on May 19th 2015
Published by Random House Publishing Group
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Fantasy Poland
“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.
Ever 10 years the local wizard comes into the valley to choose a girl to live with him. Usually he chooses the most beautiful or talented. But this year, instead of taking Kasia who everyone knew was going to be the chosen one, he takes her friend Agnieszka because he recognizes her latent magical talent. He isn’t happy about having a student especially when Agnieszka can’t seem to master any spells.
There is a Wood at the end of the Valley. Monsters live in the wood. The wizard is supposed to protect the people in the valley from the Wood but there isn’t really much he can do. If anyone is taken by the monsters, they are dead.
When the Wood attacks Agnieszka’s home village and then takes someone that she cares for, she decides to use whatever magic she has to fight back.
- I have a soft spot for non-World War II books set in Poland. This book is set in a fantasy version of Eastern Europe. The audio version of this book was done with a strong Eastern European accent which was a constant reminder of the world where it was set.
- I like the fact that Agnieszka and the Dragon have very different systems of magic. At first they don’t even recognize the power that Agnieszka has because it is so different than what magic is supposed to look like.
- There is a great story of female friendship here. That’s isn’t something that is always seen in fantasy books.
- Spoiler – Highlight to read – She sleeps with someone and then goes on with her life when a relationship doesn’t develop. She doesn’t sit around and pine. There is some resolution of this at the end but there isn’t a happily ever after. That is refreshing.
- I’m not a person who routinely says that books are too long but this one started to really drag after a while. I sped the audio up and powered through it. There was a complex political world that Agnieszka was thrown into and it went on and on.
- The Dragon is always written as annoyed or glaring. Maybe he just a grumpy fella but don’t try to make sympathetic and a potential romantic interest while having him be nasty to the character that you want him to get romantic with. That’s no basis for a relationship.
- There is a point where a prince comes to visit them. He attempts to rape Agnieszka. She realizes her power at this point and not only fends him off but almost kills him. The Dragon then explains this all to her by telling her that the Prince planned to insult him by raping her. We are into some seriously problematic territory now. Her personal autonomy doesn’t come into consideration at all. Then it gets worse. They decide to plant a false memory so he doesn’t realize that she was violent towards him. The Dragon gives her a choice of letting him think that she complied enthusiastically to his sexual advances and they had a great time or that she complied but was really bad at it. She half heartedly complains about this but no other options are considered. I mean, if you can implant a false memory why not have him think he got drunk at dinner and went to bed?
I liked it but it drug on audio. Maybe read this one instead so you can go faster. That’s sad because the narration was really well done.