ARC Review: Not Good for Maidens by Tori Bovalino

Publication Date: June 14, 2022

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.

My Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I really liked it. The story (parts of it at least) was compelling and some of the characters really drew me in. And I am 100% here for May and Atra’s star-crossed sapphic love story. On the other, it was closer to horror than I normally choose to read and was bloodier and more grotesque than I usually like. And some of the characters were like blank walls.

I’m a sucker for goblin market stories, and this was probably the most horror-adjacent one I’ve read. In that regard, it shaded towards being a bit too much for me. I was barely able to handle the body horror, though I put the book aside several times while reading because I kept thinking it would get to be just that tiny bit more and I wouldn’t be able to handle it. It also focused on the grotesque and bloody side of the goblin market, rather than the glittery tempting side you usually see in stories. There again, it was almost (but not quite) too much for me.

I was immediately sucked in to May and Atra’s story. They were compelling and intriguing and I would have loved the book more if it had been solely about them. The problem was that their chapters (18 years in the past) alternated with present-day Lou’s chapters, and Lou just wasn’t compelling as a protagonist. I never got a sense of her personality at all. I know that she’s asexual and that she doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere, but when I try to picture her I draw a complete blank. Laura (her mother), too, is a mystery, even though we see her both in present-day and 18 years in the past. But in the present we see her though Lou’s eyes, and in the past we see her through May’s, and that could be why she doesn’t feel complete. Neela isn’t on page enough to really get a sense of her.

In the end I stuck around through Lou’s chapters just to get back to May and Atra. If the book had been solely May and Atra’s story, I probably would have devoured it rather than putting it down over and over.

Also, mind those trigger warnings. There is a LOT of blood, gore, and body horror. Like, a lot.

The narration is really well done and the character voices are consistent and believable. I also really enjoyed the narrator’s voice. It made for an excellent listening experience.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Recorded Books for providing an audio arc for review.

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