In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods.– GoodReads
Content/Trigger Warnings from the Author:
– Gore, including graphic descriptions of dismemberment, amputation, mutilation, and immolation
– Torture, including whipping
– Self-harm, including self-amputation
– Animal death (graphic; the animals are not pets)
– Cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing
– Physical abuse by parents and parental figures
– Graphic descriptions of vomiting
I always love when I’m able to join in and keep up with Illumicrate or Fairyloot readalongs, and I was especially excited for this one. You compare a book to The Bear and the Nightingale and I AM THERE. I would say it maybe matches it on a small level of atmosphere but Reid says they pitched the book as ‘magic system based on body horror’ and I would say that’s a way more accurate ‘first look’ of the book.
This book is DARK. It’s also NOT YA. Also, it’s a standalone which always makes me happy. My dark heart was especially thrilled to dive into a dark atmospheric standalone with just the sort of magic system I could cringe at and simultaneously be fascinated by.
HUGE Pros? This was so darkly atmospheric. I was immediately thrown into this world, completely immersed into the pagan village that Évike is from. Reid also starts off the story at a run, which accounts a lot for the complete immersion. The magic system is different for all the religions included and we start with the pagan system in place for Évike‘s village. They live in a forest where even the trees can be dangerous and they stay well out of sight of the woodsmen. The woodsmen are soldiers of this monotheistic religion that those who live in the cities adhere to now as they are ruled by a king instead of under different tribal leaders.
Unfortunately the woodsmen always find them, and they always take a wolf for their King.
This year is no different and it’s what sets Évike on her journey.
The pacing is slow, this is a slow build with lots of pining, lots of darkness, and a good dash of gore/body horror.
I ADORED IT.
Some people were understandably not happy with Évike‘s pining for Gáspár whereas I enjoyed that. She wants what she cannot have, all her life she has wanted what she cannot have and it’s part of what pushes her forward on her journey. I also just liked Gáspár as a character.
Though we get to know Évike intimately, the side characters are more to enhance her journey. That being said, I still loved them all. This includes some amazingly sweet bonding moments between her and someone she thought lost to her that I will not say and spoil for you all. Also, while her desires are basic, to have power, to keep her village safe, and to live, Évike‘s not a simple character.
Gáspár is a very complex character, he’s tortured against what he believes and what he feels and I thoroughly enjoyed all the moments we get to see that inner torture surface. I do also really enjoy that, in my opinion, we see how different his strengths are compared to Évike‘s, and how at times it makes him seem weaker. And at times he is weaker. But this doesn’t diminish him, it enhances his complexity.
I will say that the ending was very satisfying to me, I like not knowing every single thing when the story has such a powerful and long lasting trajectory. I like to imagine what I think has happened and I like to think that the impact of Évike and Gáspár will ripple for ages in their world.
I gave this 4.5 instead of 5 only because I think that maybe it would have been better to either make it a little longer or even make it a duology. I didn’t want to rush the perfection of the ending and though it doesn’t feel rushed there does seem to be a small absence from feeling complete satisfaction.
I loved Reid’s storytelling, their writing voice is amazing and so distinct and I know I’ll be keeping an eye for the next book they write.