Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: YA Fantasy
Synopsis: “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.
This book is magic. From the words to the story to the folklore it came from. I’m simply spellbound.
From page one you know something sinister is lurking, waiting for the right moment to wreak havoc over the kingdom. Even the Dragon, a wizard sworn to protect the people, is elusive and slightly creepy. His price is paid willingly, but not without a heaping side of sorrow and worry.
The synopsis really doesn’t do this book justice. It’s about so much more than a wizard basically kidnapping a teenager every couple of years. Though it was enough to get me to pick up the book, the lure of the magic seeped into the pages is what kept me going.
It’s about a malignant wood that threatens to take over everything Agnieszka knows and holds dear. It’s about a precarious relationship between a teacher and his student- the way a teacher learns his student surpasses him, but knows enough to change his teachings. It’s about a friendship so close it borders on romance, how the strength of it can save lives. It’s about a girl who learns from history and is strong enough to change, to make peace in a world that has known anything but.
There are so many wonderful relationships in this novel. Between Agnieszka and her mother, Agnieszka and Kasia, the Dragon and Polnya, the Dragon and the entire kingdom, really, and finally Agnieszka and the Dragon themselves. Each one is given a great amount of page time. Nothing feels out of place. I never felt like I needed to push forward just to get to the parts I was really interested in.
I really wish I had this book in a physical copy. I want to hold it in my hands like a spell book. I want it to be to me what Baba Yaga was to Agnieszka. I want to delve into more Polish folklore. I want to dive into the language behind the spells. It’s all mesmerizing.
The spells. Did I mention the spells? They rock and are written so poignantly. I love the way Agnieszka views her magic. It’s very visual and stunning.
I highly recommend this book. It’s got everything you could want in it. Action, adventure, magic, love, family, honest-to-God goodness. Seriously, go pick it up now.