Release Date: 21st May 2015
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.
This book came on my radar after someone marketing the book over in America contacted me about it, I had to turn down their offer of a physical arc because I was well aware of the rights issues that mean they couldn’t send it to me. Regardless, though, I knew this is a book I would keep my eyes open for. Then it was mentioned over at The Daily Prophecy as Mel had been given some ARCs by Pan Macmillan to enable her to host a giveaway, I obviously entered. I then finally got a hold of the book through Netgalley, I saw it available to request and I knew I had to chance it because even if I got turned down, I was going to buy it. Now, I am certain I am buying this book upon release because it is such an epic read.
This is one of the most magical and captivating books I have read in a long while. There was magic mayhem, love and betrayal, war and politics and all within this one story which is a standalone novel. That is practically unheard of in the fantasy world. I do believe this has the potential to be one of my favourite books ever, but I will wait to award it that title until have had more than a couple of hours to ruminate on what I’ve read.
This story will grip you throughout, you will not want to put it down. I began it Monday evening and I only stopped reading because if I didn’t go to sleep I would fall asleep at work, and even then I was still tired come morning. I read it every chance I got, on the bus to and from work, during my lunch break, and even when I wasn’t reading this book I was thinking about it. I found myself checking the clock for when I could resume my reading. It is the kind of book which takes a hold of you and carries on gripping you tight until the very last page, and you are then left with that wonderful feeling of happiness and contentment that you get from reading a really good book.
I don’t know if this is a book I can do justice in reviewing, there are so many things I want to say about it and I have no idea if I can formulate it all into words. I know it is an excellent story, Novak writes so well that you truly fall into this world and it becomes like your own. It is so well thought out and I truly believe that the lands created within the story could have been real. Novak doesn’t overload you in world building and explanation as you too often see in fantasy novels, instead she throws you in and explains things only when necessary. When Agnieszka learns something about the world, that is when you do too. It is subtle, you don’t realise you are getting basic explanations, you simply feel absorbed. Too often I’ve been turned off from a book when it is too weighted down with explanations that distract from the story.
The characters are all so well written, even the ones who you dislike in the story you can’t help but understand them and have some sympathy for them. Even when you are angry and raging at characters because they are doing everything wrong you are also thinking you would do exactly the same thing in their place. I do truly think it is the character of Agnieszka that makes this story so magical, because she is such a good main character. She is innocent and naive. She is jealous and selfish and often too weak to stand up for herself, but she grows into herself. She becomes a person you cheer for and support, even whilst she is still clumsy and a mess, trailing dirt around herself with knots in her hair and dirt upon her face. She is just so real, and she makes the magic within the book all the more welcoming and good.
There were things I noticed which I might have liked changing, but I won’t point them out. This book was so good in my mind that to nitpick at the problems I perceived seems petty and ridiculous, because they are simply things I noticed and found fault with rather than actual problems with the book.
Do I want you to read this book? Yes, I certainly hope you give it a go if it ever comes your way. I hope if you do you can tell me about it and your experience with it. Mine is all brightness and sunshine and an overwhelming sense of passion for it, but not all book experiences are the same.