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Tori Bovalino grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and never knew she wanted to live abroad until she was already in London. She’s awful at picking favorites, but her consistent go-to books are Pride and Prejudice, Fire, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. She’s enamored with books that make her cry.
Tori holds a BA in English fiction writing and anthropology and a minor in German from the University of Pittsburgh and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London. She is currently on the Creative and practice-based PhD course at RHUL, researching the relationship between Russian folklore and YA fantasy novels. In her free time, Tori enjoys reading (duh), embroidering, and traveling.
She is represented by Dr. Uwe Stender and Amelia Appel at TriadaUS Literary Agency. She writes short stories, poetry, and novels.
Not Good for Maidens by Tori Bovalino
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Horror
Publishing Date: June 21, 2022
Salem’s Lot meets The Darkest Part of the Forest in this horror-fantasy retelling of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market.”
Lou never believed in superstitions or magic–until her teenage aunt Neela is kidnapped to the goblin market.
The market is a place Lou has only read about–twisted streets, offerings of sweet fruits and incredible jewels. Everything–from the food and wares, to the goblins themselves–is a haunting temptation for any human who manages to find their way in.
Determined to save Neela, Lou learns songs and spells and tricks that will help her navigate this dangerous world and slip past a goblin’s defenses–but she only has three days to find Neela before the market disappears and her aunt becomes one of them forever.
If she isn’t careful, the market might just end up claiming her too.
Content warnings: on-page gore, on-page body horror, violence, trauma
I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Lou has lived a relatively normal life, up until the point she finds out she is descended from a long line of Witches who oversee the Goblin Market in York. To make matter worse, Neela, her teenage Aunt has been kidnapped by the Market. Between learning the rules of the Market and the lore, Lou is more than in over her head. She only has three days to get in and find Neela, three days to save her aunt, any more and the Market wont only be getting Neela, but Lou herself.
Not Good for Maidens is an intoxicating tale told from two POV’s. Lou is someone who has never believed in magic, up until the moment she realises that her mum and aunt are Witches, descended from a long line who protect mortals from the Goblin Market that appears in their hometown of York every summer. After being thrown out of their coven and forced to move away, they thought that life was behind them, but then their younger sister gets kidnapped by the Market and everything changes. Lou is understandably annoyed that such a large part of her life has been kept from her, but she loves Neela, feels like they are two parts of the same coin, and is determined to do anything she can to save her. She is stronger than she thinks & may just be exactly what is needed to save Neela, someone who knows nothing but fear for the Market and the creatures that live there.
May, Lou’s Aunt is the second POV, and her chapters are told in flashbacks explaining how both she and Lou’s mum were thrown out of their coven and sent to live in America. She absolutely does not want to return to York and the Market, but will not let Lou go in without knowing what she is dealing with. Her chapters give us a better understanding and fear for the Market as well as showing how she blames herself for both past and present events. May is someone living with regret, but also resentment for not having a choice over her own path in life, no options as to whether she was going to become a witch and take over from her mother, and then to have all that taken away from her. Through these two POV’s we get introduced to plenty of people from the magical world from Laura, Lou’s mum to Eitra, the Goblin who initially seduces May into going to the Market. Bovalino’s characters are wonderfully morally grey, never wholly good or bad… well except for the Goblin King, and they all bring an added depth to the story making us feel fear, love, excitement.
With the Goblin Market, Bovalino creates a place that’s as enticing as it is to be feared. The initial glamour and glitz, gives way to a much darker underbelly, and her use of flashbacks to show us just how easy it is to fall for the allure of something magical, something darker and strange, something forbidden was incredibly well done. I especially loved how she used Lou, and her not knowing anything about magic and the market, to give the reader a deep dive into the magic system and world without it feeling like an info dump. Her descriptive writing really brings the Market to life, the glamour and the gore. There were plenty of parts that would make me eager to visit, and more that ensured I would want to stay far, far, away.
The story moves at a fairly fast pace, helped along by the switch in POV’s. Bovalino manages to keep us on our toes, giving us just enough information to understand what is going in and then drops in a HUGE plot twist that had me gasping out loud. There is a romance arc, shown through the flashback POV’s, but the main theme of the story is family, what we would do for them, as well as the burdens that come with being a Witch in charge of the Market, and the choices and sacrifices that have to be made to live that life. Lou resented not being given the choice of the life her mother lived, with her mother just desperate to protect her from a world significantly more dangerous than her own. It shows how complicated families can be, without or without magic.
Not Good for Maidens was a fast and dark read I absolutely flew through. Not for the faint of heart, this is a book that shows all the allure and the danger of the magical world. Filled with unbelievably real characters, a forbidden romance arc and plenty of magic. This is my first book by the author, but it will not be my last. An easy 4 stars!