Author: Tori Bovalino
Publication date: June 21, 2022
Genre: YA fantasy horror
My rating: 4/5 stars
A modern take on the Goblin Market fairytale. Queer rep galore. Themes of belonging, family, duty, bonds, and bargains. Old English villages. Witches. Creepy-as-heck body horror. You’ll find it all in Not Good for Maidens, a dark YA fantasy full of bargains gone wrong, temptations too strong, and yearning to belong, unfolding over two timelines and two continents.. Read on for more of my thoughts, including some favorite quotes of mine from the book!
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
This book is sinister, dark, and creepy in a way that I find delightful (though admittedly others may disagree). The visceral imagery, especially the body horror, was rendered in creative, gory glory. I didn’t fully process this until the end, but there are also no major male characters in this story, save for minor appearances by a few, a father, and of course, the ruthless Goblin Prince. I love the female-fronted cast, with women of such a wide range of personalities and worldviews. And I’m not always a fan of dual timelines, but in this story, it worked quite well–both narratives were compelling, so I didn’t get that feeling of annoyance when you’re just waiting for one to be done before you move on to the next, and it helped develop the characters who appeared in both timelines, seeing them before and after the trauma of the Market.
There are some really interesting family dynamics in this book. Not in the “omg everyone is cheating on everyone how scandalous” way, but in an unconventional mixing of generations. Lou’s aunt, Neela, is just a year or two older than Lou herself, so the two are more like cousins. Lou’s mother and other aunt, May, raised Lou together, while Lou’s father is a separate relationship. There are a lot of emotions packed into this space, with close sisterhood, aunts that feel more like sisters, and some blurring of the line between “adult” and “child.”
Now, of course, the question I’m basically contractually obligated to answer: How is the ace rep? (Disclaimer, there is not actually a contract, it’s just me being hyperbolic.) Honestly, I really appreciated it! I thought it was handled well–it wasn’t just dropped in randomly or used for a convenient plot point and promptly forgotten. It wasn’t danced around; they actually used the word “asexual” on-page. And the main character’s asexuality played into a lot of her character development, beyond just being an isolated facet of her existence. One running theme in Lou’s life is the fact that she feels like an outsider, like she exists on the outskirts of things everyone else knows. And while this manifests in large, obvious ways, like her family literally hiding the fact that they are witches linked to an ancient goblin market, it shows up in smaller ways, too–including the “outsider” feeling of being asexual, like you just were kept in the dark about something everyone else somehow already knows.
Now, one thing I want to note: this is not a particularly fast-paced book. It isn’t long, so it goes by quickly, but it doesn’t feel action-packed for the most part. The plot “twists” are predictable–but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Being able to tell where the story is going doesn’t dampen the enjoyment of seeing how it gets there, and in some way it heightens the experience, knowing just how wrong things are about to go for these characters. And while the plot isn’t shocking, the sheer brutality of many aspects of the market are.
Look, this book might not be for everyone, because not everyone is into horror, and I get that. Not everyone wants to see a tree growing out of a disemboweled torso (this is the sanitized description; a more gruesome version shows up on-page). But for fans of queer horror, Seanan McGuire’s In an Absent Dream, and unsettling imagery, this is an excellent choice.
Rep: asexual MC, bisexual MC, sapphic relationship, biracial (Indian + white) SC
Here are a few quotes I enjoyed from this book–some sinister, some funny, some just a little too real.
- “That was the truth of coping; it was just delaying the inevitable.”
- “Lou felt like she’d fallen headfirst into the rabbit hole, if that rabbit hole was also a thrift store run by two bunnies on ecstasy.”
- “She was too easily enchanted by things she was meant to fear.”
- “She’d put herself in the worst position possible because she’d been distracted by her own bi panic.”
- “Something awful twisted in her stomach. She didn’t want the same things other people did; she didn’t feel the claws of desire in her throat. But she did want the clarity of someone she belonged to.”
For all the other wonderful posts hosts have created for this tour, including interviews, reviews, and tons of gorgeous Bookstagram pictures, check out the full tour schedule HERE!
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.
Huge thank you to TBR and Beyond Tours and the publisher for sending me an eARC of this book via NetGalley as part of my participation in this tour! All opinions are my own.