Hi everyone, I hope you’re well! Unfortunately this review is a little later than I anticipated – life just got in the way! But it is most definitely a review that I’m really excited to write because I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Prior to reading this book, I have only read two books this year that I’ve given five star ratings, so I’m really happy to add this one to the list! I was very kindly sent an eARC of this book as part of the TBR & Beyond Tours book tour and I really do highly recommend that you check out the other posts on the tour too by clicking on the banner below!
Title: Not Good for Maidens
Author: Tori Bovalino
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Retelling, LGBT+, Young Adult
Synopsis: Salem’s Lot meets The Darkest Part of the Forest in this horror-fantasy retelling of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market.”
Lou never believed in superstitions or magic–until her teenage aunt Neela is kidnapped to the goblin market.
The market is a place Lou has only read about–twisted streets, offerings of sweet fruits and incredible jewels. Everything–from the food and wares, to the goblins themselves–is a haunting temptation for any human who manages to find their way in.
Determined to save Neela, Lou learns songs and spells and tricks that will help her navigate this dangerous world and slip past a goblin’s defenses–but she only has three days to find Neela before the market disappears and her aunt becomes one of them forever.
If she isn’t careful, the market might just end up claiming her too.
Content warnings: on-page gore, on-page body horror, violence, trauma
Not Good for Maidens is an exciting fantasy horror standalone novel told in two perspectives – the first is through the eyes of Lou who travels back to her mother’s childhood home in York to try and save her best friend and aunt, Neela, after she is taken by the Goblin Market; the second takes place eighteen years earlier and follows Lou’s aunt May as she finds herself lured into the exciting and dangerous world of the market after she falls for one of the goblin girls.
This book was honestly so much fun to read! So much of Tori Bovalino’s world building harkened back to some of my favourite books growing up, such as The Cruel Prince and The Demon’s Covenant. I loved the darker tones of this fantasy novel – from the market hidden away in the shadowy depths of the city and the Witchery tucked away under a famous monument to the harrowing and grisly scenes in the market itself, with human body parts on sale for consumption and decimated bodies waiting to be processed in the dungeons below. Though it is set in the summer, this world building really makes it the perfect autumnal Halloween book! Although the retelling aspect of this book was a little lost on me as I’m not familiar with the original tale – Goblin Market – I didn’t feel like I was missing out on any knowledge that would’ve helped me enjoy the book more than I did going into it blind.
The story is told in split perspective and my personal favourite was getting to read from May’s perspective. May is bisexual and at the start of her timeline she ends up falling for a mysterious goblin girl who offers to show her the market which, as a witch in training, is like forbidden fruit. The sapphic romance in this book was just so good. I loved getting to know Eitra – the goblin girl – and seeing her dealing with her conflicting feelings towards the market and those that run it as well as her feelings for May. At the end of the book I really found myself tearing up because I just got so attached to the pair of them! Lou was a really interesting character, too, and I liked getting to delve into her family’s story and see the Goblin Market through her eyes as she learned about them at the same time as the reader. Lou was incredibly strong-willed and really just a tough cookie for what she went through. She is also asexual, so some more great representation! Other than them, I did really like Laura – May’s sister and Lou’s mum – her fierce loyalty to her family and her complete selflessness and intelligence made her a real stand out character even though we didn’t get to see all that much of her.
One thing I will point out with regards to this book, as it was something I was really quite wary of before starting and while reading the book, was the potential antisemitic rhetoric that might be present in the book. Aside from the cover and mention of goblins killing and eating humans, I didn’t really see any very obvious antisemitism, which I do think was in part due to the depiction of the goblins being closer to fae or faeries, but as a non-Jewish person I am obviously not the expert here. Two other reviewers, one of them Jewish themselves, have touched upon this point much more eloquently than I have and I highly recommend checking out their Goodreads reviews: the first is by El and the second by Spiri Skye.
All in all, I just really loved the nostalgia, spooky setting, and sweet sapphic romance that this book brought to the table and I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical copy so that I can highlight and annotate it to my heart’s content!
About the Author:
Tori Bovalino grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and never knew she wanted to live abroad until she was already in London. She’s awful at picking favorites, but her consistent go-to books are Pride and Prejudice, Fire, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. She’s enamored with books that make her cry.
Tori holds a BA in English fiction writing and anthropology and a minor in German from the University of Pittsburgh and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London. She is currently on the Creative and practice-based PhD course at RHUL, researching the relationship between Russian folklore and YA fantasy novels. In her free time, Tori enjoys reading (duh), embroidering, and traveling.
She is represented by Dr. Uwe Stender and Amelia Appel at TriadaUS Literary Agency. She writes short stories, poetry, and novels.