Written by Naomi Novik
Published by Del Rey, May 19, 2015
My star rating: 2.75 stars
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. Find it on Goodreads
Oh boy. I had such high hopes for this book!! It had gotten such praise from people that have similar tastes as myself…… AND THAT COVER!! I mean, that cover alone is enough to scream “read me, love me”. But sadly, my reading experience fell flat. Maybe, in hindsight, I expected too much from the story. And maybe the reviews I read prior to picking this up tainted my opinions. Either way, this didn’t agree with me.
My first issue with this book was the writing….. but it didn’t start off all that bad. In fact, this is something that I normally live for! I absolutely love books that have lots of descriptions, info dumping, and elaborations. I actually fell in love with the first few chapters! But then things started to slow. I felt as though there was too much repetition, and it started to take way too long to get to the point. I found my mind wandering constantly wondering when we were going to get back to the point.
Along with the writing was the pace. The pace killed me. For a few chapters things would be moving too slowly. Then, without warning, something would happen and it would all go so fast that I couldn’t keep up. I would have to go back and reread an entire page because I wasn’t able to read at my normal pace and catch every detail. I had to really slow down during all the action parts which I found seriously annoying.
Another thing that made me slow down were the spells. I get it. When there’s magic in a book, the spells aren’t going to make sense. They’re not meant to. But at least they resemble words in some form. With this one it seemed like the author wanted to create a spell so she slammed her hands down on the keyboard and whatever keys her fingers touched was the spell.
The main character was ok, but I don’t like that she was placed in a position where she was basically stuck and didn’t know what to do. All her life she knew that she was born in the year that the dragon would be taking a girl. They spend their whole lives knowing that someone is going to be with him for 10 years but never knowing what happens. Ok, that’s fine. But then the main character is chosen and she’s basically dumped in a tower with zero instruction. She wanders aimlessly cooking and hoping that she’s doing what she’s supposed to do. I guess that this was meant to be a mystery to her and to us as the reader, but it bored me and made me wonder what she was even doing or supposed to do.
And then there’s the love interest. No. Just no.
The things that I did enjoy about this book – the world building. It was stellar! Like I said, details and info dumping are my wheelhouse. I love being able to take descriptions of a setting and paint the picture in my head. This was done so well! I also enjoyed the fact that this was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. But in the end, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t get invested with this story!!
Until next time, happy reading!