After hearing loads of positive things about this from people that I trust, I decided to give this book ago. I love reading about magic, witches and wizards and evil. So basing the book off these points, this book seemed like the perfect book for me.
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.
The first 100 pages of this book built the foundations of the story really well. Dragon was shrouded in a massive cloud of mystery and to why he took girls away from the village (you find this out at the end of the book) and I found Novik’s writing to be astounding. Her description of settings and characters captured my imagination. I loved how Agnieszka wasn’t the perfect female protagonist. She would rather wear her village clothes than the fancy outside that Dragon wanted her to wear; she was untidy and always a made a mess of herself. However, she was also very very annoying – I would like to read this story was Kasia’s perspective, as I found her character to be much more interesting than Agnieszka.
“If you don’t want a man dead, don’t bludgeon him over the head repeatedly.”
― Naomi Novik,
However… *small spoilers ahead*
THE ROMANCE! UGGGHHH. I JUST CAN’T GET OVER HOW TERRIBLE IT WAS! If the romance didn’t exist in this book, it would easily be a four-star book. But I hated the character of Dragon (Sarkan) and his and Nieszka’s relationship was just stupid. He was verbally abusive towards her; he kept calling her an idiot, useless, horse-faced…. and she loves someone who keeps telling her that? No. That isn’t right. Here, Novik is portraying that verbally abusive relationships are okay and takes us back to the argument that when girls were younger, we were told that when boys were mean to us, it meant they liked us. No. I don’t agree with this at all. And the sex. Where the hell did that come from? One minute they’re doing some magic in the library and the next… BAM!
Also, the magic didn’t really make any sense to me. I loved the description that Novik used to describe the magic, but I don’t really understand how it happened. What was with Nieszka singing everything? One minute nothing was happening and the next, there’s roses everywhere… HUH? IT CAME OUT OF NOWHERE.
Overall, this book was okay… if it didn’t have the romance and the magic was described properly, then this book would have been so much better. The writing style was gorgeous and Novik creates a beautiful world but there’s problems with this book that ruined the reading experience for me. That’s not to say that I don’t reccomend it, because I do! I would love to hear your opinions on this book if you’ve read it!