The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid
June 8, 2021, by Del Rey
The Wolf and the Woodsman is a fabulous debut fantasy. Full of everything I love when I’m seeking out a new epic adventure. There is such depth to this world-building and the plot arc is complex- full of sacrifice, past abuse, talk of cultural identity, and scenes of persecution and oppression. I don’t know if I’ll do a good job of it, but I’ll try to hammer out some words in a workable review.
Evike is the only woman in her village who has no power and therefore is the one who is sacrificed when the Woodsmen come to take a seer back to the king. She is angry and indignant and determined to escape. The journey is hellish and full of monsters. It doesn’t take long for Evike to realize that the leader of the group is none other than the dishonored prince, Gaspar Barany. When everyone but the two of them ends up slaughtered, they must carry on with their journey toward the capital city, despite their distrust and outright hatred for each other. But that hatred slowly turns to something like friendship, and trust starts to build until a true affection and devotion is all that’s left.
When the two reach finally reach their destination that’s when readers realize the horror of what the king is actually doing to the women taken from the pagan villages and the details of his extensive plans to consolidate power.
I wish I could dive deep into this plot, but as I mentioned above there is so much going on. And readers really should experience the plot arc unfolding for themselves without any spoilers. This is a story about abuse of power, prejudice, nation-building, and ethnic cleansing. It’s also a book about sacrifice and love and forgiveness. There is a love story amidst all the violence and hatred between two very different, yet connected people. Both Evike and Gaspar are fractured and stuck in survival mode, but they are also both smart, resourceful warriors who see the wrongness of what the kingdom is doing to what it considers its lesser residents and want to do something about it.
This is not an easy read by any means, most epic fantasy isn’t. But it is a compelling, fantastical adventure that will stay with its readers long after they’ve read the last word. It does leave off in a hopeful place, but I would have liked a little more closure in regards to Evike and Gaspar’s relationship. In the end, I was at peace with how this book wrapped up.
Final grade- B+