Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Évike is a wolf girl without any magic, bullied by the other girls for her mixed heritage and lack of power. She should have died when her mother was taken. The king, desperate to keep himself in power when there are those who seek to remove him,  sends the Woodsmen to collect the pagan wolf girls, one by one. This time he wants a seer. Virág disguises Évike and hands her over to a one-eyed Woodsman, happy to have kept them at bay a little longer.

A rabbit might as well lust after a wolf that plans to eat it.

The Wolf and the Woodsman is set in a world frequented by religious persecution. The official religion of the country is the Patrifaith, sacrificing parts of themselves to Saint Istan to be gifted power in return. The Patritians wish to rid their land of both pagans and Yehuli, a religion that represents Judaism in this world. I liked that while they all had their different beliefs, that belief all gave them magic of a kind. Not one religion was “the right one”.

The one-eyed Woodsman turns out to be no ordinary Woodsman, and soon him and Évike are on a quest to find a mythical beast that might just be the answer to both their problems. Évike might have been bullied all her life but she still sees herself as a wolf girl, she still doesn’t want to see her home and her family destroyed, even if she doesn’t like them very much. This is not a story with clear cut morality.

You can’t hoard stories the way you hoard gold, despite what Virág would say. There’s nothing to stop anyone from taking the bits they like, and changing or erasing the rest, like a finger smudging over ink.

The throne is at risk to being lost to a charismatic individual, one who indoctrinates hatred through his impassioned speeches, blaming the country’s problems on the Yehuli, calling the pagans witches out for trouble. He represents a leader who can whip up hatred and create the path towards genocide. The story is based on Hungarian and Jewish history and mythology, and I’m guessing that history is around World War II and the rise of fascism in the early 20th century.

I loved the mythology so much. The religions were all connected but separate, at times brutal when characters lop off bits of themselves in order to be favoured by a god. Évike talks about some of the stories and myths, during her travels, helping to create a well-rounded picture of this world. The creatures that populate it include both the wonderful and the creepy.

Nándor told me that the Patrifaith was what made Régország, but that’s not true. It is made of a thousand different threads twining together like tree roots, shooting up tall and thick, aching toward some impossible whole. Mithros and Vilmötten are like a two-headed statue, or a coin with a different face on either side.

It’s also lovely to have a fully formed standalone fantasy like this. There is a proper ending!

The Wolf and the Woodsman is published by Del Rey and is out now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

20 Books of Summer #2

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