Author: Naomi Novik
Picture this: A dark, cursed wood that occasionally kills villagers. The village...peaceful most of the time, with the usual small village undertones -- jealousy, petty squabbles, politics. And....a Dragon. Not the usual sort of dragon with scales, wings and claws. But, a human, wizard sort. Grouchy, demanding, condescending, magical....
The Dragon protects the village from whatever lurks in the dark woods. The price for his service? Once every 10 years, he picks a girl from the village to serve him at his castle. The girls are never molested in any way, but nobody knows what happens to them during their service. They come back changed, dissatisfied with village life. Different somehow. With the money the Dragon gives them for their 10 years of service, most of them pay for college, or just leave to build a different life for themselves.
Agnieszka lives in the village. She wonders about the woods and about the Dragon. The 10-year mark is approaching, and the Dragon will be coming for another village girl. Everyone knows he will choose Kasia at the Choosing ceremony. She is beautiful, accomplished, and sweet. The perfect girl. The Dragon always chooses the most perfect. Kasia is Agnieszka's dearest friend. She is sad for her friend, and afraid of what the dragon will do to her. But, Agnieszka shouldn't be worrying about her friend. At the Choosing, it isn't Kasia the Dragon is going to choose.
This book was a fun read. The Dragon is a bit of a curmudgeon...always cranky. But after awhile, I grew to like the character. Agnieszka was whiny and immature at the start, but she grew up as the story went along and came into her own. She made a couple decisions that were cringe worthy, but everyone makes mistakes, right? Some just make bigger ones than others. If I were learning to wield magic, I would probably make some very bad choices myself.
I absolutely love the cover art! Definitely an enjoyable read!
My rating: 8/10