Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Review: The Wolf & The Woodsman by Ava Reid

The Wolf & The Woodsman by Ava Reid
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
Rating: 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

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.

What I Liked:

You know that feeling when you see a book's cover, read the synopsis, and just KNOW that this will be something you'll love? I got that feeling when I heard about this book a year ago, and that feeling did not lead my astray. This story was absolutely exquisite. 

The Wolf & The Woodsman is an adult fantasy novel based on Jewish folklore and Hungarian history. There are many major themes in this book that the author explored, including cultural genocide, antisemitism, and ethnic cleansing. I want to note that I do not have Hungarian heritage and I am not Jewish, so I will not have the best perspective on certain aspects of the book. Nevertheless, I know how hard the author worked to put every ounce of herself, her culture, her religion, and her history into this book. As an "outsider", I can appreciate how well-written the story is, how fantastic the world-building is, and how powerful the messages are.

Please note: there is body horror, abuse by elders, mutilation, torture, and other potential triggers in this story. 

This is the story of Évike, a woman without power in her small pagan village. She is despised by many in her village, and abused for her powerlessness, as well as her mixed heritage (her father is a Yehuli man). When the Woodsmen arrive to take another pagan girl with seer power, the villagers conspire to send Évike. Évike is taken to the nation's capital, where she must serve the king and his treasonous son. Gáspár, one of the Woodsmen charged with bringing Évike to the king, is the king's other son. He knows what it is like to be despised for who he is. Together, Évike and Gáspár must work together to to stop Gáspár's traitorous brother from overthrowing the king, slaughtering the Yehuli, and changing the landscape and the history of the nation forever.

There is so much more to this story than what I briefly summarized. The magic system, the politics, the scheming, the romance... this standalone novel is filled with just about everything that makes a fantasy novel amazing. But it's even more than a "usual fantasy novel" - Reid makes this novel her own by weaving Jewish history, lore, and life into this book. This book parallels Hungarian history in the Yehuli's imminent expulsion from the capital, the blatant discrimination, the way they are used and discarded by the government. I need to reread this novel to analyze and engulf myself in the political machinations and the Yehuli trials - Reid has written these aspects so, so well, and with such power and purpose.

I do want to talk about the romance - I love a good slowburn, hate to love romance. Évike is a feisty, hurt, tough young woman, and Gáspár is a quiet, hurt, tough young man. They should be on opposite sides of the war, with Évike being a pagan "wolf-girl" of mixed heritage, and Gáspár being a royal prince of mixed heritage. But they are like fire and ice or a moth and a flame - they are magnetic, and I love this pairing. I love Évike's headstrong quality and Gáspár's quiet, less assertive nature. Such a sweet, yet volatile romance!

Évike isn't just a strong young woman - she's a fighter and a survivor. She has been abused by her village and her Yehuli family doesn't know she exists. She's tired, hurt, and broken down, but she is a fighter. She takes matters into her own hands - particularly her "powerlessness". Here is where the body horror aspect comes into play - I won't say much more than that. Évike wasn't just on a journey to the capital, or a journey to find this fantastical magical creature - she was on a journey that led to her discovering more about her Yehuli heritage. I really appreciate Reid's commentary on heritage, and the diaspora.

This novel is a standalone, and the story feels very full and complete by the time I reached the end. I would love to read more books in this universe, but I feel as though Évike and Gáspár's "chapter" is over. The ending is one that I enjoyed - no spoilers, of course! The author wraps up all the loose ends but also leaves the future slightly open... I wouldn't mind seeing Évike and Gáspár make cameo appearances in companion novels set within the same universe. If that is something that the author is considering!

I truly enjoyed this wonderful, powerful, thought-provoking novel. The cover is gorgeous and so is the beautiful story!

What I Did Not Like:

I can't think of anything I did not like! Perhaps that the story pacing dragged a little in the middle, but I also read this book over several days, so keep that in mind. The pacing overall is very engaging, but I hit a snag in the middle. But things pick up quickly in the capital! You'll have to read the book to know what I mean. 

Would I Recommend It:

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy novels. This is NOT a fairy tale retelling - don't be fooled. This IS an adult fiction novel though, so don't confuse this book with Young Adult (YA) novels. The book can be read by YA readers, but the content of the book is certainly meant for adults. (Graphic violence, sexual content, etc.) 


5 stars. Thank you so much to the publishing team for letting me read this book ahead of the publication. I have been lending my early copy to friends and family and screaming about this book on social media. I have been struggling to read anything in the last year (oh, pandemic), but this book was exactly what I needed - immersive, intriguing, and thought-provoking. I can't wait to read more by Ava Reid!

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Monday, March 1, 2021

Unboxing: FairyLoot Deluxe Set of The Ember Quartet by Sabaa Tahir

 Hello, bibliovories! I'm back with an unboxing post! In the last year and a half, I've subscribed to three book subscription boxes - Illumicrate, The Bookish Box, and FairyLoot. One day I'll write a whole post on each company and what I like and dislike about them. Maybe I'll start posting unboxings of the monthly boxes for each company. But today, I'd like to share my unboxing of the first special edition set of books that I've bought from one of the many book subscription boxes - the signed Ember Quartet by Sabaa Tahir, created and sold by FairyLoot!

Here's the box!

Time to open...

What's the print on the top?

This is beautiful! Gold foil is one of my favorite designs. And all of the major characters of the book are here. I love that Elias and Laia are prominent.

Here is the set! Orange, blue, green, and purple. I love the animal symbols are the bottom of each spine.

Pretty sprayed spines!

More pretty spines!

The gorgeous stenciled design! So beautiful!

You thought I was done? Above is the hidden cover of Ember.

And Torch...

How about Reaper...

And Sky!

Did I mention that the books are signed?

And altogether:

And that's the set! It was a pretty penny, but absolutely worth it. I love this series so much, and I love this deluxe exclusive set so much. Many thanks to FairyLoot and Sabaa Tahir, for making this set available to readers for purchase!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Review: Namesake by Adrienne Young

Namesake by Adrienne Young
Book One of the Fable series
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: March 16, 2021
Rating: 5 stars
Source: Copy provided by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Trader. Fighter. Survivor.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

Filled with action, emotion, and lyrical writing, New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns with Namesake, the final book in the captivating Fable duology.

What I Liked:

I read Fable in early 2020, and I knew it would be a hit. I loved the book; it pulled me right out of the reading slump that I had been in, since my father passed away in 2019. Fable hit me at the right time. I received Namesake to read in Fall 2020 and I dove right back into the intriguing, mysterious world of the Narrows. Namesake is the conclusion to the Fable duology, and it's easily one of the best conclusion novels I've ever read.

Namesake picks up pretty much right where Fable left off, which, if you remember where Fable left off, you remember being pretty upset. (I was, anyway.) I won't state too much about that, since Fable published only six months ago, and I will try not to spoil anything regarding Namesake as well. 

The world of Fable becomes so much larger in this book. Adrienne Young expands the world, the schemes, the politics, the characters. A wider cast of characters is brought into play, and even more political machinations, deals, risks, and revelations. Some characters who were briefly mentioned in Fable become critical players in Namesake. No specifics, but believe me, the plot thickens! I love the Pirates of the Caribbean vibe of this series. That alone was enough to make me pick up Fable, but the excellent writing, fascinating characters, and slow-burn, tension-filled romance made me fall in love with the books.

One thing I will say vaguely is that a giant Easter egg in Fable manifests in Namesake. I was pretty sure I knew what the Easter egg was when I was reading Fable, but I wasn't quite right. It's not exactly what you'd expect. Adrienne Young is so sneaky, she had us thinking one thing, when in fact it was a completely different thing! I have listened to so many of her virtual tour events and Instagram live events, and she was SO sneaky about this Easter egg. Several months after reading Namesake (I'm writing this review in February 2021), I'm still delighted by the Easter egg.

Let's talk about the romance! Fable and West are such an adorable, heartbreakingly beautiful pair. I love the romance of this book, and series. This series - actually, this book (Namesake) has the most romance on page of any of Young's books. I love the slow-burn in Fable, and the pure yearning in Namesake. The romance of this series is one of my all-time favorites of the Young Adult books I've read.

Other relationships are just as important as the romance between Fable and West; for example, Fable's relationship with her father, Saint. But also, Fable's relationship with her mother, Isolde. I can't say anything more about that but... while Fable (book one) was more so about Fable and her father, Namesake is about Fable and her mother. In a way, but not in the way you think. You'll see!

I truly love the characters that Adrienne Young has written. Fable, a smart, brave young woman. West, a selfless, mysterious man with a heart of gold. Saint, a trickster father who keeps his cards close. And the crew of the Marigold, who is the family that Fable never knew she needed. I love the characters of this book, even the "villains", who have such compelling backstories.

Tropes: slow-burn romance, a hint of enemies-to-lovers romance (kind of? between West and Fable), found family, "chosen one"... kind of. You'll see what I mean.

I won't say anything else because I don't want to spoil the book, but I will say that the book ended really well. The series wraps up wonderfully. Adrienne Young proves that you don't need mass chaos and bloodshed to end a series (I'm looking at you, Game of Thrones). I'm not saying there is NO violence at the end, but, the ending is really good. My heart was full, after reading this book. This book is absolutely worth the (short) wait, the marathon binge-read, or however you'll read this series.  

What I Did Not Like:

I have no complaints! This book was such an excellent follow-up to Fable, and an amazing conclusion. I feel like I can't wait always say that about sequels or conclusion novels. 

Would I Recommend It:

If you read Fable, you HAVE to finish this series. Namesake is so easy to read - I finished it quickly, once I started getting into the story. I didn't want to put the book down. This series is such a riveting fantasy series, and it has good crossover appeal to young adult readers and adults. It's a favorite for sure - the series is a favorite in general!


5 stars. There was no doubt in my mind that Namesake would be just as incredible as Fable, if not more. Adrienne Young has not disappointed me yet; I can't wait to see what she publishes next!

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Read my review of Fable HERE!

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