It was the cover that first caught my eye as I browsed the fantasy section of my local book store. After taking it home that day, and like most of my random book buys, I didn’t give it any more thought. I’ve seen more and more posts on Instagram showcasing this gorgeous cover. I decided to finally pick it up and two weeks later here are my thoughts.
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
I found that the synopsis didn’t really capture my feelings of the book. If you read the back you might come away with a “Beauty and the Beast” vibe. After flying through the first half of the book I still had a million guesses as to the direction of the plot and none of them had anything to do with beauties or beasts. I found the characters to be the weak point in this novel, but driven forward by the well crafted imagery and enticing story I was compelled to finish.
Agnieszka (ag-NYESH-kah) was a difficult character for me to relate to. I cringed every time she complained about acquiring powers I only dream of having. Girl! If I found out I had magical powers there would be no complaining, I would want to know all the spells. I look for empowerment in the female characters I read and her constant negative comparisons to her friend irritated me to no end. I only connected with her near the end when she chose a path that I was rooting she would take.
My least favourite character was the Dragon. I found him selfish, boring, and wooden. He didn’t help the story in my eyes and I wish he had developed more. This was my primary complaint regarding this book and had he been a stronger character I would have rated it higher.
As a Canadian-Serb I enjoyed the nod to Baba Jaga (Bab Roga in Serbian) and the hall of wizards, Charovnikov (Carbonjak means wizard in Serbian). I love the vivid description of the Wood and the imagery Naomi Novik brings to her world impressed me. She well deserves the Nebula she was awarded last week for Best Novel.
I am excited to announce that Ellen Degeneres has signed on with Warner Bros. to help bring this book to the silver screen! It can be an awkward transition from novel to film especially if there are foreign languages and specific pronunciations involved. I am keeping my fingers crossed for good casting, that can make all the difference. *cough* Harry Potter *cough*
Overall, I would recommend this book to any YA/adult fantasy reader*. It was unique and didn’t follow the typical plot line that you may expect of this genre. Give it a read!
*Special Note – This book does contain a graphic sex scene
Page count – 438
Rating – 3/5 Oakley stars