The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid is a fascinating fantasy book questioning power, religion and the feeling of belonging in a magic infused medieval Hungaria. This is a breathtaking romp with a wolf-girl, akin to the wildlings from the North side of the wall in Game of Thrones, a real treat.
We follow Evike, a stubborn, strong, 25 years old heroine led out of her village as a sacrifice. The woodsmen, a fanatical zealot army, collect a girl from the savage tribe every few years, and this time it is her who is plucked out… the only girl without magic. And while the beginning of the book is all about trying to figure out what they do with the girls, discovering the cruel hardships Evike had to live through, it is so much more.
I greatly enjoyed the novel and there were many little things I particularly loved. I liked Evike’s curiosity towards other cultures and religions. Because she doesn’t believe the same as another, wasn’t brought up on the same stories, doesn’t shut her off them. She almost each time asked some questions and wanted to be included. She sees links, wants to know more, is willing to mix and learn and go beyond what she believes. I liked her open mindedness and found it refreshing because while it was inclusive it didn’t mean she lost any belief in her own gods and culture.
I loved that kindness is valued in this book, small and large gestures. There is a real reflection about what it means and how important little things are. And it is great that the message is relayed through a character who was brought up in a violent harsh world. I love to see characters that rebel against the wrong of their world, probably because I hate how some people reproduce the very patterns which made them suffer.
I liked little details like how the wilderlings live in a matriarchal society. How the two main characters are so different on the exterior and so similar when you dig. I really enjoyed the monster lore and which we’d had more. I liked how the forest was so present it almost felt like a character of the book… There is so many wonderful things to say about this work.
I would really recommend it to people who enjoyed Uprooted by Naomi Novik and Deerskin by Robin McKinley, or any heavy forest setting with a strong heroine fighting for her survival in an unfair medieval world.