ARC REVIEW: JUNIPER & THORN BY AVA REID

  • STAR RATING: 3.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH:  368
  • WHAT SERIES? This is a standalone set in the same world as The Wolf and the Woodsman
  • CW: Cannibalism, eating disorder, emotional abuse, sexual assault, antisemitism, sexual content
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Voyager for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

A gruesome curse. A city in upheaval. A monster with unquenchable appetites.

Marlinchen and her two sisters live with their wizard father in a city shifting from magic to industry. As Oblya’s last true witches, she and her sisters are little more than a tourist trap as they treat their clients with archaic remedies and beguile them with nostalgic charm. Marlinchen spends her days divining secrets in exchange for rubles and trying to placate her tyrannical, xenophobic father, who keeps his daughters sequestered from the outside world. But at night, Marlinchen and her sisters sneak out to enjoy the city’s amenities and revel in its thrills, particularly the recently established ballet theater, where Marlinchen meets a dancer who quickly captures her heart.

As Marlinchen’s late-night trysts grow more fervent and frequent, so does the threat of her father’s rage and magic. And while Oblya flourishes with culture and bustles with enterprise, a monster lurks in its midst, borne of intolerance and resentment and suffused with old-world power. Caught between history and progress and blood and desire, Marlinchen must draw upon her own magic to keep her city safe and find her place within it.

WARNING: This is not a light-hearted fairy tale. This is the old, gruesome type of story. There is cannibalism. Kind of a lot of cannibalism, actually. There are mentions of rape and sexual assault. There is body horror. If any of these bother you, then do not read this book.

I’m not sure what I thought Juniper & Thorn was going to be about, but it isn’t what I read, that’s for sure. If I remember right, when I originally requested this ARC, maybe an adventure or possibly a strict retelling of a piece of folklore. It is a retelling, but damn it’s dark. To be fair, the original story that Juniper & Thorn is borrowing from is pretty dang dark, too.

Juniper & Thorn is about three witch-daughters of a great wizard. The eldest daughter is cruel, mean, and beautiful. The middle daughter is clever, and beautiful. The youngest daughter is plain, and meek. The wizard is (you guessed it) cruel and mean to his daughters, but powerful enough that they fear disobeying him. Each daughter has their own power that their father sells to the local townspeople so they can have money to eat. The father was cursed long ago to never be satisfied by anything – no food will fill his belly, no sleep will get him rested, and his daughters will never be good enough, etc, etc.

They live just on the outskirts of town, and are not allowed to leave the grounds of their estate. Of course, the very first thing they do in the novel is…leave the estate to go to town to see a ballet. This kicks off everything that happens — the youngest daughter is finally exposed to the real world, and falls in love with the main ballet dancer. While there, the three daughters overhear a conversation about men being found dead with their eyes, liver, and heart missing. This is important later. They return home, are eventually found out, and…well. The rest of the story happens, obviously.

I’m not entirely sure I enjoyed this book. The ending was extremely satisfying — it ends happily, surprisingly enough. It is written phenomenally, the story is told well, I just think the subject matter is not one that really vibes with me. Cannibalism is one of my extreme yucks, and there was… a lot of it in this book. However, if you’re into dark, gruesome fairy tales, I can quite easily recommend this book.

JUNIPER & THORN WILL BE RELEASED MAY 24, 2022.

Preorder at your local indie bookstore, or at the following links:

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE

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7 thoughts on “ARC REVIEW: JUNIPER & THORN BY AVA REID

  1. Great review! This sounds like a pretty dark read although I’m not surprised because I saw the author mention it several times on Twitter and I also read her debut at the start of this year, which was a lot more brutal than I expected! 🙈 I’m not sure how I feel about the cannibalism bit cos I don’t read a lot of it in books but also, it is quite the yuck. I’ve never read the original though so I’m still curious (I think lol).

    Liked by 1 person

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