by Naomi Novik
★☆☆☆☆ (1 out of 5 stars)
“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.
Welp, this was a did not finish for me. I didn’t like this. I know so many people loved this book so it must be one of those times where it comes down to my personal preference. But for me it was just not going to work.
I couldn’t stand the main character Agnieszka AT ALL. She was whiny, selfish and frustrating. But the most annoying part was how ridiculously messy and unkempt she was. It aggravated me to have to read every other sentence about how stained, messy, torn, unraveled, blah blah blah her appearance was. I feel like maybe the author was trying to avoid making her character unrealistically perfect and beautiful, and so she just swung completely to the opposite end of the spectrum which felt just as farfetched and unbelievable (I have never, not once, met someone in real life that is THAT much of a disaster).
Then there’s the Dragon. What a freakin’ asshole. He is awful, and I could barely stand having to read the parts with him in them. Which, unfortunately, is a lot. At one point Agnieszka is almost raped, barely manages to defend herself, and he finds her immediately afterwards and yells at her for it. What?! Maybe he gets better later on but I couldn’t bring myself to suffer through more of him until that “might” happen.
The final nail in the coffin for me was the world building. Or I suppose I should say the lack of world building. This world had all the depth of a children’s picture book. It felt as blah as Agnieszka did. Yes there were forests, rivers, towns, and castles but it felt very shallow. Like the Dragon, maybe it it gets developed later on but I’m not going to plod through the rest of this book to find out.