Title: The Wolf and the Woodsman
Author: Ava Reid
Tropes/Themes: Jewish Folklore, Hungarian History, Enemies to Lovers
Edition/Pages: Hardcover, 448 Pages
Thank you so, so much to Harper Voyager for sending me an e-arc and finished copy of this! All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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.
Unfortunately this book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. BUT this is definitely a case of me not connecting with the book, rather than the book itself.
Let’s start with what I loved!
My favorite part of this was hands down the mythology and historical elements woven throughout this. You can clearly see what historical persons, events, and cultures inspired different elements of the book. And putting a fantastical spin on it allows the reader distance and a less biased view on historical events. It’s a style/choice I continuously love.
And the mythology elements beautifully written and told. I loved how the stories interspersed throughout and how well they highlighted the cultural overlapping despite these 2 groups hating each other (sound familiar?)
And overall, the writing was stunning. This book is lyrical without being overdone or difficult to read. It reads exactly like a myth or epic fairytale. I loved the writing style and definitely want to read more from Ava Reid in the future!
Where the book fell short for me, was the pacing and characters themselves.
This book is very much so a travel fantasy which at it’s core, isn’t my favorite, so take my review with a grain of salt here.
The entire first half of this book follows the heroine and the woodsman as they travel the country in search of a mythical creature to grant them the power they need. And this is where most of the pacing issues stemmed from for me.
- In this end, this entire first half wandering felt quite pointless. They wander forever and absolutely nothing comes of it. So I was left feeling like, why did we spend so much time here? (one could argue it was for character development but I cover than in point #3)
- I had difficultly keeping track of how much time was actually passing. I never knew if days or weeks were passing while they were traveling because we were jumping from event to event. And because of that
- I never believed in the connection the main characters developed. For me it felt like they went from hatred, to cuddling in a tree once, to love with no real groundwork. Évike brings up constantly how many times they “broke Gáspár’s woodsman vows” and I feel like I missed something… Because I’m pretty sure it was only cuddling for warmth and one instance of witchcraft. It just really hampered my enjoyment since their relationship is critical to the plot and development.
Overall this book was just okay for me. But I am a very character driven reader, so missing that believability and connection was a big miss. The writing, overarching plot, and themes themselves are fantastic though! So if you’re a plot driven reader, definitely take my review with a grain of salt!