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 aforementioned synopsis, in my opinion, really isn’t that great. This is what the first hundred pages or so are about, but then the story becomes so much more. The book is really about The Wood taking over the land while the Dragon attempts to keep it at bay. The Wood is probably the most interesting aspect of the book and the most intriguing character. I can’t actually say to much about it without ruining the book for you. Discovering it for myself was half the enjoyment of the book. Lets just say that The Wood makes the most perfect villain!
The plot is incredibly well paced, detailed, mysterious, and unpredictable. I had no idea where the story was going at first. I thought it was going to pay more attention to the Dragon and his apprentice, but it shifts to focus more on The Wood and the history of the people. It is truly an amazingly engrossing story that you won’t want to miss out on.
It’s also a fairy-tale, but nothing like all the others. The heroine isn’t the prettiest, doesn’t fall for Prince Charming, and has to solve problems by actually thinking about them and doing things for herself. I loved how different it was from the traditional fairy-tale! Oh and don’t be fooled into thinking that The Dragon is an actual dragon because he is just a Wizard.
Unlike some other reviewers, I really enjoyed the magic system. I didn’t mind the language in which the spells were cast. I always believe magic should be a little complicated and there should always be a price to pay for using it. In this case, the price is getting tired to the point of being unable to wield magic if you use too much too quickly.
This is a pretty dark story with some scary, descriptive scenes and creatures. There is also a pretty detailed sex scene, so I would highly recommend that his book be read only by adults or possibly very mature young adults.
There is a reason why this book only gets 4.5 stars from me and that is because of the characters. There were just too many for such a short, stand-alone novel so they couldn’t be fully developed.
I thought Agnieszka was a decent main character, but I just didn’t have the attachment to her that I really wanted to have. I needed to know even more about her. However, she is the most well developed character in the book. Unlike most fairy-tales this girl isn’t the fairest, the kindest, or the best at something, but is chosen by the Dragon anyway for reasons we can only assume for a time. She also doesn’t like pretty dresses or being clean. Agieszka is quite the opposite in fact. She is what I would refer to as a pig; always dirty. It doesn’t matter what she is doing, she will always end up a mess, and the author spends a bit too much time focusing on this fact and not telling us much more about her. Despite this, I still enjoyed reading from her POV and learning what I could about her. The thing I enjoyed the most was her relationship with The Dragon and how she felt about him. That is what kept me interested in the book towards the beginning.
The Dragon is a very mysterious character, but he is also an ass and hard to like. He knows he is the most powerful wizard and that things should be done his way. The Dragon also appears to like pretty things, which is why the villagers thought they knew who was going to be picked, but upon inspection the Dragon was upset to find that he had no choice but to choose another. I enjoyed the frustration he had with Agnieszka always being disheveled and understanding things she shouldn’t be able to. It was kind of hilarious when he couldn’t grasp how Agnieszka was able to do something and him trying to figure out how to do it as well. It was also interesting to watch him develop in his relationship with Agnieszka over the course of the novel. He ends up becoming my favorite character and the one I was the most interested in.
Kasia, Agnieszka’s best-friend, was my least favorite character because I couldn’t have cared less about her. Of course we knew she was the complete opposite of Agnieszka and trained most of her life to be the one taken by The Dragon, but that is all we knew and I just wasn’t satisfied. I really didn’t care what happened to her in the story and that is never a good sign.
Of course there are many other characters in the book, but I’m not going to go into that much detail. You can discover the others for yourself.
Despite its couple of set backs, this truly is an engrossing stand-alone fantasy novel. If you want a different kind of fairy-tale that is unpredictable and mysterious then you should definitely give this one a try. Adults who love fantasy would enjoy this novel the most; I really don’t recommend it to anyone under 18 due to some of the content in the book (descriptive sex scene), and that it moves and develops more slowly than young adults may like. I really enjoyed it and may just have to buy a copy for my shelf, I just wish I could have given it the full five stars.
My rating: 4.5/5 stars!
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