Author: Naomi Novik
Release: May 19th 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Magic, YA
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, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood's powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost 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 no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.
From the author of the Temeraire series comes this hugely imaginative, engrossing and vivid fantasy novel, inspired by folk and fairy tales. It is perfect reading for fans of Robin Hobb and Trudi Canavan.
Well, this was, to put it mildly, underwhelming as fuck.
I feel like I was set up to hate this right from the start. You know, I truly bought this on a whim knowing next to nothing about it, all I knew was that people and authors I trust and appreciate have praised this book to heaven and back, made it out to be one of the best books ever, and I expected this epic tale of ... I don't even know, but I didn't get it, anyway.
The story itself isn't very original at all, for one thing, and neither is its execution, to be perfectly honest. It was mildly interesting for the first 30 pages, but then dragged on soooooo long that by the time the actual, more exciting plot rolled around, I was already wishing for the novel to just finally be over, please. I'm not kidding. Yes, the second half was full of action in a way, but it never really felt urgent to me or anything. Which I blame mostly on my detachment from the plot.
The characters were okay all around, but that's all. They didn't solicit many emotions from me, mostly I felt indifferent towards them and if I didn't, it was more of an "omfg you're fucking stupid" reaction, so yeah, not too positive either. Which is sad, because I could see the potential the whole time ... It just wasn't meant to be.
The relationships between characters were a little confusing and very fucked up, if I do say so myself. I felt the strong friendship between Kasia and Agnieszka wasn't handled very well at all, because I couldn't fathom for the life of me why Agnieszka would be willing to absolutely throw everything away and be the dumbest bitch ever only to rescue her, in a full platonic sense, even though their friendship hasn't been fleshed out up until then. Like, at all. We were told by the author that they've always been inseparable since childhood etc, but that connection doesn't just sink in because of some tales and we never see them interact all that much in the present of the novel. Honestly, the story would have worked 10000 times better if Agnieszka and Kasia would have fallen/been in love? It wouldn't have been as confusing, anyway. And would have prevented the questionable storyline of Agnieszka and the Dragon falling in love. (which, again, wasn't really developed very nicely either.)
All in all, I am so very, very, extremely disappointed with this novel. I was counting on it being a 5 star read for sure, but I had to literally punch myself through its pages, skimming entire pages for a time with only my goal of finishing it. And with it, the constant hope that things might still just get better the further I get. Which never happened, sadly, as there weren't many redeeming qualities.
At least it has a beautiful cover, I guess?