- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Del Rey; 1st Edition edition (May 19, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0804179034
- ISBN-13: 978-0804179034
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.4 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 2,352 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 19, 2015
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So now comes this new novel and my bottom line verdict is that it is fantastic. It’s straight fantasy but absolutely reminds one of that nostalgic feeling of fairy tales you read (or were read to you) from childhood. After reading the opening two chapters I thought I was on my way into just such a fairy tale, but it wasn’t long before any ideas I had about predicting where this was going were thrown out of the proverbial window. The plot begins as a twist in the age-old concept of a young maiden being picked every ten years by the village elders to sacrifice to the dragon in order to buy its protection. The twist is that this time it’s not an actual dragon but a renowned wizard who requires the sacrifice. And he doesn’t select the pretty young maiden that everybody was planning on but instead chooses Agneieszka, our protagonist, and it is though her eyes that we see the story unfold.
OK…interesting twist but I still thought I knew where the plot was going. I was wrong.
No spoilers from me but suffice it to say that this novel kept me turning the pages way past my bedtime. Ms. Novik is a masterful storyteller and knows how to pace a book to keep the reader hooked all the way through. Her use of language is perfect for this type of tale, combining the lighter fairy tale elements but also taking a deep dive into battle scenes with a hard grittiness that, frankly, surprised me. And the world building…this is how it should be done. It’s obviously fully developed but we aren’t bombarded with extraneous details that we don’t need. We can understand everything and how all the characters fit together but don’t spend much time with info dumps.
I understand this book is being marketed as YA although I confess to not really understanding the distinction anymore. The only thing remotely YA about this is the fact that Agneieszka is seventeen years old at the beginning of the story. Rest assured there is no “dumbing down” of the plot, the rich characterization, or the language/word choice. True, there is no swearing to speak of but there is violence aplenty. Lots of fighting action and violent deaths, plenty of creative use of well-imagined magic, and a tasteful but on-stage sex scene all combine to make this one a keeper. And the plot about the woods…the intelligent life force of the dark woods and how it consumes people…oh yeah…no spoilers. You’ll have to read that yourself.
This book is complete in and of itself. I could see how there may be a sequel or two (or seven) but there may never be more.
Well done Ms. Novik. Highly recommended!
I could really relate to the main character. I understood the way she felt, her frustration and the way she coped and succeeded. Doing things her way, the way that was comfortable, not the "correct, spelled out way". It took me back to my old Polish neighbors that I would visit as a child. The comfortable life, herbs hanging from the rafters, hot sweet tea..
I wish there was another one to read...