Review: Not Good For Maidens

Tori Bovalino caught my attention last year with the tightly plotted, horrifyingly brilliant The Devil Makes Three. That same attention to detail and innate ability to craft such perfect horror rings true once more in Not Good for Maidens.

This review originally appeared on The Nerd Daily.

Salem’s Lot meets The Darkest Part of the Forest in this gruesome, horror-fantasy retelling of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market.”

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.

Publication Date: 5th May

TW: death, blood, gore, violence, manipulation, abuse, trafficking, body horror, eye horror

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

Not Good for Maidens is a hauntingly enticing and bloody spectacle of a book. It’s the type of story that sits heavy on your bones after reading and haunts your nightmares. 

This book is one that you will not forget in a hurry. It is chilling and spectacular, with the terror building and the chill on your spine only ever getting more intense. This feels like the whisper in the dark that promises you everything you have ever wanted, but at an unimaginable cost. It is genuinely tantalising. Right from that atmospheric opening, you will be hooked. Instantly the scene of intertwining timelines and the legacy of that traumatic experience is established. You know this is going to be a book that does not hold back and grapples with inter-generational trauma. Bovalino constantly keeps you wanting more, drawing you into this blood-drenched world where every action has consequences and everything has its price. Her writing is stunning in every way. It is evocative, descriptive and endlessly gorgeous, but tinged with such darkness. It resembles the market in the way it shines, but that shine is a veneer of bright promises to conceal the horrific underbelly. The pacing is immaculate, keeping the pages flowing past you. For me, the reading experience was transportative, compelling and utterly enrapturing. Time flew past as the pages flowed and the blood spilt. 

This is the sort of retelling that honours the essence of the original but spins it into something entirely new. The Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti is an impactful poem warning of the dangers of temptation and damnation, particularly periodical taboos surrounding sexuality and desire. Bovalino brings these moral panics into the modern day, interrogating societal assumptions and the underlying judgement of female sexuality. It is a deeply feminist and empowering book, complicating Rossetti’s original challenges to society. The way Bovalino brings the original tale into the timelines is excellent and a creative way of merging these two worlds. Her reinterpretation is a brutal, blood-drenched one, but also one that maintains hope. 

Lou was such a fantastic protagonist and really acted as the audience’s eyes, as she enters this darkly magical world. Her spirit and determination is admirable, but she is not entirely immune to temptation. The way she wavers is so human and the conflicts she encounters are both mental and physical. I loved the way Bovalino explores family ties, heritage and intergenerational trauma. In fact, the entire central cast of characters is so fractured and fascinating to read about. The representation was so amazing, particularly the speech about being asexual. This representation is not something you see too often in books and Bovalino brings sensitivity and authenticity to it. Also, the choice of setting is perfect. Aside from some Northern representation, Bovalino really taps into that environment of small town superstitions. It is claustrophobic and suffocating. At the same time, it speaks to folklore of old and the knowledge of something beyond. It pays homage to the history embedded in these small towns and the way that traditions are upheld. At its core, this is a book about temptation and damnation in a way that examines societal pressures and judgements. It asks why society deems certain values and people as forever unsullied and others as above judgement. 

Not Good For Maidens is one of those books you cannot get out of your brain. It is a gory, complex and emotionally fraught book centering on trauma, family and temptation.

8 thoughts on “Review: Not Good For Maidens

  1. Hundreds&Thousands says:

    Brilliant review! I also got an arc from NetGalley (the cover was too good to miss!) and I totally agree, the family aspect and the gory goblin market was so interesting! I loved Neela and Lou’s relationship. It’s a pretty gruesome book but I still enjoyed it – and agree with literally everything you said haha. I talk more about the gore and why it feels to me like more of a thriller than horror in my review here: 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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