Published by Del Rey (5.19.2015)
Genres: High Fantasy, New Adult
Format: Hardcover, 438 pages
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’m going to be honest, I only picked this up to see what all the fuss was about. Not that it didn’t sound interesting, but I probably would have never given this book a second thought based on the cover.
After seeing everyone RAVING about it, and even hearing Mindee Arnett mention it at a book signing, I knew I had to get my hands on it. And I did enjoy it. But, I’m afraid the hype might have lessened my enjoyment of it. It was good, but it just didn’t have that special something to make me love it.
The concept was fabulous. The selling point of this book for me was definitely the magic. I absolutely loved every single scene that had magic in it! Something else that I loved about this book was that it is rather gruesome, in a way that you don’t see much of in fantasy. I loooove gruesome! I loved that Novik went into gory detail.
Unfortunately, that is where the enjoyment stopped for me. I didn’t really care about the characters, and I didn’t care about the romance. I felt no chemistry between Agnieszka and the Dragon. (Also, can I take a moment to say here that I feel rather misled by all of the people filing this under a ‘dragons’ shelf? Despite a character being named “The Dragon,” THIS BOOK HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH DRAGONS.)
Also, no one told me this was a Beauty and the Beast retelling! It’s not marked as one anywhere I can see, but it definitely was. Whether by accident or design, I don’t know, but I couldn’t ignore the similarities. That was an unexpected surprise!
Despite the beautiful (and beautifully gruesome) imagery, this book somehow fell short for me. It just didn’t have that extra “oomph” that I was after…or maybe the hype just set my expectations too high.
He roared at me furiously for ten minutes after he finally managed to put out the suky and determined fire, calling me a witless muttonheaded spawn of pig farmers – “My father’s a woodcutter,” I said – “Of axe-swinging lummocks!” he snarled.
His name tasted of fire and wings, of curling smoke, of subtlety and strength and the rasping whisper of scales.
Writing style: 4/5
Overall rating: 3.5/5