The title is straight out of a fairy tale, but The Wolf and the Woodsman is an epic fantasy novel of politics, religion, love and deathly magic. Drawing upon Hungarian and Jewish mythology, it creates several utterly unique magic systems which serve to build up the world and tear the characters apart. It’s a page turner that explores the depths that humans will go to when tribalism wars with a greater understanding of the other and the development of empathy.
Evike is an outcast in her home village as the only woman who cannot do magic, but she has even less of a place in the capital city, being the child of two different reviled religions- the Pagans are seen as wicked witches and demon-worshippers, while the Yehuli are hated for handling money (a trade that was forced on them by the crown in the first place.) When the Woodsmen, a terrifying troupe of the royal family’s elite soldiers, come to collect a Pagan girl for sacrifice, the defenseless Evike is offered up to them. But is she really as defenseless as she thinks, or is there another form of magic she can learn to master, darker and more destructive than anything she has ever known? She isn’t the only one who is having her life shaken up by this terrible errand- Gaspar, a Woodsman who is more than he seems, can’t quite bring himself to hate the Pagan girl the way he is supposed to.
Evike and Gaspar have more problems to worry about than simply making it to the capital without being killed by monsters on the way. The conflicts between countries and ethnic groups are bigger than either of them, and they are saddled with the responsibility to fix them because no one else will do it. Evike searches out her mysterious Yehuli father and manages devilish bargains with the royal family to keep herself and her loved ones alive, while Gaspar has to decide whether to rebel against everything he has ever known for the sake of the oppressed and downtrodden.
The Wolf and the Woodsman is a thrilling journey through a very dangerous enchanted kingdom. To read it is to immerse yourself in a world where girls wearing wolf cloaks forge terrifying visions, sages can write the words of god into and out of existence, and regular human paranoia and cruelty are the real monsters. It’s a wonderful read, and I hope it paves the way for more creative mythology and worldbuilding in fantasy!
Written By: Mira G.