates a fantasy world I never wanted to leave.

Évike is the only woman without powers in her pagan village, so when the Woodsmen come looking for a seer, something the village wont give up easily, they sacrifice Évike instead. She knows that the Woodsmen mean certain death, but when an attack leaves only Évike and the surly one-eyed Captain alive she has no choice to rely on the person sent to kill her, especially when she learns that the Captain is actually Gáspár Bárány, a Prince and first in line for the throne. He has no love for Évike’s pagan magic but they come to an agreement, Évike will help him find the power to bring down his zealous brother & he will let her live. Trust doesn’t come easily to either Évike or Gáspár, but their travels through the bitter north may make them realise there is more that binds them than sets them apart, and before long the pair will have to choose where their loyalties lie.

Évike is a woman used to loss, and being alienated for being different. Her life in the pagan village has been spent watching the mother she loved being carted away by the Woodsmen to die, and having the knowledge that her lack of power make the village deem her as lesser and worthless to a people who depend on it for survival. Because of this she has built a thick skin, and created walls around her heart that few could bring down. When she is sacrificed for her village a part of her is angry, angry that she could be so easily cast aside, but another part realises that it was inevitable, her powers made her useless to the village, but her sacrifice was vital. She longs for somewhere she feels at home, whole, loved, despite her shortcomings.

Gáspár may be the first in line for the throne, and the only legitimate son but he still feels he is not enough. The fact that his mother was a foreigner does nothing to warm the people to him, and he feels his power slipping away day by day as that of his bastard brother grows. He has never truly known love, though he has tried for years to be the son his father wanted and only shown abuse and unkindness for it. He longs for a world where all people live in peace, no matter their skin colour or beliefs, but isn’t sure whether he is strong enough to fight for it.

As well as the two above, who have my whole heart, Reid brings to life and fantastic cast of side characters, through whom we learn more about Jewish beliefs and persecution. Some you will love and others you will hate with a passion but they all have a part to play in Évike & Gáspár’s story & they all bring something pivotal to the plot.

Reid does a brilliant job and bringing to light the plight of Jew’s throughout history. Through the plot, as well as folktales scattered throughout she hits on segregation as well as ethnic cleansing, all hard hitting topics that can only begin to show how Jew’s have suffered under religious persecution. You can tell the amount of research and thought that went into creating this book, and thanks to all this we get taken to a richly built fantasy world that I simply never wanted to leave. Reid’s writing style is lush and atmospheric that really helped the plot move at a nice and easy pace, and really helped you to immerse yourself into her fantasy world as well as fall in love with her characters.

Fans of enemies to lovers romance listen up! You NEED to add this book to your TBR asap. Honestly the angst and yearning and kneeling in this book gave me palpitations. The romance is so beautiful crafted, at times heartbreaking and at others humorous, but Reid did a fantastic job at showing that even though they may have seemed worlds apart, that they believed in different Gods, were raised in different ways Évike & Gáspár had more similarities than differences, more things that drew them together than forced them apart. This isn’t a happy book and it certainly isn’t a happy romance arc but I loved it all the same.

I had high expectations going into this, expectations that The Wolf and the Woodsman met and then some. A dark tale that certainly isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you like your characters broken, you worlds filled with folklore and history and your romance enemies to lovers then you should look no further. This may be Reid’s first book but I will definitely be picking anything else she writes.

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