If you're interested in books inspired by contemporary politics and history in Hungary, then "The Wolf and the Woodsman" by Ava Reid is the book for you.

What inspired "The Wolf and the Woodsman" and what can readers expect from the tale?

"The Wolf and the Woodsman" was as much inspired by contemporary politics as it was by history. Medieval Hungary was a bleak and violent world, filled with zealous cruelty. The character of what would eventually be known as the Hungarian nation was still being shaped, and it required the vicious suppression (and often utter destruction) of anything that didn’t fit the aspirational vision of that nation. Pagan beliefs were totally extinguished, and Jews and other ethnic minorities were brutally subjugated.

The politics of modern-day Hungary are very much informed by this history, though ironically pre-Christian pagan beliefs and cultural touchstones have in fact helped to form the character of the nation. They are even now used as tools of exclusion, reappropriated as Neo-Nazi symbols. I wanted the world I wrote to reflect both the history of Hungary and the contemporary political reality, both of which see ethnic minorities like Jews violently excluded.

So, as for what you can expect: a brutal world, a story about two outcasts trying to carve out their own place in the narrative, grappling with the question of how much they’re willing to sacrifice for a nation that doesn’t love them. It can be a bleak story, but I think it’s ultimately hopeful. It’s also a story about finding community and reclaiming harmful narratives and even writing your own.

What were your thoughts when you saw the finished cover and how does it represent the book?

I was blown away when I saw the finished cover. It was all hand-painted by an incredibly talented artist named Russell Cobb – there are absolutely no digital elements to it whatsoever, which I think makes it extremely special. There are so many intricate details (for those who have read the book, there are at least three “Easter eggs” hidden inside the design of the cloak!) and I think it’s moody, evocative, and a little foreboding, which is perfectly reflective of the atmosphere of the book.

It’s a pretty atypical cover for an adult fantasy novel (more Brit Bennett than George R.R. Martin), which I love, and I think also reflects the content of the book – literary and complicated and brimming with symbolism.

The first version of the cover I saw used a green background. I asked my publisher if we could change the background to blue, as blue is a significant color in Judaism. I’m really happy that they agreed, and I’m completely in love with the final product.

What's up next for you in the bookish world?

My second adult book is coming in summer of 2022. It’s a proper retelling of Grimm’s “The Juniper Tree,” more in the tradition of Angela Carter and Catherynne Valente than Arden or Novik. It’s a darker book than The Wolf and the Woodsman, straight horror with strange, claustrophobic, Gothic sensibilities.

I also have my YA debut coming in early 2023. It’s a literary mystery and fantasy romance called "A Study in Drowning" – think A.S. Byatt’s Possession but for YA. Like "The Wolf and the Woodsman," it’s a story about stories: who gets to tell them, and who gets the benefit of being believed when they do. While all my books have strong romantic elements, this is the first one that I consider to be a “true” romance. I’m very excited to share it.


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