[ARC Review] Not Good for Maidens by Tori Bovalino

3 Things About This Book
| Horror-Fantasy Retelling of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market | Dual Timelines and Narrative | Girls Saving Girls from Goblins |

Not Good for Maidens by Tori Bovalino
Expected Publication: 2022 by Titan Books
Young Adult, Horror, Fantasy, Retelling, LGBTQ+
Book Depository

The last time I read a horror that evoked boredom instead of fear was Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King back in 2017, so I guess it’s not unexpected that another one would arrive in my hands sooner or later. That said, Not Good for Maidens is one of the least horrifying fantasy horrors that I’ve read, even Sleeping Beauties was a smidge scarier than this.

This lack of horror in Not Good for Maidens is largely because of the story’s execution. Not only is the tension severely lacking because it takes forever (at 65%-70% of the book) before we get to the action, but the main plot for both timelines is the same thing: a rescue. Sure, there’s a lot of gore and goblins are pretty scary in general—even when they’re depicted like the fae, but that’s all. Nothing else about the story is here to scare or disgust.

Moreover, the dual timeline is well-interwoven but poorly utilised. Though I appreciate the side explorations of identity and wanting to belong or decide for oneself, the majority of Lou’s POV is a tedious read. She spends a lot of time asking questions no one wants to answer despite them all knowing that she will go and save her kidnapped teen aunt from the Goblin Market, equipped with knowledge or not. This lack of communication feels forced—like it’s just there to draw out Lou’s part of the story and act as fillers for the spaces before we get to May’s POV again. The lack of communication also drove me crazy because Lou’s just a teen and it’s the adults who are supposed to be more responsible that refuse to talk.

Anyway, the more interesting POV is May’s in the past where she’s entangled in a forbidden sapphic romance with a goblin. While I don’t enjoy insta-love, May’s side of the story also had higher stakes and a quicker pace which kept me hooked. I honestly think the book would’ve been better had the entirety of it had been in only May’s POV.

Other than that, the magic system is lacking. Aside from herbs, potions and songs/chants, what else is there for the witches? What can a witch do that a goblin or a normal person (since they can also use those herbs and potions) can’t? Outside of Goblin Market season, what do the witches do? Also, why is the Goblin Market so irresistible to people, even after they’re in it and haven’t eaten or drunk anything by the Goblins? So many questions but not enough answers.

Everything considered, Not Good for Maidens had a lot of potential to be a hair-raising rollercoaster ride of a horror, but it was far from what I expected from a Goblin Market retelling.

Thank you so much Titan Books and Netgalley for providing me a copy of this in exchange for an honest review!



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