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 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.
TW: attempted rape
Aw man, this was a bit disappointing for me. I was so excited to finally read this book but unfortunately it wasn't really for me. It had all the elements of a book I would like but I just don't think it was executed very well.
First, the characters. I didn't feel anything for the characters. I didn't have any connection or attachment to any of them which made it hard to really care about what was happening. We are told that our main character Agnieszka is clumsy, not conventionally attractive, and overall a bit of a mess. Where her best friend Kasia is gorgeous, brave, well loved, and has her life together. But both of them are a bit dull. We don't get any real personality from either of them. I thought at least their friendship and how much they loved each other would pull some sort of emotional connection from me but it fell flat. I wanted more moments of their friendship, it would have made moments of their story that relied on their love for each other mean more than it actually did. That is going to be a theme in this review. I wish we got more of a lot of different things. I don't think just over 400 pages was enough to really develop both the characters and the plot. The Dragon was a stereotypical annoyed jerk kind of character. He didn't have much more than that going for him and I didn't care about him at all throughout the entire story. And I cared even less about the side characters. The best part of this story was the Woods. It's creepy and it's the most interesting character. I loved that the Woods was its own entity and how kind of terrifying it was. It genuinely pulled me in and had me interested more than any of the other characters did.
The plot was a mess. I liked the beginning and honestly the first 150 pages had me optimistic. But like I said before, I would have liked more. I would have liked more of Agnieszka and Kasia's friendship before Agnieszka is selected by the Dragon to live in the tower, I would have liked more character development with the other characters, and I would have liked more descriptions and world building. Everything is condensed in small sections because there's so much to get through and I feel like if this was a longer book or a duology we would have had a better story. I felt no emotions or concern when any of the characters, or the village, was in any trouble because I barely knew who the other characters were. Also, I wanted more moments of Agnieszka learning magic from the Dragon. We are told a lot of stuff instead of being shown, and there's a lot of moments where we are given a brief summary of what happened in the last handful of days instead of shown. I think more moments of her and the Dragon would have made their relationship a bit more believable.
The writing is also a mess. Like I said before, there's barely any descriptions or world building. I couldn't form a full picture in my mind while reading because everything felt all over the place. The concept is such an interesting one and I feel like it would have been done better with a different writer. The story and characters had so much potential but instead everything was rushed and nothing seemed to work. We barrel through so much plot that it never seems to matter. And although it feels like one thing after another is happening and that sounds exciting, it wasn't. It was often really boring to read because you don't care about the characters and the writing isn't good. I think the writing along with the cardboard characters were the result of trying to pack everything into a 400 page fantasy story when it honestly needed more. It needed to be fleshed out for the reader to care.
Overall, I can't say I recommend this book. I think the concept is an amazing one with a lot of potential but it wasn't written well. I give the book 2 stars instead of 1 because of both the Wood, which was haunting and so interesting, and the concept. I am so genuinely disappointed. From the reviews I've seen online you either love or hate this story. So of course like all my reviews, if you're interested then try it. But if you're interested in it because of the concept I honestly think there's a high percentage you may be disappointed by the writing.