Foul Days (The Witch's Compendium of Monsters #1), by Genoveva Dimova

2 Jul 2024

The Book

Foul Days
Series: The Witch's Compedium of Monsters
Pages: 368
Age Group: Adult
Published on 25 Jun 2024
Publisher: Tor
Dark Fantasy
Available on:


The Witcher meets Naomi Novik in this fast-paced fantasy rooted in Slavic folklore, from an assured new voice in genre fiction.

As a witch in the walled city of Chernograd, Kosara has plenty of practice treating lycanthrope bites, bargaining with kikimoras, and slaying bloodsucking upirs. There's only one monster she can't defeat: her ex, the Zmey, known as the Tsar of Monsters. She's defied him one too many times and now he's hunting her. Betrayed by someone close to her, Kosara's only choice is to trade her shadow--the source of her powers--for a quick escape.

Unfortunately, Kosara soon develops the deadly sickness that plagues shadowless witches--and only reclaiming her magic can cure her. To find it, she's forced to team up with a suspiciously honorable detective. Even worse, all the clues point in a single direction: To get her shadow back, Kosara will have to face the Foul Days' biggest threats without it. And she's only got twelve days.

But in a city where everyone is out for themselves, who can Kosara trust to assist her in outwitting the biggest monster from her past?

My Review

Foul Days is the first book in the dark fantasy duology The Witch's Compendium of Monsters, written by Genoveva Dimova and published by TOR. Drawing heavily from Slavic folklore, we have a dark twisted adventure, with an excellent atmosphere, following Kosara, a witch from the walled city of Chernograd, and her fight for survival against the Zmey, the Tsar of Monsters.

Persecuted by the Zmey, and after being betrayed by a friend, Kosara's only resource to flee is trading her shadow (the source of her powers) in exchange from illegal passage across the Wall to Belograd, a safe place for monsters. However, despite Belograd is a safe place, she starts experiencing a fast-acting version of the deadly illness that affects shadowless witches; her only cure is tracking down the smuggler that took her across the Wall.
When she finds the death of the smuggler, with all the hints pointing towards Chernograd, she will have to team up with the Belogradian detective (Asen) that is investigating the assassination; both will have to collaborate if they want to recover Kosara's shadow and survive.

I found Kosara to be a great character, sarcastic at points, but still somebody that wants to use his powers to protect Chernograd's people, her people; with time running down, she will have to swallow her pride and collaborate with Asen, especially as the Zmey seems to be the one holding her shadow. Despite being young, she has seen too much, and that is reflected in the ways she behaves; confidence needs to be gained.
In comparison, Asen may lack that knowledge, but he's guided by a strong sense of duty; even if that means breaking the rules. His relationship with Kosara doesn't start in the best way, but slowly, confidence gets gained as both are struggling with guilt, and share the objective of protecting the people of their respective cities. The slow burn relationship between both (I'm not sure I would call it romantic) is simply sweet.
The rest of the characters are less defined, outside of exceptions such as the own Zmey; it is interesting how the Zmey, apart from being the Tsar of Monsters, is practically the archetype of the toxic love, that partner that covers you in love to, subsequently, show its true face and become the most possessive and abusive individual.

The worldbuilding is simply excellent, drawing from that Slavic folklore, and including many of the creatures; most of them appear in encounters that have an episodic feeling like in The Witcher. I would like to point that the dichotomy between Chernograd/Belograd can also remember to East Berlin/West Berlin, separated by a wall that not only keeps the monsters inside, but the people; Chernograd rooted in tradition and with many inhabitants that drink or smoke to deal with their difficult situation.
The pacing is fast, without a single dull moment, but allowing some times to recover the breath between high-tension moments; and Dimova's writing enhances the reading experience, giving us many memorable passages.

Foul Days is an excellent novel, a great example of modern dark fantasy that uses folklore not only to build the world, but to also include a thoughtful social commentary. Dimova's debut is a candidate to be my book of the year, and I can't wait to read Monstrous Nights, the second book in this Witch's Compendium of Monsters.

The Author/s

Genoveva Dimova

Genoveva Dimova

Genoveva Dimova is a Bulgarian fantasy author and archaeologist based in Scotland. Her debut novel inspired by Slavic folklore, Foul Days, is coming out in June 2024, with the sequel, Monstrous Nights to follow in October 2024. When she’s not writing, she likes to explore old ruins, climb even older hills, and listen to practically ancient rock music.