Juniper and Thorn by Ava Reid, is a dark fantasy horror and a fairytale retelling of The Juniper Tree. Please make sure you check the trigger warnings for this one as it addresses trauma and abuse as well as sparing none of the gory details.
Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. This post contains affiliate links. That means we receive a small commission at no cost to you from any purchases you make through these links.
Gore and Body Horror. Child Sexual Abuse. Incest. Cannibalism. Antisemitism. Xenophobia. Scientific Racism. Physical and Psychological Abuse by Family Members. Gaslighting. Self Harm and Suicide Ideation. Bulimia. Graphic Descriptions of Vomiting. Animal Death.
about the juniper and thorn
Most people have heard of the Brothers Grimm and their famous book Grimm’s Fairy tales. Some of the stories have even been adapted multiple times, like that of Snow White and Rumplestiltskin. One story you might not have heard of is The Juniper Tree. This is where author Ava Reid got her inspiration for her newest novel Juniper and Thorn. This book is a dark gothic fantasy tale that will sink its teeth into you from the first page and refuse to let go until you finish.
Juniper and Thorn is the first book I’ve read by Ava Reid, but it certainly won’t be my last. I absolutely love how she drew readers into the world that she created. Her imagery is haunting, and you can’t help but picture the scene she’s painting in your head, which can be unfortunate when it’s a rather bloody one. The fantastical creatures she included and the magic system had me quite excited as a die-hard fantasy reader.
Knowing that this book is set in the same world as The Wolf and the Woodsman, it’s inspired me to go back and read that book as soon as possible. As a side note, despite the two books being set in the same world, I want to make it clear that you do not have to read The Wolf and the Woodsman to be able to enjoy and understand the events of Juniper and Thorn.
The author does not shy away from darker themes in the book, so please please do yourself a favor and check the trigger warnings (at the top of this review) before you start this read. As the author has explained in recent posts, this is a fantasy horror novel and on some level, it is meant to offend and repulse. Some of the content is quite heavy, and I would not want anyone to suffer any sort of harm because they went in unprepared.
read with caution
While there is a lot of heavy content, I do want to applaud the author for how she compassionately and carefully handled things. Many of the scenes were disturbing (and I fully admit to skimming over some of the more graphic ones), but nothing felt included just because. Everything had a purpose, and in my opinion, it was a well-crafted exploration into the effects of trauma and how sometimes, the only option left to you is to just survive.
The main character Marlinchen’s journey over the course of the book was very impactful; I was left thinking about her for days after I finished the book. I want to clearly state that I believe that it’s just as important for abuse and trauma survivors to see themselves represented in literary works as it is for any other group to be represented (people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, etc.). Their stories should not go unheard just because some might find them distasteful.
Overall, Juniper and Thorn was an entertaining read. I don’t think I was the intended audience (and that’s why my star rating is a bit lower than you might expect), but that’s totally ok. If a gothic tale that blends dark fantasy and horror sounds like something you would enjoy, then Juniper and Thorn would be a great choice for you! If any of the content sounds potentially triggering for you, that’s totally ok (no judgment here) but I would probably recommend putting down this book for the time being just to be safe.