Review: In usual fairy tale tradition, there’s a village. And a dragon. And a ritual ‘sacrificing’ of a maiden. This isn’t the typical tradition, nor is it the typical ‘modern twist’ of the maiden wanting to go against the traditions. No, the twist here isn’t that the dragon is the kind the reader normally expects, and the one chosen, wasn’t the one everyone thought would be. Agnieszka thought she was going to lose her best friend, instead, she was the one that lost everything. Or we’re led to believe.
I really enjoyed this book. Devoured it as quickly as I could. It’s honestly been a while since I had read a book that kept me up till the wee hours of the morning trying to finish, but of course, hoping it’d never end. The cover and summary of course grabbed me, but at the time, I had hoped that maybe there were hints of this being more of an LGBT story, with how much Agnieszka cared for her best friend. And in the first chapter or so, I still thought that. In fact, even at the end, I could personally see there being something, on top of them having a fantastic friendship that was both real and sweet.
There are a lot of nods to fairy tales that most of us know, and some I didn’t quite catch until the end, but this isn’t a remix or fusion of any of those popular ones, like most fairy tale books nowadays. No, this is wholly original while being true to what most people have grown up on. It’s a refreshing read, with very distinctive characters, and a very engaging plot.
I’ve never read Naomi Novik’s other series, though through the years, I’ve always heard good things. Like a few other reviewers, because of this book, I was compelled to go and pick up the first three books in Tremaire (reviews to come). She writes in a way that isn’t too ‘flowery’ but not too plain either, and creates fantastic visuals, especially when it came to the spells described.
I really enjoyed Agnieszka’s voice, where we don’t get a know it all or a simpleton. She’s just a young woman who got put into a situation she never truly prepared herself for, trying to deal with the almost atypical grumpy ‘dragon’ wizard. Their interactions are very amusing, and at the same time you feel sorry for her, and her worries. What I really liked was how grounded in realism, like her worry about what happens when a maiden is left alone with a man. Overall, the author does well in that regard, showing the sexism/misogyny that would’ve been ‘of the times’ in this kind of setting. It’s subtle but true, and just makes you want to ‘grr’ as one should.
This book is really about friendship though, about her love and devotion to her friend and family, and her village itself. Of course, the story line isn’t as internal, as there is a darkness in this world, an actual villain that’s been around for so long, that most people have grown complacent. The interactions between her and the Dragon were always a joy to read, and then when she was on her own, when the plot really started to thicken, and see how she copes with trying to be smart about the situations going on while seeing only the best case scenarios. I love how Kasia is shown, about her own friendship towards Agnieszka and seeing her own insecurities.
This book does a fantastic job of balancing the light with the dark, both in the story and in the characters. I want to say so much more, but I don’t want to give away either what a delight this read was. There’s a very good vs evil vibe going on but like everything in this story, it’s more complicated than that and not as black and white as one may think.
There is something somewhat of a ‘romance’, but honestly I saw it more as an attraction, and it’s dealt with rather well. It’s a nice addition, and overall complication, but this is obviously not a romance book. Of course, I am curious on what happens in the next book in the series regarding that particular relationship, but I’m more about the friendship between the two girls and their growths along with the other character’s interactions.
I think my only complaint was the pacing at times. You never really know just how many days or weeks or months have gone by, and then sometimes we get more of the day to day (though never boring), but it was hard to wrap around the timeline exactly. Even when there’s a lot of action and traveling, it was hard to gauge just the passage of time. It wasn’t ever so confusing where I had to stop and reread, but yeah. It does all make sense in the end, and with as satisfying as the ending was, I eagerly await more in this wonderful fairy tale world.
Thank you to Edelweiss for giving me an egalley to review!
Cover: The cover really draws you in. For some, it might seem a bit too complicated or distracting, but I like it. There’s lots of hints to what the story could be about, and then makes it a lovely ‘easter egg hunt’ of sorts for after you’ve finished reading. It certainly has a fairy tale feel, and has the main protagonist prominent and has her independent. And of course adding to the whole old fairy tale feel, is the font used for the title and author’s name. Seriously, an attention grabber.
Check it out on GoodReads Here!