Not for the faint of hearts or weak of knees, this is an incredibly visceral, brutal book. In short: bi panic means aunt is nearly eaten by sexy goblins, while her ace niece uses ace superpowers to avoid goblin seduction… but her family cracks under weight of witchy lies.
Name: Not Good For Maidens
Author: Tori Bovalino
Publish date: 13th September 2022
Louisa doesn’t believe in magic, until her teenage aunt Neela is kidnapped to the goblin market.
The market is a place of magic, where twisting streets, succulent fruits, glimmering jewels, and death are on offer to the unwary human. An enticing place that her mother and aunt barely escaped seventeen years ago, paying a terrible price.
With only three days before the market disappears, Lou must navigate the treacherous market, controlled by bloodthirsty goblins who crave vengeance against her family. She must learn the songs and tricks of the goblins to save Neela, or the market might just end up claiming her too.
Thank you to the publishers for providing me with an ARC copy through Netgalley in return for an honest review.
Are you a fan of fairytale retellings? Amidst the popularity of A Court of Thorns and Roses and The Lunar Chronicles, we’re certainly seeing a rise in YA authors putting their own spin on old tales. However, Not Good For Maidens veers away from romantic retellings, standing apart as a bloody retelling of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”.
Set amongst the cobbled streets of York, this book follows two generations of girls who are seduced and subsequently destroyed by the Goblin Market. With brilliant queer representation, this book explores identity and its relation to sexuality, family and place… as well as its relation to witchy covens and underground goblin markets.
The best part? It’s crammed with strong female characters. There’s a very heavy family focus and I enjoyed Lou’s exploration of her identity. Casually queer, I loved Lou and Neela’s supportive relationship. Instead of predictable, Lou has an inevitable character development, although I feel the author could have pushed her eventual empowerment a bit more.
My other favourite thing was the magic. Not Good For Maidens has excellently researched and thought out lore, which I always love – with modern covens and modern witches. How cool is the idea that all the witches, all the police, all of York even, is banded together against the Goblin Market? If you’ve ever been to York, you’ll have felt the old magic in its old streets, and the supernatural underbelly of old English cities is perfectly encapsulated in this book. While Lou’s nationality appeals to American readers, Not Good For Maidens is rooted in England. If you’re a Northerner and enjoy YA fantasy, this is a must read.
“She didn’t want to feel the pull of the market. None of them did. May left the Witchery as the sun sank lower snd lower and dyed the sky red. She slipped into the twilight, into the hour that was not good for maidens, as the stars blinked and cluttered the night sky.”– NOT GOOD FOR MAIDENS
However, my biggest issue was that despite being marketed as such, this isn’t horror. This isn’t horror because that implies tension – ‘Not Good For Maidens’ relies instead on gore. Rather than the lingering fear embedded in horror, this was a few seconds of blunt impact. Not for the faint of hearts or the weak of knees, this is an incredibly visceral, brutal book, but I would class it more as thriller or a gory fantasy book than horror. The writing falls on the ‘tell not show’ side, which does take away some of the suspense. Horror should be about the unknown.
I also wish the goblins had a more dominant characteristic. Like how Holly Black’s faeries are beautiful and cruel, or Cassandra Clare’s fae can’t lie. The goblins were compellingly written (Eitra and May are really vibrant and moving at points, as forbidden love always is) but I wanted something more. However the whole premise is pretty original and I haven’t seen goblin markets before in Young Adult books. Have you? Let me know in the comments!
This is quite a simple book, but that’s not necessarily a fault. Not Good For Maidens isn’t the sort of book with elaborate plot twists – or any plot twists really. As there are two storylines alternating between the past and present, you can assume or have already been told exactly what will happen. But overall, it’s not a bad thing. The simplicity matches the overall feel of the book; the blunt writing and the archaic, brutal goblin magic.