Hardcover, 435 pages
Published May 19th 2015 by Del Rey
Finally, I was able to make time to read this book! I have heard so many good things, and it’s been sitting on my shelf since I heard about it at ALAMW15. I’m so glad I had the “excuse” of choosing this title for the Retellings Reading Challenge 🙂
The story and characters were riveting, and I found myself unable to set it down for very long. I especially loved that the Woods had their own personality, which lent to giving the whole story a thrilling and darker aspect. This is a retelling/reinterpretation of the Beauty and the Beast story, and there are hints and throwbacks throughout the story to give you the sense of the original, but this story’s main feature is all its own.
As this is a standalone, you can expect to read a full story that wraps up almost all the loose strands by the final page. Characters develop and grow throughout, and you get to see a good chunk of this fictional world as the story unravels. In a book world that features series quite heavily (and I adore that and seek them out), it was nice to have a contained story that didn’t rely on additional materials.
There were a few things that I found disappointing like the distinct lack of actual dragons, and the ending didn’t seem to have enough explanation throughout the first part of the book. It needed a bit more development and lore to seem more believable. But overall, this is a very solid example of an author taking a familiar story and putting their own twist on it, successfully.
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
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 Wood.
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.