My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is chock-full of fantastic fun and lots of magic! I love love loved the world building and the ideology behind The Wood. While I was reading it, I felt particularly haunted and especially thrilled. To be cliche, I was on the edge of the seat and I couldn’t stop reading until 4am.
There is a wizard called Sarkan who is better known as the Dragon who protects the villages from the malicious power of the Wood and its creatures. He chooses a girl to take every ten years only as a servant/companion but she always comes back more worldly and restless for better things in the city.
From the blurb, you can already tell that Agnieszka is the one who’s going to be taken this time around. Sure, it’s sad that he takes a servant but the thing is, there’s a good motive to it. Her irrational fear of the Dragon all stems from the folk songs and rumors which is reasonable since that’s all she’s been taught to know.
So imagine her dismay and misery when she gets taken to live in the tower all alone with Sarkan. The interactions between Agnieszka and Sarkan are at first that of a puppy who is constantly scolded by the grumpy master. The reader and protagonist at some point, begin to realize how harmless the wizard is despite his mighty power. I never felt bored and there were new discoveries being made that fit a good picture of the state of the world, politics, and danger the Wood posed. The story is written through a first-person narrative which means we get up close and personal about Ag’s feelings and her naivety. She’s not stupid but only unaware of the scope of human nature since she’s been limited to interactions in the village and her kind family. She is capable of suspicion but she’s not craft or cunning because she never had to be.
And oh, Sarkan. Man, is he the epitome of a cranky, irritable old man even though he appears barely aged past his twenties. He warms up to you after a while, let’s put it at that. Despite how Sarkan berates Agnieszka all the time, he still shows that he cares through his actions.
I don’t want to spoil the adventure for people who wish to read what happens so I’m unsure how to describe my love for the plot. The themes and certain topics are more mature than usually seen in young adult (and today’s YA is getting darker as it is). There’s no ickiness so no need to worry but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to middle graders. I was infinitesimally unsettled while reading the story and I was completely sucked in by the effects of the Wood and its breadth of influence and methods in corruption. I’m impressed that a simple concept of witches and wizards can be written so well that I have no cause for complaints. There were also original ideas of mythology too so that definitely helped enhance the story. This is a book where everything wholly satisfied my inner fangirl for magic, adventure, and creativity.
Thank you to the publisher Del Rey/Random House for providing this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.