Review: Juniper & Thorn by Ava Reid

Phew, this one has some rough content!

Juniper & Thorn by Ava Reid

Released June 2022

Source: Library Borrow

Goodreads  | Amazon

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. 

My 2 Cents for Free!

Sooo, after glancing at a few reviews it appears the author may have a whole bunch of rabid fans who jump on people who say less-than-positive things. Fellow humans, please stop this behavior. It makes you look very bad. People assume the writer is behind it. That makes them look very bad whether true or not. Reviews are here to help READERS. We are not so dumb that we can’t make up our own damn minds about whether or not we are going to read a book. Seriously, brush it off and go write your own review. With that said, please use great caution when dipping into this book because there are several triggers here that folks might find distressing or abhorrent. None of it bothered me but I’m used to reading terrible and bleak and graphic things and when I pick up a book where I’m not expecting those things and I find those things? Well, that usually grabs my attention - so take that into consideration. I've put content warnings down after the Horror Spotlight banner.

This book is inspired by the original unedited brothers Grimm fairytale The Juniper-Tree which I read before digging into this one. Let me tell ya, that old “fairytale” horrified me, and this story gives it a nice nod and also tells its own story. I’d recommend giving the Grimm tale a read so the horror will be fresh in your brain! I found an audio version on YouTube.

Marlinchen is the third daughter of the last wizard in a world that is rapidly moving away from herbal remedies and magic. Her horrid father will do anything to keep his daughter’s under his thumb. He constantly threatens them with curses if they dare disobey. But they find a way to sneak out and on her first foray out to the ballet Marlinchen is entranced by the lead male dancer, Sevas. After the show, they have a brief encounter and an attraction sparks that sets a dangerous series of events into motion. Her father’s endless hunger and rage begin to boil over and Marlinchin is forced to figure out a way to survive the threat her father poses to everything she loves as she discovers terrible truth after terrible truth.

“We would be safest in ashes and in urns.”

This book does not shy away from trauma, it doesn’t hide it or pretty it up, or shove it under the rug. It infects these characters and is the root of who they become and why they act the way that they do. I thought it was very well done. These people are traumatized and broken. But beware there is also the dreaded insta-love! This old trope usually drives me up a wall but here it felt ok considering, well, every damn thing these two had been through and were going through. And sometimes love at first sight IS a thing and sometimes it even works out. Or maybe I’m just having a good day, lol. Anyway, I read a lot of romance (and a lot of horror), and this exploration of sexuality, attraction, and love made sense to me. Would I have liked to have seen a bit more from Sevas’s POV? Well, of course, I love getting into the heads of damaged people but this book wasn’t a romance and I was okay with what we got.

I fell into this book and didn’t want to leave. I mean, it’s not a perfect book, I can clearly see that but it was a perfect book for me. The plot meanders sometimes but so does my brain usually and it didn’t here. I didn’t have the urge to pick up my phone, watch an old episode of the X-files or avoid the book and dream about all the others I want to read instead. It captured me, faults and all, complicated characters and all, and I recommend it to anyone looking to become immersed in a very dangerous, sometimes gross world of magic and monsters where one young woman struggles to overcome a lifetime of abuse and manipulation. It’s a beautiful nightmare. You should definitely read it if this sounds like your thing.

I adored it despite my little complaint above.


Content Warning:

This is your last chance to back away before reading potential spoilers:

Disordered eating (bulimia), many mentions of vomit, alcoholism, self-harm, suicide ideation, child sexual abuse, psychological abuse, magical abuse, xenophobia, cannibalism, animal deaths, disgusting men, overbearing fathers, mentions of incest and I do believe there was a moment of bestiality between a beast-man and a human 🙀. Does it count if he’s half-human? I dunno but even I did not see that one coming, lol. This book was Wild. So be careful!


  1. Well that review was great. Not sure this book is for me but it does sound wild.

    1. It has some heavy content but I loved it so much.

  2. Love at first sight is a thing sometimes, I think- at least in some cases. and those old fairy tales are whacked OUT lol. This sounds wilddd.

    1. Phew, they are intense! I had no idea and they shock me every time, haha.

  3. That is a lot of graphic content in one book. You've got me really curious about the original Grimm fairy tale; I'm going to have to go and read The Juniper Tree right now!

  4. Ugh - I'm glad you are telling these review crusaders to stop. I'm glad this was perfect for you. Maybe I'll finally read it someday!

  5. I read The Wolf and the Woodsman and didn't love that one. Did you read it? I was wondering if I should give her another try because I did like the darkness of that one.

    Karen @For What It's Worth


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