Classification: Young Adult (13+)
Format: Hardcover; 448 pages
Publisher: Del Rey; 1st edition (May 19, 2015)
Author's Website: http://www.naominovik.com/
Notes: I borrowed this one from the library.
Once upon a time there was an enchanted Kingdom. The Wood which existed there contained scary creatures who occasionally ventured out and would steal people away, never to be seen again. Those who escaped were never quite as they once were. They were corrupted in some sinister way by the evil magic of the forest and could not be trusted.
The land was protected from the Wood by the king's wizard who many refer to as the Dragon. Every ten years he demanded, as his due, the company of a girl 17 years of age born within the span of one year beginning in one October and ending in the next. Girls born during this time were referred to as "Dragon-born". Dragon-born girls were treated differently by their families for they knew they may be taken from them when they come of age. Rumors ran rampant as to what the Dragon did with the girls, but after their time with the Dragon was over, they never seem satisfied with returning to their old life or staying with their families. Some went to school while others opened businesses. Many choose not to marry while those who did tended to marry into the nobility.
This year Kasia was thought to be the Dragon's choice, for he tended to pick the most beautiful, kind, and special of the lot. Kasia was all those things, everything Agnieszka was not. For one reason or another, however, it was Agnieszka he chose. This is her tale.
Monday Musings; The making of a classic fairy tale. It includes a list of things that classic fairy tales usually include. While reading, see how many you can identify as being used by Ms. Novik. You might be surprised.
I liked the use of the woods in the story. Besides darkened alleys, the woods would have been one of the scariest places a person could travel. It has many hiding places, and is dark and spooky both day and night. It is also a place where many robberies and other nefarious crimes took place. I feel it is the perfect place for a fairy-tale to be centered around, especially when it is full of scary creatures who can steal you away. While the book isn't based off another fairy-tale, the author states during an interview with Meredith Schwartz in Library Journal, "I realized this story was set in the fairy-tale Poland of my childhood: a very specific place that even though it never really existed, [it] existed for me, because as a child my mother would read me these fairy-tales [to keep] me connected to her own roots." Two of the books which inspired the Wood are Agnieszka 'Piece of Sky' by Natalia Galczynska and 'Living Water'. Both are Polish fairy-tales. I can't help but wonder if the popularity of the Broadway musical 'Into the Woods' played a role in bringing this world to the forefront of Ms. Novik's imagination. If so, I'm glad it did. (To read the full interview in Library Journal, Click Here)
I confess, that I felt this book probably should have been labeled as New Adult, due to some of the content. I wish the main character was 18 instead of 17 years old. There is a relationship that develops between Agnieska and the Dragon that I felt was a tad inappropriate. The time period the story takes place in, however, had the feel of a more medieval time, so I wasn't as phased by the relationship as I would have been had it taken place in a more modern setting. That said, I liked how the teacher student relationship developed between them. At first he was annoyed by her. Then he thought she was a spy. Later he became impressed by her skill, and I loved seeing Agnieska grow as an individual and come into her own. Her confidence was given a huge boost, she didn't change who she was, and was someone who could, if the need arose, rescue herself.
I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. It was fast paced, imaginative, with a phenomenal magical world that made me yearn for more. I hope this will be made into a series (though the author stated it is a standalone) as it was a world I didn't want to leave. While there were no cliff-hangers, the ending seemed to leave an opening for the story to be expanded. Ms. Novik put so much into the world building that it would be a pity not to return to it. Am I starting to sound a little like Oliver Twist? Well in for a penny..."Please sir (or in this case Ms.Novik), I want some more." *Grin* I highly recommend this one.