- Author: Ava Reid
- Series: Standalone
- Genre: Fantasy Romance
- No. of pages: 432
- Dates read: 24.07.2022 – 01.08.2022
- Star Rating: 4 stars
Plot: 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 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.
So, I picked this up after seeing all the hype on TikTok. I had enjoyed books like Spinning Silver and the Winternight Trilogy (all books they state are similar to this title) so I was going in with high hopes.
It’s strongest point to me was it’s worldbuilding. From the first page you are instantly flung into this world full of stories based on Hungarian folklore as well as Jewish mythology. Over the course of the book various characters tell tales about the world, morals, love etc. This was my absolutle favourite part of this book. You can see the shape of this world through the stories these characters tell. You an understand through these stories why characters act the way they do. Why they are motivated to do certain deeds etc.
The setting as well was very vast. From the pagan villages tucked away in a forest that moves, to snowy plains, all the way to the busy capital of the whole kingdom packed top to toe full of people. This helped give you a greater sense of place as well as grounding you in the story. You feel like you know this world well. Considering this is only a standalone story, loads of world-building was packed in and not in a way that felt overwhelming to the reader.
Character wise was super interesting. Something I took from this is no-one is wholly good or wholly bad. Some people may be more good but still have elements of bad about them and some people may be bad on a larger scale but still have a semblance of good in them. Évike and Gáspár’s relationship starts on in a way where you think, these two are never going to get on. I do not see this working out at all. But over the course of the journey they learn alot about themselves and each other. If you are an enemies to lovers fan and/or a slow burn fan you will love this story. I found at times for the situatuion going on with Gáspár and Évike to feel long and I was just waiting for them to come to certain realisations a lot quicker but this was another one of Reid’s greatest elements in this story. The slow-burn killed me but there were so many opposing factors for these two.
The discussion of faith and how it binds us in this story is amazing. We meet so many different characters in this story who follow different faiths, different gods etc. Watching them trying to battle with their feelings, their conflicts etc. alongside their faith was super interesting. Watching Évike trust in her gods while also questioning why they left her powerless or Gáspár who struggles with completing his mission for his god as he slowly learns more things about his past and about Évike. That made for such interesting reading from a character-study point of view as well as for the relationship between Évike and Gáspár.
In terms of the plot, I enjoyed the story I think it was structured well. The developments from leaving the pagan village all the way to end where developed well over the course of the story. I do think the ending felt a bit rushed but over all I enjoyed it. I was definitely more invested in Évike and Gáspár though than the actual plot itself.
Finally and my only critisim, the pacing. For me, the pacing was so slow. Especially at the beginning. I know this is due to setting everything up but at times I felt as if I was wading through mud. After getting past the set-up point where I felt the inital world-building and character dynamics were set up, that’s when I felt the pacing shift.
Overall this book was solid. Great worldbuilding, interesting characters and good plot.
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