Review: Juniper and Thorn

Title: Juniper and Thorn
Author: Ava Reid
Genre: Horror, Gothic, Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: June 21, 2022
Rating: ★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

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.


Marlinchen and her two sisters are witches who live with their father, the last wizard, in the city of Oblya. Marlinchen and her sisters must use their magic to earn money for their family since their father was cursed. The girls are never allowed to leave their home. One night, Marlinchen and her sisters sneak into the city to see the ballet. She falls in love with the show and the principal dancer Sevas. After this taste of freedom, Marlinchen pushes the boundaries to leave her home more, but her father’s anger becomes more threatening as she has more secrets to keep from him. 

I wasn’t familiar with The Juniper Tree story, which this book is based on, so this story was a surprise to me. I really liked Marlinchen, though the people around her didn’t like her at all. She suffered abuse from her family and some clients. Though some parts of this story were difficult to read, I loved the twists and it had a meaningful ending. 

I had the opportunity to meet Ava Reid yesterday in Toronto. After hearing her speak about the book, including her inspiration and publishing process, I feel like I understand the book much better. 

Juniper and Thorn is a thought-provoking gothic horror. 

Content Warnings: physical and emotional abuse, child abuse (emotional, sexual and physical), rape, murder, death of animals, death of parent, body horror, cannibalism

What to read next:

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

Have you read Juniper and Thorn? What did you think of it?