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Juniper & Thorn

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From highly acclaimed bestselling author Ava Reid comes a gothic horror retelling of The Juniper Tree, set in another time and place within the world of The Wolf and the Woodsman, where a young witch seeks to discover her identity and escape the domination of her wizard father, perfect for fans of Shirley Jackson and Catherynne M. Valente. A gruesome curse. A city in upheav From highly acclaimed bestselling author Ava Reid comes a gothic horror retelling of The Juniper Tree, set in another time and place within the world of The Wolf and the Woodsman, where a young witch seeks to discover her identity and escape the domination of her wizard father, perfect for fans of Shirley Jackson and Catherynne M. Valente. 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.


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From highly acclaimed bestselling author Ava Reid comes a gothic horror retelling of The Juniper Tree, set in another time and place within the world of The Wolf and the Woodsman, where a young witch seeks to discover her identity and escape the domination of her wizard father, perfect for fans of Shirley Jackson and Catherynne M. Valente. A gruesome curse. A city in upheav From highly acclaimed bestselling author Ava Reid comes a gothic horror retelling of The Juniper Tree, set in another time and place within the world of The Wolf and the Woodsman, where a young witch seeks to discover her identity and escape the domination of her wizard father, perfect for fans of Shirley Jackson and Catherynne M. Valente. 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.

30 review for Juniper & Thorn

  1. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    ↠ 5 stars Marlinchen is a witch, youngest of three daughters to a cursed wizard, living out her days in a city transforming from magic to industry. Last of the true witches in all of Oblya, she and her sisters cling to their gifts, which are little more than entertainment to the general populace and an asset to their father. Sequestered within the walls of their home, Marlinchen spends much of her free time placating the unending appetites of their authoritative father and utilizing her gifts to ↠ 5 stars Marlinchen is a witch, youngest of three daughters to a cursed wizard, living out her days in a city transforming from magic to industry. Last of the true witches in all of Oblya, she and her sisters cling to their gifts, which are little more than entertainment to the general populace and an asset to their father. Sequestered within the walls of their home, Marlinchen spends much of her free time placating the unending appetites of their authoritative father and utilizing her gifts to discern the truth from her clientele. The evening brings escape, as Marlinchen and her sisters creep into the city to partake in its revels and observe the captivating ballet theatre. These nighttime escapades offer salvation, but when Marlinchen captures the attention of a ballet dancer just as lost and isolated, her visits to the outside world become less uncommon. Entangled between the rage and hunger of her father, and her own desires, Marlinchen is caught in a snare, and the cost of freedom may be far more monstrous than she ever imagined. When I heard that Ava Reid had written a gothic horror retelling of The Juniper Tree, there was nothing I wouldn't do to read it at the soonest possible chance. Having absolutely worshiped her adult debut, The Wolf and the Woodsman, this novel promised to ruin me without remorse as much as its precursor. True to the fact, Juniper & Thorn is utterly gruesome, vividly capturing a darkness and horror that lingers down dark halls and underneath floorboards waiting for the prime moment to sink in its teeth. Reid is masterful at their craft, seamlessly blending horror and fantasy together in a story completely grotesque and illustrative of a blooming rose clouded among thorny brambles. Every sentence in this novel is striking, with imagery and prose that threatened to devour me whole. In time with the story, lore and fairytales play an important part in the main narrative, intersecting the vein of Marlinchen’s character development and the understanding of her own situation. These sporadic fairytales were definitely some of my favorite parts of the whole book, getting after the core themes and relationships between the main characters. At this point, Reid's capability for writing complex relationships is unquestionable, particularly ones that are nuanced and not simply good or bad, yet those you cannot help but love all the more. Three characters that come to mind are Marlinchen and her sisters Undine and Rose, as they endured years of abuse at the hands of their father, and impacted one another in continuously damaging ways. In turn, Marlinchen’s love interest Sevas was entirely endearing and latched on to my heart as the two attempted to escape their situations. A captivating gothic horror with a brutal design, Juniper & Thorn is imbued with memory, an examination of abuse, and survivorhood in all forms. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this arc in exchange for an honest review Trigger warnings: violence, emotional abuse, gore, blood, death, murder, body horror, cannibalism, eating disorder (bulimia), vomiting (graphic), sexual assault, antisemitism, xenophobia, drug use

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marquise

    UPDATE: See in comments The blurb for this book does describe the plot pretty well, it's indeed a dark fairy tale-inspired story that included serial murders and a family of witches living under the oppressive tutelage of their mage father, from whom they want to escape and enjoy life and love. The world it's set in is pretty much Russia just barely varnished with a layer of magic and new naming that doesn't quite obscure the real inspiration. I've been trying to enjoy this author's retellings UPDATE: See in comments The blurb for this book does describe the plot pretty well, it's indeed a dark fairy tale-inspired story that included serial murders and a family of witches living under the oppressive tutelage of their mage father, from whom they want to escape and enjoy life and love. The world it's set in is pretty much Russia just barely varnished with a layer of magic and new naming that doesn't quite obscure the real inspiration. I've been trying to enjoy this author's retellings since her début, and this is the second time in a row that I fail. I simply cannot connect with her characters and stories no matter how much I try, and it's frustrating because Ava Reid's playing ground of choice is Slavic lore. I like Eastern European fairy tales a lot, so whenever a book is announced with a blurb stating it takes its inspiration from Eastern European tales, I pay attention. I keep expecting another Katherine Arden or Naomi Novik, and instead they give me disappointments like Jumiper & Thorn. Besides that, another catch is that Ava Reid's prose is lovely. She definitely knows how to write, her command of imagery and mood and feels is superb, and the flow of her words is smooth. That's another reason to want to love her books so hard. And yet, the characters and the plotting proper are her weakness. There's no sense of moderation, no sense of directing her train of thought consistently, no good grasp of character progression, and above all, little command of plot structure. That eventually ends up harming her stories, because pretty words and on-point mood can only do so much for a book. The most off-putting aspect in Juniper & Thorn is the crass oversexualisation, and it starts too early, practically in the very first chapter, that starts with Marlinchen, the protagonist, slipping away with her sisters to the ballet and instantly lusting for the primo ballerino the minute he comes into the stage, drooling over Sevastyan's chest hair, the outline of his groin, etc., and ends up with masturbation. And it doesn't stop there, everything from sexual assault to paedophilia to incest is thrown at us without warning from there on, and whilst I'm not a stickler for trigger warnings, the excessive amount of triggering this book can set off merits saying that there should've been better warning for readers. Readers need to know what they're going to find here, and they weren't given fair warning because many, like me, didn't see any warnings when they asked for the book for review. We thought it was a Gothic fairy tale retelling with dark twists, exactly as the marketing specifies. But it's been revealed that its contents aren't the usual fare for retellings, and it should've been clarified. The oversexualisation takes away from the story, because Marlinchen and Sevas can't seem to be able to have a healthy interaction that's not immediately jumping into bed or involving sex in every single chapter. They're like traumatised rabbits that only know to couple whenever they're in the vicinity of each other, with little in the way of building up a relationship, and you end up wondering what exactly the story is here. And the descriptions are always tacky and ordinary, because the author doesn't write sex scenes well, and when you add to it the unnatural and criminal aspects (rape, paedophilia), it ends up wearing you down so badly the temptation to stop reading is irresistible. I did finish the book, however, optimistically hoping it'd get better. It did not. Reid went overdrive with the body horror, adding an excess of gore and bodily functions to the excess sex, so it turns unpleasant very quickly, it grosses you out reading all the vomiting, all the guts out, the blood... I'm not squeamish in the slightest, but this was too much even for my strong stomach. In the end, that was sold to me as a dark take on the Grimms' "The Juniper Tree" turned out to be a Jack the Ripper copycat with an emphasis on the gore and the sex and grossness, neglecting the plot and the characterisation. I really wish there had been more emphasis on the characters and less on the shock for shock's sake, as well as better marketing, because as with the first book, it promised more than it delivers but this time with the addition of needless triggers and titillation. I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Shannon

    I was already a big fan of Ava Reid after being thoroughly enchanted by The Wolf and the Woodsman, but Juniper and Thorn has cemented them as one of my favourite authors. Their sophomore novel is a Gothic horror, set in a city struck by the unstoppable wave of industrialisation. Here, a cruel wizard endlessly hungers under a curse, and his three daughters try their best to survive him. Reid captures the grisly darkness of The Juniper Tree – one of the Grimms' grimmer offerings – while leaving roo I was already a big fan of Ava Reid after being thoroughly enchanted by The Wolf and the Woodsman, but Juniper and Thorn has cemented them as one of my favourite authors. Their sophomore novel is a Gothic horror, set in a city struck by the unstoppable wave of industrialisation. Here, a cruel wizard endlessly hungers under a curse, and his three daughters try their best to survive him. Reid captures the grisly darkness of The Juniper Tree – one of the Grimms' grimmer offerings – while leaving room for moments of wonder and sweetness. Marlinchen is a deeply layered and interesting protagonist, and Reid writes her trauma, endurance and defiance with tremendous compassion and care. Now to wait (im)patiently for A Study in Drowning . . . Note: I received a free Advance Reading Copy of this book from the publisher.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shelley Parker-Chan

    Astonishing. There’s nothing about this book that I’d even think of changing—it’s a dark, terrible fairytale brought to perfection, and every element feels both classic and infinitely applicable to the now (it does go unflinchingly and truthfully into some very dark places, particularly with regards to domestic violence and child sex abuse, so be warned). In its atmosphere of unfolding horror (of powerlessness and abuse) and dread (of violence, of new and repeated cruelties), it reminded me a lo Astonishing. There’s nothing about this book that I’d even think of changing—it’s a dark, terrible fairytale brought to perfection, and every element feels both classic and infinitely applicable to the now (it does go unflinchingly and truthfully into some very dark places, particularly with regards to domestic violence and child sex abuse, so be warned). In its atmosphere of unfolding horror (of powerlessness and abuse) and dread (of violence, of new and repeated cruelties), it reminded me a lot of Elana Arnold’s Damsel—but the setting, where modernity has violently crashed into traditional places and lifestyles, ups the complexity and makes this a multi-layered masterpiece. I’ll be thinking about it for a long time. Note: I received a free Advance Reading Copy of this book from the publisher.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ava Reid

    As we are approximately six months from publication and advance copies are beginning to find their way into readers' hands, I would like to take this moment to provide content warnings for Juniper & Thorn. The last thing I want to do is cause serious psychological harm to readers whose traumatic experiences mirror those depicted in the book. At the same time, I ask that readers, particularly those who do not personally identify with these topics, not pre-judge the book based on content warnings. As we are approximately six months from publication and advance copies are beginning to find their way into readers' hands, I would like to take this moment to provide content warnings for Juniper & Thorn. The last thing I want to do is cause serious psychological harm to readers whose traumatic experiences mirror those depicted in the book. At the same time, I ask that readers, particularly those who do not personally identify with these topics, not pre-judge the book based on content warnings. Nuanced depictions of uncomfortable subject matter have always been crucial to literature - one of the most valuable elements of fiction is its capacity to explore these subjects, shine a light on topics that are traditionally stigmatized, and elevate the voices of those who have been historically silenced. If content warnings are used as a sort of classification system for books, rather than for the intended purpose of protecting vulnerable readers, then the net effect is only to further stigmatize these topics. Juniper & Thorn is a horror novel. It is meant to shock, unnerve, and generally to provoke intense emotional reactions; these are the hallmarks of the genre. Many readers and writers find a certain comfort in a genre where these reactions are valued rather than maligned, and this is one of the reasons I was drawn to the gothic horror tradition. Please keep in mind: something that is repugnant to one reader can be life-saving for another. A book is more than the sum of its trigger warnings. While I strongly condemn the pressure many authors have been put under to trot out their trauma as justification for the content in their works, Juniper & Thorn comes from a deep place in my heart. It has eaten at me (no pun intended - okay, a little pun intended), and I hope that, in some way or another, it eats at you, too. So, without further ado, the content warnings for Juniper & Thorn: Gore and body horror Child sexual abuse; incest Cannibalism Antisemitism, xenophobia, and scientific racism Physical and psychological abuse by family members; gaslighting Self-harm and suicidal ideation Bulimia; graphic descriptions of vomiting Animal death

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    Check out my giveaway for one of EIGHT advance reader copies over on Instagram: JUNIPER & THORN ARC GIVEAWAY ________________________ A new book by Ava Reid set in the world of The Wolf and the Woodsman. I die. Check out my giveaway for one of EIGHT advance reader copies over on Instagram: JUNIPER & THORN ARC GIVEAWAY ________________________ A new book by Ava Reid set in the world of The Wolf and the Woodsman. I die.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ashlee » libraryinthecountry

    Wow, wow, wow this book. I’m a feeling a lot of things after reading it, but most of all I’m feeling seen. This book was like stepping through the halls of my soul. It resonated so deeply with me, and feels like a great big “YOU MATTER” in so many ways. ♥️ First of all, Juniper and Thorn is an adult gothic horror fantasy. Don’t let “retelling” lead you to believe this is a whimsical fairytale. There are certainly fairytale aspects of the book, but The Juniper Tree is already a dark story, and Rei Wow, wow, wow this book. I’m a feeling a lot of things after reading it, but most of all I’m feeling seen. This book was like stepping through the halls of my soul. It resonated so deeply with me, and feels like a great big “YOU MATTER” in so many ways. ♥️ First of all, Juniper and Thorn is an adult gothic horror fantasy. Don’t let “retelling” lead you to believe this is a whimsical fairytale. There are certainly fairytale aspects of the book, but The Juniper Tree is already a dark story, and Reid reimagines it in ways that only they could do (and they do it well!). One of the purposes of the horror genre is to leave readers unsettled and if you feel that way after finishing this book, all I can say is: Good! Mission accomplished! Personally, I delighted in every bewildering moment of it. Again, it resonated deeply with me and I think many who have experienced similar traumas and violence will feel the same way. I greatly appreciated the way Reid carefully and accurately represents the effects of sexual trauma, particularly through Marlinchen’s intrusive thoughts and fixation on specific body parts, which tend to be hypersexual in nature. This is a very common behavior and even coping mechanism in folks who have experienced sexual trauma and violence, especially CSA. (There are reviews out there clutching pearls over this and making it out to be gratuitous or gross or unnecessary or disgusting, and simply put, it’s disappointing and disheartening to see, as someone who actually lives these types of thoughts and behaviors. What do these statements say to people who live this everyday? It’s not helpful rhetoric on SA or CSA, and completely misses what I feel is one of the central themes of this book. Again, reminder here that this is a horror book borrowing from an already horrifying story.) Reid has been frank and open about how much of this book reflects their own experiences and I felt like they handled that portrayal through the perspective of a main character masterfully. Simply put, it’s not something we see often in genre fiction. Characters who go through similar experiences are supposed to Get Good With A Sword™ and slay dragons and topple evil and dismantle authoritarian governments. Rather, Marlinchen isn’t a character that’s going to lead a rebellion or sacrifice themself for the greater good or take down a ruthless king. Instead she felt REAL. Marlinchen is smart and resourceful and has an innate desire to not just survive, but to live and experience everything the world has to offer. And when she meets Sevas and they discover how much of their experiences mirror one another? *chef’s kiss* Marlinchen and Sevas have both been treated in unspeakable ways by the people they should be able to trust and rely on more than any one (common for those who have experienced SA, particularly CSA), and there’s an innate beauty in seeing Marlinchen and Sevas them come together and discover how much power they hold and feed into the other. There is satisfying romance to root for throughout this book as well and it balanced the horror themes well. Sevas is the himbo fantasy love interest I didn’t know I needed, but I’m taking him home with me! You saw it here first! Simply put, Juniper & Thorn is a dark book with dark themes and dark consequences. It’s a story of two souls valued only for what they can do, rather than who they are, and the unraveling of the world around them that happens when they stand together. Again, if this book leaves you feeling unsettled, then it’s done what it’s supposed to do! I won’t get into a long list of trigger warnings on this book because as a horror novel, it’s safe to assume there will be potentially triggering content. Pointedly, there is depictions of (childhood) sexual assault and trauma (both post experience and seen through flashback), body horror, gore, bulimia, animal death, violence, and more. If you’re at all familiar with The Juniper Tree, then it’s safe to assume this book has a similar level of content. Finally, this is an adult novel. Between The Wolf and the Woodsman and this book, Reid has found themselves solidly in my favorite fantasy authors and I’m looking forward to everything that comes from them in the future! This book was a win in so many ways for me, and I feel as though I’ve found a kindred soul in Reid’s storytelling. Original, Cover Reveal thoughts: This book had me at "baroque Gothic horror" but I stayed for that INCREDIBLE cover. It is giving me all the feels and I am ready to get lost within the dark halls and brambles of this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    kaitlyn

    thank you netgalley, avon and harper voyager, and ava reid for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! i really enjoyed this book and i can tell that it’s one that will stay on my mind for a long time. it’s dark and gruesome, but also hopeful. juniper and thorn is a loose retelling of “the juniper tree” and follows marlinchen and her two sisters, along with their father. i really enjoyed the writing style of this one and thought that it fit the story really well. reid’s lyrical pros thank you netgalley, avon and harper voyager, and ava reid for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! i really enjoyed this book and i can tell that it’s one that will stay on my mind for a long time. it’s dark and gruesome, but also hopeful. juniper and thorn is a loose retelling of “the juniper tree” and follows marlinchen and her two sisters, along with their father. i really enjoyed the writing style of this one and thought that it fit the story really well. reid’s lyrical prose helps the book establish its place as a gothic fantasy novel and kept me intrigued the entire time i was reading. i loved seeing the growth that all of the characters undergo throughout the novel. marlinchen starts to believe more in herself and learns some of the secrets that have been kept from her. there are some lighter moments between her and those she loves, but overall this is a very gruesome novel, and i recommend checking trigger warnings before reading. i was shocked at how descriptive some of the scenes were, because i wasn’t aware that this was an adult book before reading, but i was really impressed with it. ava reid did a wonderful job with the setting and character growth in this book and i’m eager to read more from them. i highly recommend this book for people wanting a darker fantasy novel.

  9. 5 out of 5

    EmmaSkies

    I haven’t had a five star read in almost six months and THE DROUGHT IS OFFICIALLY OVER. FIVE [VERY WEIRD] STARS. Reading Juniper & Thorn is like reading a very dark old Eastern European fairytale in the best possible way. The writing in this book is what made me rate it 5 stars because...oh my god. It's haunting and poetic and beautiful and dark and it just sucks you right in and doesn't let go. Ava Reid's prose is incredible. (It has just now come to my attention that this is a retelling of the I haven’t had a five star read in almost six months and THE DROUGHT IS OFFICIALLY OVER. FIVE [VERY WEIRD] STARS. Reading Juniper & Thorn is like reading a very dark old Eastern European fairytale in the best possible way. The writing in this book is what made me rate it 5 stars because...oh my god. It's haunting and poetic and beautiful and dark and it just sucks you right in and doesn't let go. Ava Reid's prose is incredible. (It has just now come to my attention that this is a retelling of the Grimm fairytale The Juniper Tree, so the whole "reads like a fairytale" thing makes a lot of sense now.) I don't even know how to rate or review the story (I'm terrible at reviewing books I loved, I just love them). I have quite literally had this unfinished review sitting open in a tab in Chrome for 3 days while I try to figure out what to say. Juniper & Thorn is the story of a young witch whose life is confined to a family that mistreats her and a father who terrifies her in a rapidly changing world where her family's brand of magic is little more than a tourist trap of the Old Ways. It is about isolation and the desire to be free warring with the fear of the unknown. It's about all the ways an abuser exerts control over their victims in an effort to feel fulfilled in a way that will ultimately never be enough. It's about love and the escape it can bring. This book is a difficult read at times. It is gruesome and devastating; both hard to watch and hard to look away. I've never read anything quite like it. CWs: - Gore/Body Horror - Childhood SA - Disordered Eating

  10. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Kersten

    “No one had ever told me that I was allowed to scream.” So What’s It About? 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 “No one had ever told me that I was allowed to scream.” So What’s It About? 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. What I Thought I missed Reid’s debut The Wolf and the Woodsmanlast year, but Juniper & Thorn sounded like such a good fit for me that I was delighted to get an ARC. Thanks to NetGalley for that. The first thing that I can say about this book is that I wanted to keep reading it very badly and ended up finishing it in a day. There was definitely something about it that drew me in all the way until the end. I think a lot of this has to do with the writing style, which I generally found to be very elegant, immersive and effective in creating a sense of a dreadful fairy tale with lots of interesting/charming little details, especially about the stories that Marlinchen loves. I did notice a few tics and there were some places where the similes didn’t work for me, but I can see the language being a big draw for lots of readers. As a fairy tale retelling, I think this book does a good job of taking the roots of The Juniper Tree and transforming it into something interesting and new that still stays true to the bloody heart of the original (extremely grim and grisly) tale. All of the magical elements worked for me quite well. I think Juniper & Thorn ended up being a weaker read for me when it came to the way that it remained true to fairy tale tropes with regard to Marlinchen’s love interest and sisters - specifically, the love story progresses very rapidly and the sisters are frustratingly one-dimensional. Sevas, the ballet dancer who is Marlinchen’s love interest, only interacts with her a few times - they meet briefly in an alley, talk again briefly in her sister’s storeroom, have a date where they go to a tavern and the beach, and then they briefly see each other again while Marlinchen is trying to heal a customer - but they end up being more or less ride or die for the rest of the book after these interactions. While I did think each scene built upon the last and I thought their relationship was fine overall, I do think the romance could have been a stronger element of the story with more development. I also think that their shared experience of being survivors of abuse is a really powerful idea, but I would have really liked to see this idea of survivor solidarity explored with more depth in their interactions so that it felt a little less like the trope of a woman developing the courage to fight against her subjection just because she develops a romantic relationship with a man. I don’t mean to say that this is entirely true of Juniper & Thorn because there are certainly instances of both of them supporting the other against the people who are dangerous to them, but I personally would have liked to see even more of this. As for Marlinchen’s sisters, their role in the story is essentially that of the nasty fairy tale sisters: to insult and patronize her, “let” their father scapegoat her more than them, and keep her excluded from their secret rebellions against their father because they think she is stupid. There are a few other fantasy books I’ve read recently that explore siblings surviving in and after abusive situations, specifically The Once and Future Witches, Spinning Silver, and The Onion Girl. I think these three books did a good job of showing how a family member’s abuse can destroy the relationships between siblings and turn them against each other as they hurt each other to protect themselves, and Juniper & Thorn does this too. But in the other books I mentioned, there was also room for growth and reconciliation and the slow repair of terrible relationships between the siblings once their abuse ended - they acknowledged the things they had done to hurt each other and betray each other while they tried imperfectly to survive in situations that no children are equipped to survive in; they grappled with what it meant to have turned against each other, blamed each other and tried/not tried to protect each other from the abuse. To simply say “Well, Marlinchen’s sisters just suck and there’s no room to examine this possible aspect of their mutual experiences of abuse” feels disappointing to me. The strongest parts of the book to me might be the way that Reid writes Marlinchen’s self-loathing and the nature of her father's abuse itself. Her father and his treatment of his daughters are written with a lot of truth, power and insight into parental abuse. Marlinchen's inner chaos and self-loathing feel genuine and raw, and I really value books that are willing to give an unflinching look at the ugly, messy effects of abuse. We see her fantasies of grotesque self-harm, her hatred of her body, her eating disorder, and the self-effacement and doubt that she slowly fights off as she starts to take action for herself. There is absolutely power in the way Reid wrote all of this.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Smith

    “What was a story except a berry you ate over and over again, until your lips and tongue were red and every word you spoke was poison?” Thank you to the publishers and Edelweiss for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Ava Reid’s debut, The Wolf and the Woodsman, was nothing short of a masterpiece of adult fantasy and set such a high standard for what debuts could accomplish. I was incredibly excited to be able to continue to support them and read more of their work… and a fantasy-horror rete “What was a story except a berry you ate over and over again, until your lips and tongue were red and every word you spoke was poison?” Thank you to the publishers and Edelweiss for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Ava Reid’s debut, The Wolf and the Woodsman, was nothing short of a masterpiece of adult fantasy and set such a high standard for what debuts could accomplish. I was incredibly excited to be able to continue to support them and read more of their work… and a fantasy-horror retelling of Grimm’s darkest fairytale? Say no more! Juniper & Thorn follows Marlinchen, the youngest of three daughters of the last wizard in Oblya, a city in the midst of throwing off the old ways and embracing modernization. As witches, Marlinchen and her sisters are little more than a source of income for their tyrannical father, who keeps them locked away from the outside world and under a tight leash. But as young women, they chafe under his rules and sneak out of the house at night. On Marlinchen’s first night out, she is swept away by the ballet performance she sees, and the principal dancer who plays Prince Ivan. Every midnight tryst leaves hope for true love and freedom, but she also risks her father’s magic and rage if she’s ever found out. Between money problems, their father’s turbulent moods and explosive fury, and a monster who stalks the streets of Oblya murdering innocents, everything will fall to Marlinchen as she figures out the true depths of what her father has done to them, exactly what the cost of freedom could be, and if she can afford to pay it. Similar to TW+TW, Reid is able to craft such vivid, palpable atmosphere that is perfectly suited to the story they are trying to tell. Behind sunny and bright gardens lurk monsters and a sinister house that hides many things. Times of day alternate, turning sunny gardens to shadow-filled silence. Night migrations that lead to brightly lit ballet theaters. Like taking a bite of fruit with a rotten core, the atmosphere is in turns gorgeous and enticing, then shocking and disgusting, and back again. There’s a claustrophobic feel to the horror within their house, the weight of secrets and suffering. The vividly different imagery mirrored their abusive father’s moods. Sometimes he would be kind and grateful, and then he could explode and threaten them with his magic. They lived in constant fear of him. He was cursed by a witch to never feel satisfied with anything. This novel was a realistic (but horrible) example of how it can feel to live under the abuse from a parent. The fear. The unknown. Walking on eggshells. Desperately trying ANYTHING to please them and to be loved, only to fail, to slip up, again and again. Nothing will ever be good enough, and the difficulty of truly coming to terms with that fact. Fairytales are woven in to this narrative as Marlinchen recounts them to herself as she compares them to her life or uses them to make sense of things that have happened to her, or tells them to Sevas, the love interest. She was a child raised on magic and a fairytale codex and since this was a fairytale retelling, it seemed fitting. I always love the incorporation of fairytales and mythology within fantasy books. And Sevas, my god, I would die for him. I truly don’t know how Ava is able to write such compelling but noticeably different love interests. I loved Gaspar in TW+TW, but they are not very similar and relationship dynamics were completely different as well. Sevas’ kindness and compassion and understanding to Marlinchen from the very beginning above all. There is something so visceral and unendingly awe-inspiring than a good, old fashioned “I see you. I see all of your flaws. I accept them. I love you.” scene. They make me want to rattle the bars of my sanity cage and scream into my pillow. And I have to say I loved the complex relationship Marlinchen had with her sisters. So many times we read books about siblings being the best of friends, even if that isn’t always what reflects real life. Marlinchen’s relationship with her sisters was messy, was awful, set them apart, showed what they all had to do to themselves and to each other to survive living under their father, regardless if that meant throwing someone else to their father’s rage. I found it fascinating, and horrible, and understandable. Since humanity began recording their stories, we’ve used fairytales to explore the darkness inside us and around us and explain that monsters can come from within as easily as they can stalk us through the woods. Juniper & Thorn is faithful to that purpose and shows such understanding and reverence to that function fairytales performed, and as custom, also managing to have a happy ending for our dear plain-faced fairytale heroine Marlinchen. I look forward to anything else Ava Reid may write in the future, especially A Study in Drowning (fall 2023) and will certainly add this book to my collection come June! I encourage you to read the author’s full statement regarding this book’s content warnings that you can find in the Goodreads reviews and as a reminder, this book is a fantasy horror. It’s meant to horrify, to repulse, to offend. It tackles and gives words to topics that may be hard to read for some, but everyone, from abuse survivors, to SA survivors, to ED survivors, deserve to have stories written for them and deserve to see themselves within fiction. And perhaps even more importantly: remember that survivors have different experiences. Do not disregard their voices because you, personally, might not find it palatable. Content warnings: gore / body horror, child sexual abuse, physical and psychological family abuse, bulimia and graphic depictions of vomiting, animal death, cannibalism, self-harm and suicidal ideation, antisemitism and xenophobia.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Laurens.Little.Library

    Will I write a thesis on this? Honestly, probably yes. (In video essay format, obviously 😉) When I do, I’ll update this review. But I guess I’ll leave you with this: I cannot disagree with the 1-star reviews of this book more. And I will be compiling my arguments for you in a TikTok. Watch this space xx

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jena

    4.5 stars This is the first book I’ve read by Ava Reid, and I was absolutely blown away by her writing style. It’s very atmospheric and clearly inspired by a few different gothic works. This story is equally as interesting as it is beautifully written. Ava Reid weaves a touching story about parental abuse through a fascinating magic filled mystery. Overall, I was so engrossed and impressed, I can’t recommend this author enough! Thank you to Edelweiss for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brianna

    Thank you endlessly to Harper Voyager for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review! Just a note on the CW/TWs as well as the book as a whole: Juniper & Thorn vividly portrays intense topics such as abuse, sexualization, intrusive thoughts, eating disorders, and much more. This book is about LIVING with trauma. It is about memory. It is about dehumanization. And it challenges not only the main character, but the audience to digest these topics while viewing the characters and the story a Thank you endlessly to Harper Voyager for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review! Just a note on the CW/TWs as well as the book as a whole: Juniper & Thorn vividly portrays intense topics such as abuse, sexualization, intrusive thoughts, eating disorders, and much more. This book is about LIVING with trauma. It is about memory. It is about dehumanization. And it challenges not only the main character, but the audience to digest these topics while viewing the characters and the story as whole and complex and utterly human. Look after yourself while reading this book and please read, review, and recommend with care and nuance. Here is the author's wonderful commentary on this. Ava Reid's writing only gets richer and more enjoyable with time, and I know that my thoughts are only beginning to marinate and shift. There are elements (such as the theme of hunger or the use of snake imagery) that are still settling in and I'll do my best to update my opinions as they develop, but I'm sure this is a book that will change meaning many a time over the course of my life. In Juniper & Thorn, Ava Reid - using masterful descriptive and vivid writing - explores the way humans will do anything to search for meaning or a larger message in our own tragedies. We experience this world through the lens of a girl who uses stories as a vehicle to move about her life and who learns to ask: who is the one telling these stories? When we're children, we are taught right from wrong. We are taught who are the heroes and who are the monsters. And it affects our perspective every single day for the rest of our lives. It affects who we trust. It affects our prejudices and our privileges. It affects who we allow to dictate our own experiences. But most importantly, it affects the stories we tell to ourselves and to others. Folkloric themes and the history of storytelling are neatly folded and baked into every ounce of this text. From the theme of hunger and insatiability used as a metaphor for control, to the plentiful (near overflowing) use of the rule of threes, Ava Reid does not allow us to forget the limited and particular perspective of our story-obsessed main character. And for my fellow fans of The Wolf and the Woodsman, who likely want to know how the romance is: it was spectacular. As all good romances should be, it is built upon intrigue and adventure, yet respect and care. Through Marlinchen's limited scope of archetypes, she struggles to find a way to categorize her love interest. He's Jewish, so therefore she should view him as monstrous and greedy - the way she's been taught to view Jews. But he's strong and elegant, so she should view him as a hero. And so she has to learn to break down these archetypes between them and view him as what he is: a boy with a complicated and very human life. (His true form is actually not monster nor hero nor even a boy. He's just a simp.) Yet in contrast to TWATW, this book takes place mostly in one location, is severely slow-paced, and is almost purely character-driven. (So if you’re expecting the same adventurous and overwhelmingly stuffed plot in this work, you won’t find it here.) It’s a brilliant show of Ava Reid’s versatility, able to shift the writing style and approach to serve the story being told. It’s truly the sign of a master storyteller and has solidified Ava’s place as my favorite author. But personally, I think my favorite thing about this book, and about Ava Reid’s writing, is their protagonists. Ava writes real people. Marlinchen is morally grey, and not in a badass, make-me-your-villain way (though I do think she is also both of those things), but in the way that we are all morally grey. In the way that navigating the world is inherently a gray experience, especially when you’re raised within such a limited scope of understanding, especially when you’re taught corrupt and bigoted perspective, and especially when you’re living with trauma. Ava Reid’s protagonists move about the world doing the best they can to protect themselves and their happiness. Marlinchen is no exception to this. She is the perfect portrayal of a survivor of CSA and abuse by not being perfect. By showing that there is no right way to handle trauma. By showing that every single day is different, but every single day she is alive and doing her best to live for herself. And isn’t that what we’re all doing? I truly do not have the words to unpack the many well-crafted layers of this book, but I do have the words to tell you that I adored it. And that I hope you will too. CW/TW: eating disorder (graphic), emesis, physical/emotional/sexual abuse/child abuse (graphic), SA*, sexual harassment, pedophilia, misogyny, antisemitism, xenophobia, scientific racism/eugenics, animal death (graphic), death, childbirth (mention), gore, blood, body horror, violence, cannibalism, incest, self-harm ideation, suicidal ideation, character death, murder, drug use (nonconsensual), alcoholism *the worst of it is skippable: p. 167-175 (start of chapter to paragraph break)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Allison Saft

    I absolutely ADORE THIS BOOK, which is haunting and whimsical and brimming with monsters both human and fantastical. More importantly, it has my sweet children, Marlinchen and Sevas, both of whom I would lay down my life for without question. This book is a reimagining of The Juniper Tree, and the prose is as effortlessly beautiful and timeless as any fairytale. But what I admire most about this book is how cleverly Ava uses fairytale conventions to underscore the horrors her protagonists experi I absolutely ADORE THIS BOOK, which is haunting and whimsical and brimming with monsters both human and fantastical. More importantly, it has my sweet children, Marlinchen and Sevas, both of whom I would lay down my life for without question. This book is a reimagining of The Juniper Tree, and the prose is as effortlessly beautiful and timeless as any fairytale. But what I admire most about this book is how cleverly Ava uses fairytale conventions to underscore the horrors her protagonists experience: stories root themselves deeply and begin to sprout thorns the more and more they're repeated. J&T is delightfully gruesome--but always, always hopeful. I seriously can't wait for y'all to read this one next year!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lexi Brooke

    TW: Gore, excessive blood/bleeding and body horror; Sexual abuse, pedophilia and child sexual abuse, incest; Cannibalism; Antisemitism, xenophobia, and scientific racism; Physical and psychological abuse by family members, gaslighting; Self-harm and suicidal ideation; Bulimia, including graphic descriptions of vomiting; Animal abuse and death; Mentions of childbirth (off page); Sex, both on page and mentioned; Death, both on and off page —— As the last true witches of Oblya, Marlinchen and her sis TW: Gore, excessive blood/bleeding and body horror; Sexual abuse, pedophilia and child sexual abuse, incest; Cannibalism; Antisemitism, xenophobia, and scientific racism; Physical and psychological abuse by family members, gaslighting; Self-harm and suicidal ideation; Bulimia, including graphic descriptions of vomiting; Animal abuse and death; Mentions of childbirth (off page); Sex, both on page and mentioned; Death, both on and off page —— As the last true witches of Oblya, Marlinchen and her sisters, Rose and Undine, are trapped in the gripped of their overbearing wizard father. As the city of Oblya veers away from its magic roots and industry grows, their fathers grip on the girls and their magic grows tighter and tighter by day. But by night, Marlinchen and her sisters sneak from their home to see the wonder of the city. As Marlinchen’s late night escapes grow more frequent, spurred by her lust from a local ballet performer, the stakes grow higher. A monster lingers in the streets of Oblya, waiting to pounce. Marlinchen must keep her city safe while trying to find her new place within it. While I wasn’t super enamored with Ava Reid’s debut novel, The Wolf and the Woodsman, despite the hype around it but the summation of this book truly called to me. Gothic horror fairytale retellings are one of my absolute favorite genres, so I truly expected to love this one but oh boy, was I unprepared for what was to come. While the author was kind enough to post content/trigger warnings on Goodreads, no such warnings were posted in the listing on NetGalley, so I was horribly overwhelmed by the content, as I had no warning of what to expect. The bulk of this book focuses on traumatic family abuse, both physical and psychological, mentions of sexual assault of adults and minors and heavily features anti-Semitic views. It’s not until the last quarter or so of the book that the bulk of the horror and gore is present. This book was extremely triggering and I truly hope the final copy lists these triggers more clearly so no other reader experiences the content without fair warning. Triggers aside, I was completely underwhelmed by the actual content of the novel. While you could clearly see where the author pulled inspiration from The Juniper Tree, it is by no means a retelling, just inspired by at best. Marlinchin as a narrator did nothing for me, overly meek and dismissive in the face of her abuse and the romance between her and Sevas felt like two traumatic people falling for the first person they meet outside of that trauma. No build up in the romance, just zero to love. Marlinchen’s development as a character is sudden and underdeveloped. The redeeming characters of the novel were Rose and Undine in the background, the development of their cruelty from their trauma was so raw and well presented. The plot and world also felt underdeveloped and carelessly thrown together. Overall, my biggest issue with this book was how oversexualized it was. I lost count of how many times Marlinchen became hyperfocused on someone’s nipples and if the author had used the words “maidenhead” or “seed” one more time, I probably would have thrown my Kindle across the room. The plot was completely vulgar at points and I put the book down several times, completely nauseated by the content. Nothing about the original fairytale required that level of sexualization. That may be a purely personal preference, but again, I was not prepared for that at all. I gave the book a generous 2 stars because I know some of the faults and issues were my own personal preference, but this book did not do it for me.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carole (Carole's Random Life)

    This review can also be found at https://carolesrandomlife.com/ I loved this book! Ava Reid’s debut, The Wolf and the Woodsman, was one of my favorite books in 2021 so to say that I was excited to read this book is an understatement. I couldn’t wait to dive into this story and once I did I read almost the entire book in a single day simply because I didn’t want to put it down. This is a very dark tale and I would encourage readers to check out the content warnings before picking this one up. This This review can also be found at https://carolesrandomlife.com/ I loved this book! Ava Reid’s debut, The Wolf and the Woodsman, was one of my favorite books in 2021 so to say that I was excited to read this book is an understatement. I couldn’t wait to dive into this story and once I did I read almost the entire book in a single day simply because I didn’t want to put it down. This is a very dark tale and I would encourage readers to check out the content warnings before picking this one up. This story is told from the point of view of a young witch, Marlinchen, who lives with her father, a wizard living under a curse. Marlinchen and her two older sisters must deal with his cruel ways but they have found a way to escape to the city to see the ballet while he sleeps. This is where she meets Sevas, the principal dancer in the show. Even though Marlinchen isn’t as beautiful as her two older sisters, she wins the eye of the young dancer. The world that Marlinchen and Sevas live in is often cruel and decisions about their lives are frequently made by others but they hope to change that. I grew to like Marlinchen pretty quickly and hated the way she was treated. I really wanted to see some positive changes come into her life. She worked so hard to keep her father happy and was never appreciated. The story itself was exciting. There were some pretty big surprises that came into play in the story. Because of Marlinchen’s father’s magic, anything could happen in this tale which kept things really interesting. I thought that the writing was excellent and loved the way that the vivid descriptions helped to bring the story to life. I would recommend this book to others. This was an incredibly imaginative and well-written tale that kept me glued to the pages. I have not read The Juniper Tree so I can’t say how this book compares but it was an entertaining read on its own. I look forward to reading more of this author’s work in the future. I received an advanced review copy of this book from Harper Voyager. Initial Thoughts I read almost all of this book in a single day. I just didn't want to put it down! I loved Ava Reid's debut, The Wolf and the Woodsman, and was eager to dive into this book. This is a very dark story told from the point of view of a young witch, Marlinchen, who lives with her father, a wizard living under a curse. I grew to like Marlinchen pretty quickly and hated the way she was treated. There were a few really big surprises that came into play before the story drew to a close. This was an incredibly imaginative and well-written tale.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kristenelle

    I requested this on NetGalley after seeing Shelley Parker-Chan say it was vibey goodness. I don't normally take authors' recommendations seriously because I suspect they are all just agreeing to support each other regardless of whether they actually enjoy each other's work. And indeed, this book is not at all like what Parker-Chan writes. But the recommendation did make me take a look at the book and it looked cool! Atmospheric, dark fairytale? That is usually my jam. What I did not realize goin I requested this on NetGalley after seeing Shelley Parker-Chan say it was vibey goodness. I don't normally take authors' recommendations seriously because I suspect they are all just agreeing to support each other regardless of whether they actually enjoy each other's work. And indeed, this book is not at all like what Parker-Chan writes. But the recommendation did make me take a look at the book and it looked cool! Atmospheric, dark fairytale? That is usually my jam. What I did not realize going into this was that it is by the same author and in the same universe as The Wolf and the Woodsman...which I dnf'd on the first chapter last year due to cruelty and YA vibes. I'm glad I didn't know that now because I probably wouldn't have picked it up if I had. I really enjoyed this. It is a full length novel, but read very quickly. It feels like a dark fairytale and reminded me of Spinning Silver in its tone and Eastern European references. It is about a wizard and his three witch daughters living in a world that is industrializing and moving past magic. The story is from the perspective of the youngest daughter and explores themes of abuse, trauma, and resistance. There are both horror and romance elements to this story, although I wouldn't say it fully commits to either. Things this book does really well: -beautiful, poetic prose -dark, romantic atmosphere -wish fulfillment romance -romance where both characters are equally strong and vulnerable and both have their own traumas -portrayal of abuse and dysfunctional family (accurate and nuanced) Things this book could have done better: -romance was really sweet, but unbelievably quick and simple -a lot of gratuitous nipple violence -at one point a male character is described as screaming like a little girl...which I feel is misogynistic. Why not say he was screaming like a little boy? Little boys and girls sound the same and the character was male. I have to assume that the inference is that it is even more shameful to sound like a girl. -bulimia was portrayed, but not discussed at all. I didn't understand why this was part of the story. Thank you to NetGalley and Avon and Harper Voyager for giving me an e-arc in exchange for an honest review. Sexual violence? Yes. Other content warnings? Abusive father/patron/sister/doctor, sexual/verbal/emotional/physical abuse, body horror, loss of a parent, death, murder, animal/monster butchering, dysfunctional family, bulimia, poverty, gross descriptions of eating and illness, pseudo medical experimentation, vomit.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    I had high expectations for this book to the point where I tried to curb them before I started reading because I knew odds were good that when I think a book is going to be THIS good, I’m probably going to be disappointed. If I had to describe this book as simply as possible, I would say that it’s 50% fairytale and 50% horror, mixed in with a classic feminist literature flair. One of the reasons why I was really looking forward to this book is because it’s a fairytale fantasy, similar to THE BEA I had high expectations for this book to the point where I tried to curb them before I started reading because I knew odds were good that when I think a book is going to be THIS good, I’m probably going to be disappointed. If I had to describe this book as simply as possible, I would say that it’s 50% fairytale and 50% horror, mixed in with a classic feminist literature flair. One of the reasons why I was really looking forward to this book is because it’s a fairytale fantasy, similar to THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE or UPROOTED. From the first page, Ava Reid delivered. The prose was stunning and repeatedly returned to fairytales throughout the book. It wasn’t just a childhood story, based on mythology, or using a metaphor from a folktale. It used fairytales in every way imaginable. Every fiber of this book was built from their threads. I loved that. I began to get uneasy because the book overall was very sensual (hence my description of it as having a bit of a classic feminist literature flair). Sometimes I get frustrated with books that are overly sexual for no reason and with this one it seemed liked it was going beyond that into being weirdly sexual. There was one specific thing I found disconcerting, but then I realized a.) this is a horror book and I’m MEANT to find this content disconcerting and b.) there was a specific, in-book reason for the hyper-focus on this one thing that I just didn’t realize yet because it hadn’t fully been revealed yet. Another reason why I was super excited for this book was because I had seen Ava Reid talking about her protagonist on her Instagram stories. Marlinchen is very feminine. She wears pink silk dresses, has long hair, does the cooking and cleaning for her family, is her father’s youngest and most obedient daughter, and her most prized possession is the charm bracelet she inherited from her mother. I love the idea that women should be allowed to be soft and kind and feminine and not be killed for it or sneered at for conforming to the patriarchy. I’ve grown up in the age of YA fantasy and dystopias where every “strong female character” whines about having to wear dresses, has a sharp tongue, and wields a weapon better than any man. I’m sick of it. If anything, it’s more pro-masculinity than feminist. I know a lot of people in the book community have pointed this out, but even in 2022 a ton of the YA fantasy books I pick up have similar protagonists, even if the authors have made them less “not like other girls” in an outward way that puts down other women. I’m not seeing very many stories at all with women who are embracing their femininity and who are also strong women. Marlinchen is exactly what I’ve been looking for. This book is also squarely a horror book and I would suggest checking trigger warnings if that’s something you like to do. There were a couple scenes in particular that I found particularly challenging. In many ways, the entire book was uncomfortable. I don’t think there was a single scene in this book that made me genuinely happy or hopeful. I mostly found it disturbing, rather than frightening or disgusting. Everything had at least an undercurrent of unsettling energy. Most of the negative reviews I’ve seen have centered around this content and the fact that people don’t seem to realize this is a horror novel before they start it. There were lots of things that seemed excessive to me at first—especially some of the things that are highly sexualized—but make total sense within the context of Marlinchen’s trauma. I don’t want to get spoilery, but Marlinchin has bulimia and severe body dysmorphia as a result of the trauma she faced and continues to face. I also want to address the relationship between Marlinchen and the love interest. I saw a couple criticisms that it was a bit insta-lovey and too full of lust without enough development. On one hand, I do agree that they get together very quickly, but this makes complete sense given that Marlinchen is a young woman who hasn’t been allowed to walk past the gates of her house in the twenty-three years of life because of her abusive father. Of course, she’s going to fall in love with the first beautiful man she meets. She’s desperate for acceptance and love, and here is someone who is offering it to her. It occurs to me that Reid could have taken a much darker turn here—in addition to all the other horrible things that happen in this book, Marlinchen’s lover could easily betray her. As I said before, there aren’t any scenes in this book that are truly happy. I think having a slightly idealized version of events in finding Sevas and falling in love is necessary both because it gives the book the only hope it has to offer and because it would be unbelievably grim without that. I’m not sure how much I actually enjoyed reading this, but after I got a good ways into it I absolutely couldn’t stop thinking about it. I started writing this review when I was about 85% done because I just had so many thoughts I needed to get out (sorry, I know this is long—it’s probably the longest review I’ve ever written). I did drool over Reid’s beautiful prose while I was reading it. Now that I’ve finished, I still can’t stop thinking about Marlinchen. I don’t know when I ever will. One final note: I’ve never read The Juniper Tree so any love or distaste in that aspect of it is completely lost on me. I do have a copy of the Grimm’s book and I intend to go look it up soon to read it. I’m incredibly intrigued in the original story that inspired this one.

  20. 5 out of 5

    christina

    ★ I received an ARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ★ ★ true rating: 3.5 stars ★ *retelling: The Juniper Tree* This book has some really dark themes; it explores family abuse/manipulation, self harm and body horror. Our main character Marlinchen is the youngest of three sisters who are trapped in their manor home with their wizard father. This story follows some popular fairytale themes: magical curses, dead mother, abusive father, evil sisters, forbidden love intere ★ I received an ARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ★ ★ true rating: 3.5 stars ★ *retelling: The Juniper Tree* This book has some really dark themes; it explores family abuse/manipulation, self harm and body horror. Our main character Marlinchen is the youngest of three sisters who are trapped in their manor home with their wizard father. This story follows some popular fairytale themes: magical curses, dead mother, abusive father, evil sisters, forbidden love interest, etc. while reinventing these into something totally new and unique. Marlinchen's two old sisters Rose and Undine reminded me a lot of Feyre's sisters in A Court of Thorns and Roses, they were beautiful, selfish and manipulative. There are also some Cinderella themes going on where Marlinchen is the only one that cooks and cleans for their cursed father. She is also forced to endure the majority of their father's verbal abuse. “You let me eat up all papa’s anger so it wouldn’t poison you. you didn’t mind that he ruined me as long as you were unspoiled and safe. If you ever loved me, it was because I was a soft thing you threw down into the bottom of a pit to break your fall.” Sevas the love interest is a renowned ballet dancer with his own dark past. He is really supportive of Marlinchen, and beautiful inside and out. He wants to show her that their is still beauty in the world and perhaps maybe they can save each other. “Well, you’re my first secret then, my first lie. Does that please you?” “Only if it pleases you.” This book was hard to read at times because of the dark themes, however, the MC Marlinchen is not a helpless victim. As her world opens up and she begins to understand that darkness within herself and her family- she begins to understand that she must take control of her narrative if she is ever able to escape and make her own fairy tale. (There was one part of this book that did bother me, which is a spoiler (view spoiler)[When the MC loses her virginity to the love interest there is a TON of blood, now I know this book is all about the body horror and all that jazz, but can we please stop pushing the incorrect narrative that it is normal for girls to bleed like pigs when they lose their virginity? Especially when the girl is ready, wanting and there is foreplay beforehand? I ain't here for it. (hide spoiler)] ) Overall, if you are worried that this story may be too sad, bleak or dark, I found the ending very satisfying and hopeful.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Lewis

    *Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for the E-Arc in exchange for an honest review. All opinions remain my own.* Ava Reid's prose is beautiful and while some find the amount of similes used in this novel distracting, I found it engaging. I feel like the beautiful writing plays a key in the part of this novel that I absolutely loved, and that would be the atmosphere. We get the creepy, mysterious, dark and gothic vibes all throughout this without the author ever having to tell us things are *Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for the E-Arc in exchange for an honest review. All opinions remain my own.* Ava Reid's prose is beautiful and while some find the amount of similes used in this novel distracting, I found it engaging. I feel like the beautiful writing plays a key in the part of this novel that I absolutely loved, and that would be the atmosphere. We get the creepy, mysterious, dark and gothic vibes all throughout this without the author ever having to tell us things are creepy bluntly, they just are. With that said, I cannot fall in love with a novel based off atmosphere and prose alone, I just can't. I need to feel something, whether that is genuine feelings of attachment to characters, or an obsessive curiosity about the world the author has crafted, it needs to be something that drags me into the plot and I just didn't get that from this story. I didn't much care for any of the characters (or the romance, insta-love...ugh) and the world didn't grasp me like it did in The Wolf and The Woodsman. Don't get me wrong, I could read Reid's writing style all day and just sit there and pick out my favorite quotes because they are gorgeous, but this was not my favorite of her works either.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘

    Ava Reid said, I'm gonna write Anna's dream books, and I said thank you and cried happy tears 😭 Ava Reid said, I'm gonna write Anna's dream books, and I said thank you and cried happy tears 😭

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Don’tGoBrekkerMyHeart

    "Stories weren't meant to be questioned. They were answers in and of themselves. They were meant to preempt any questions you might ever have, to steal the words right from your mouth." TW: Gore, body horror, cannibalism, child sexual abuse, incest, physical/ psychological/ emotional abuse (specifically familial), gaslighting, self harm, suicidal ideation, bulimia, food horror, animal death, explicit sex scenes (one with a mythical creature), Xenophobia, and Antisemitism Side Note: Quotes are from "Stories weren't meant to be questioned. They were answers in and of themselves. They were meant to preempt any questions you might ever have, to steal the words right from your mouth." TW: Gore, body horror, cannibalism, child sexual abuse, incest, physical/ psychological/ emotional abuse (specifically familial), gaslighting, self harm, suicidal ideation, bulimia, food horror, animal death, explicit sex scenes (one with a mythical creature), Xenophobia, and Antisemitism Side Note: Quotes are from an ARC, so they are subject to change in the final copy. "It was an awful feeling, to draw secrets like blood, without the person even knowing that the needle was in them." Juniper & Thorn is a gothic/ horror modern fairytale that blends trauma with magic. It takes inspiration from the Brothers' Grimm story The Juniper Tree, and while it is one of the darkest books that I've ever read, it does not do it to be outlandish. There are moments of joy that are brighter than stars, albeit few and far between. It’s a story that will unsettle, traumatize, and even trigger people in many ways, but it’s gothic and that’s innate to the genre. It’s what the genre asks its readers to be prepared to endure. Obviously, all of this means that as a reader you must contemplate if this is a novel that you can handle. It’s not for everyone and that’s okay— come back when Ava releases A Study in Drowning— because, ultimately, it is better to know one’s limits and do what’s best for your own mental health. "Magic was always like that: it had ugly undersides. Wanting anything was a trap." I don’t usually read horror books because a lot have that gimmicky feeling to them like horror movies. Yet Ava Reid’s writing and plot remind me of Mary Shelley in Frankenstein with her eloquent but horrific (not in a “bad” writing way) prose. For example, Mary Shelley was influenced by her trauma with childbirth (her mother died giving birth to her) when she wrote Frankenstein. The grotesque monster is the result of decades worth of pain and suffering and self hate. The reason I bring this up is because I know Ava Reid has mentioned this book is built off of their own personal traumas too. All of these negative, traumatic emotions build within Juniper & Thorn out of purpose and healing. It makes me think deeply about loyalty and freedom and morality— to name a few themes. I wasn't sure this novel would pack the punch that The Wolf and the Woodsman did because I loved Ava's debut so much, but somehow it surpassed it. It is as raw as an open wounded heart, and this is the kind of literature that feels most human to me. "People want to ruin things that are clean and new. It's no fun stamping through old dirty snow." I'm in awe of Marlinchen, amidst the good and bad. I'm in awe of her journey and her ability to love, particularly for those who don’t deserve it or return the same to her. She’s so endlessly loyal to her loved ones, which leans into her naïveté because she loves so much even when the red flags fly rampant. I saw myself in her in those moments, not necessarily because we share similar experiences, but because we are built to love and help and give so much of ourselves that we leave nothing for us in return. That we ignore the bad signs until it is too late, and people will take advantage of us because they see our blindness in that moment. I don't really have words to explain this book other that the multitude of emotions that rolled through me like a giant wave, so I hope my analogies and metaphors are making sense. "Magic is the first sip of good wine that makes the edges of your vision blur. Magic is the cool breeze of the boardwalk at night and organ music in the air. Magic is landing a grand jeté and nearly going deaf with the crowd's applause. Magic is the low flicker of tavern lights and the girl you're courting leaning close so you can kiss." As you can tell by my insane amount of quotes within this review, I love Ava's writing style. If you saw my review of their debut, then you already know how poetically brillant the prose is. I tried to pick a variety of examples for both the grotesque elements within this particular book, and the obvious talent Ava has to evoke emotions of insurmountable feeling within the written word. I truly cannot wait for more books by them. They’re a master storyteller from the purple prose to realistic depictions of humans doing imperfectly human things, and I'll scream for Ava Reid as a recommendation until the end of my days. "You can take my heart and liver; slit open my belly and eat what's inside. I would sooner bear it than lose you to those who call you plain-faced, who make you kneel and kiss their feet. Do not leave me alone. Do not leave me to lick my wounds like a dog before it's put down. Do not look at the truth of me and then look away." Thank you to Harper Voyager and NetGalley for sending me a review copy. “What was a story except a berry you ate over and over again, until your lips and tongue were red and every word you spoke was poison?”

  24. 5 out of 5

    anna (½ of readsrainbow)

    i have never seen a cover more btfl than this one

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Mix

    so, so good.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kelsea

    Sometimes it's hard to review the books that bury themselves deepest into my soul, because I know whatever I write will never do it justice. This is one of those books. So, please know that whatever I have to say about Juniper & Thorn, the story is even better than I could describe. I'd heard Ava Reid's writing was good, but it's one thing to hear about it and another to open a book and be STRUCK IN THE FACE by how stunning the prose is! I was caught from the very first sentence, and from there, Sometimes it's hard to review the books that bury themselves deepest into my soul, because I know whatever I write will never do it justice. This is one of those books. So, please know that whatever I have to say about Juniper & Thorn, the story is even better than I could describe. I'd heard Ava Reid's writing was good, but it's one thing to hear about it and another to open a book and be STRUCK IN THE FACE by how stunning the prose is! I was caught from the very first sentence, and from there, Juniper & Thorn never let me go. It's a story told in a very different way than many of the stories (fantasy, especially) out there, and I loved every minute of it. Marlinchen is not the swashbuckling, sword-wielding, confident heroine so popular in fantasy these days. (And there's nothing wrong with that type of heroine--I'd just love to see more variety.) She's largely powerless over what happens in her life, subject to the rules and whims of those around her, and she's full of fears and insecurities. She has few choices, but in the choices available to her, she makes interesting decisions, and wow does the story take a lot of turns! There are so many themes to unpack here, but I really don't want to spoil anything. So I will just add that the gothic horror vibes are stunning and vicious (Ava Reid is not afraid to go DARK), the entire story is atmospheric and has a dark fairytale vibe (which is especially fitting as this is a retelling of "The Juniper Tree"), and there is a lot of rough content, but it is handled with thought and care and nuance. I can't WAIT to get a beautiful, finished copy of this book in my hands! The new release date was just announced. Juniper & Thorn will be out May 24, 2022 via Harper Voyager! If you haven't preordered or added it to your TBR yet, I hope you'll consider doing so! It's haunting, beautiful, and 1000% worth the read. Thank you Harper Voyager for providing an advanced e-copy of the book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Emma Cathryne

    I am in the odd position of greatly appreciating this book from a thematic and literary standpoint but also knowing it does not fit my personal tastes. I really struggle with this level of heavy content and violence and encourage everyone to pay close attention to the trigger warnings below. Still, I can appreciate that Reid has crafted a deeply twisted, deeply frightening, and deeply compelling dark fairy tale that is packed to the brim with meaning. The story tackles issues from scientific rac I am in the odd position of greatly appreciating this book from a thematic and literary standpoint but also knowing it does not fit my personal tastes. I really struggle with this level of heavy content and violence and encourage everyone to pay close attention to the trigger warnings below. Still, I can appreciate that Reid has crafted a deeply twisted, deeply frightening, and deeply compelling dark fairy tale that is packed to the brim with meaning. The story tackles issues from scientific racism, to disordered eating, to the erasure of victims in pseudo-feminist narratives. Marlinchen is total deconstruction of the typical fairy-tale protagonist, and I was blown away by the nuanced portrayal of her actions and reactions as a learned consequence of trauma, and became highly invested in her struggle for freedom on her own terms. The setting of the novel is all belching coal smoke and slimy fish guts and churning machines: pitting the dark underbelly of industrialization against grasping roots of history and tradition. This book does not blunt its edges: it is often unbearably violent and relentlessly dark, but all in the service of spinning a tale of horror so intractable that I'm going to be a while peeling the grit and gristle of it away from my bones. PLEASE, PLEASE pay attention to the following trigger warnings, all of which I wish I had been aware of going into the story. TW for: cannibalism, body horror, disorder eating, animal abuse and animal death, sexual assault and sexual violence, pedophillia, self-harm, and anti-seminitism.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Grapie Deltaco

    *Thank you, Harper Voyager, for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review* Good God, this made me sick to my stomach at times and anxious from start to finish. In an overwhelmingly dark, gothic fantasy with a very clear connection to Grimm fairytales, we follow Marlinchen and how she lives with her lifetime of abuse. We watch as this abuse extends to the hands of her sisters and the men her father allows to hurt her. We watch her inner narration come across intrusive thoughts that make e *Thank you, Harper Voyager, for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review* Good God, this made me sick to my stomach at times and anxious from start to finish. In an overwhelmingly dark, gothic fantasy with a very clear connection to Grimm fairytales, we follow Marlinchen and how she lives with her lifetime of abuse. We watch as this abuse extends to the hands of her sisters and the men her father allows to hurt her. We watch her inner narration come across intrusive thoughts that make even us uncomfortable with being with Marlinchen. We watch the story progress with blocks of memory missing as a mysterious monster continues to rack up its kill count in her town. The story is painful, gross, and so well done in featuring a morally gray heroine coming into her own and knowing to rely on herself for the strength those around her try to steal from her. Watching Marlinchen grow in her power and desire for freedom was quite a sight to see. I think she’s an excellent example of how healing from trauma isn’t this simple, straight line. She stumbles often and is incredibly destructive in her desperate attempts to regain control over her life (which we see manifest in her very prevalent eating disorder). The book is, overall, very bleak and raw while simultaneously being beautifully written and deeply compelling. Ava Reid is an insta-buy author through and through. I hope there’s a trigger/content warning page printed at the beginning of the book when it’s officially published. It definitely needs one and is not for everyone. CW: on-page sexual assault/rape, incest, numerous mentions of pedophilia + childhood sexual abuse, antisemitism, xenophobia, recurring mentions of eugenics, misogyny, bulimia + disordered eating, recurring mentions if body image issues, murder, cannibalism, dead loved ones, grief, parental abuse, blood, gore, brief explicit sexual content, animal death

  29. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Walworth

    I can't mince words: this was painful. It's been a hot second since I read a book that I just could not vibe with on any level, but alas, here we are. JUNIPER & THORN was a disappointment. And while I'd like to think that some of my dislike might have been tempered by a favourable reading of Ava Reid's debut novel THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN (full disclaimer: never read it), or even by some knowledge of the folktale this is purportedly retelling ("The Juniper Tree"), I mostly think that when it all I can't mince words: this was painful. It's been a hot second since I read a book that I just could not vibe with on any level, but alas, here we are. JUNIPER & THORN was a disappointment. And while I'd like to think that some of my dislike might have been tempered by a favourable reading of Ava Reid's debut novel THE WOLF AND THE WOODSMAN (full disclaimer: never read it), or even by some knowledge of the folktale this is purportedly retelling ("The Juniper Tree"), I mostly think that when it all comes down to it.... I'm just not sure this was a well-written book? Or at least, maybe just not a particularly well-edited one? The main character is a young witch named Marlinchen, who is the youngest of three sisters and also, she doesn't let us forget, the ugliest, except her ugliness seems to boil down to her just having really chaotic hair? She lives with her sisters Undine and Rose, who both hate her for some reason (on macro and micro levels respectively), and their father, a xenophobic warlock who bears the classic male hallmark of believing himself more powerful than anybody else he knows, and I'm really just taking his word for it that he was once because now he's just an emotional terrorist who "has to" pimp his daughters' powers out for money and survival. Also, there are monsters in the garden. Marlinchen is resigned to her fate, caring for a father who scarcely notices her except when it benefits him to do so, servicing the men whose money her family relies upon but in whose eyes she is merely an object, when, during a late-night jaunt to the ballet with her sisters, she crosses paths with Sevastyan, a dancer who is hiding some dark secrets of his own. Drawn together, the couple resolve to escape the invisible chains their lives are each bound by. My first issue is that what I described above constitutes basically 75% of the book. By which I mean, not a lot happens. And the remaining quarter was a mish-mash of monsters, mayhem, and murder, except a couple of the men being murdered definitely deserved to die so we don't really care about them anyway. There was a twist that I sort of saw coming, because duh, but also didn't, because the threads of this story were so lazily tied together during the denouement that a light breeze could have blown them apart. And here's where I can't decide if the problem was the writing or the editing, or both.... because I do think Ava Reid is a good writer. There were moments throughout this book of genuine horror, startling morbidity, drop-dead "what the fuck?"-ness. They were just, somehow, the wrong moments, bookended by so much other wrongness that I finished reading this not really knowing what was important, what I was supposed to care about, what the point of it all was. My second issue: I am a reader for whom books tend to live or die by the strength of their characters, so it was an enormous problem for me that I couldn't quite get around to caring about Marlinchen, and still don't feel like I know her despite having read over 300 pages of her story. Despite her being the main character, aspects of her narration had the effect of holding her at a remove from the readers; I suspect this was purposeful, a move intended to exaggerate her victimhood (casting her inability or unwillingness to acknowledge her dire situation and call it abuse as a kind of twisted survival mechanism) and possibly even to give the final "twist" a bit more of a punch, but unfortunately it left me totally unable to access her character on a deeper level. I also had a problem with how her character and importance were constantly, irrevocably attached to and defined by the men in her life: her father, Sevastyan, Dr Bakay. (And how the ending did nothing, in my eyes, to remedy that, which completely negated any growth she might have achieved over the course of the story.) As for the other characters, the significance of Zmiy's xenophobia was dulled by my total lack of understanding of the societal structure of Oblya (were these ethnic groups and economic structures introduced in Reid's first novel, and that's why she devoted almost no time to breaking them down here?); Undine and Rose had no personalities beyond being more beautiful than Marlinchen, and therefore they were almost completely irrelevant to the narrative; and Sevastyan was just, I dunno, a cornfield ("I think it would make me very happy to see your face in the crowd", kill me now please). Put simply, you couldn't pay me to care about any of these people. Also, there are monsters in the garden, which, considering how this book ended, should have been more significant but just... wasn't. Alas.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Zoranne

    4.5!! god this book made me viscerally uncomfortable and i loved every second of it

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