*I received an e-ARC of The Wolf and The Woodsman from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review. A big thank you to the lovely team at HarperCollins Canada for giving me the opportunity to read this early!
TW: racism, antisemitism, self harm, genocide, dismemberment, gore, descriptive animal death, physical abuse, torture. This book is an adult read and not targeted towards young adult readers.
After reading the description earlier this year, I quickly added The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid, to my list of anticipated reads! After trying (and failing) to win one of the stunning ARCs, HarperCollins Canada was kind enough to approve me for an e-ARC and I literally dropped everything to read it. I’m also 99.9% sure now that one of my book boxes will be featuring a special edition of this book next month and you have no idea how excited I am to get it and re-read it!
The Wolf and The Woodsman is told from the perspective of Évike, a young, mixed-race woman who comes from a pagan village where every woman, except her, can harness different magical powers gifted to them from the gods. Her lack of magic and mixed blood makes her an outcast and the subject of bullying from other women and villagers. When the fanatical Patritian king sends his Woodsmen to bring back a pagan girl from Évike’s village as a blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her village and handed over to them. But soon after leaving her village, the group is attacked by monsters, and the only two to survive are Évike and a Woodsman named Gáspár. As both reluctantly rely on each other to survive, their prejudices soon turn into understanding before simmering into something more.
From the first line of the book alone, I knew this was going to be a story that I would adore. The brutal and magic-filled world of The Wolf and The Woodsman is so perfectly brought to life that I’d get anxious each time the plot brings Évike and Gáspár back into the forest, unsure of what might lurk in the trees waiting for them (though it quickly becomes apparent that the bigger monsters were among those living in the cities and villages). The plot focuses heavily on nation-building and the lengths that those in power will go to maintain that power and oppress those who look and believe differently. Having grown up in a secluded village, Évike quickly finds herself dragged into these power struggles, very aware that minor shifts could very well mean the end of her village or even her estranged father’s people.
I found Évike to be a character that could be a little tough to like at first, but as you read more about her childhood, it made me a lot more sympathetic. Throughout the book, she hangs on tightly to her grudges against all who have wronged her and allows these grudges to influence her decisions. While she initially sees it as a death sentence, her journeys after being given to the Woodsmen help her eventually find peace with her past and become more at ease with her identity.
While it didn’t feel like the main focus of the story, I adored Évike and Gáspár’s relationship and how it progressed throughout the book. It is a very slow burn romance that starts with them absolutely loathing each other. I’ve seen their relationship often being compared to Nina and Matthias’ relationship in Six of Crows. While there are indeed some similarities, I personally think that the romance progression in The Wolf and The Woodsman was far more beautiful and believable (granted, they had an entire book to develop their relationship while Six of Crows was split between multiple POVs).
One thing I should note, in the e-ARC, the pronunciation guide is at the end. If the finished copies follow the same format, I highly recommend carefully flipping to the guide first before starting the book. Many of the names will be new to most Western readers, and some words whose pronunciation looks obvious are actually pronounced quite differently.
If you’re looking for an atmospheric enemies-to-lovers story with complex world-building and monster-filled forests, this is the book for you! The Wolf and The Woodsman comes out on June 8, 2021, and can be pre-ordered online at your local bookstore! If you pre-order it before June 15th, you can submit your receipt online to receive a digital edition of Folklores & Fable, which includes four original fairy tales from The Wolf and the Woodsman. You can also pre-order signed and personalized copies from Kelpers, which come with a GORGEOUS print by Rudebeetle. For more information, click here.