Published by: Macmillan
ISBN 13: 9781447298304
Published: May 2015
Format reviewed: Paperback
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: Spinning Silver (not the same series, but same author, same feel)
It’s been almost three years since I read this, so forgive me but I’ll be using the default description rather than my own recount:
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.
This was one of my favourite books of the year back in 2015, mostly for Agnieszka who is utterly intelligent and fierce, and manages such utterly magical things. This whole take is wholly feminist, and the magic and the way it works is endlessly fascinating.
The Woods in this book are just as ferocious as we think dragons to be.
No one went into the Wood and came out again, at least not whole and themselves. Sometimes they came out blind and screaming, sometimes they came out twisted and so misshapen they couldn’t be recognized; and worst of all sometimes they came out with their own faces but murder behind them, something gone dreadfully wrong within.
The wizard is so excellent. Agnieszka is so excellent. The tropes we have come to expect – especially from what Disney have done to them – are all turned on their heads and set to us upside-down. And now, trying to review this book three years too late… I think I need a re-read.