This book. This one.
Click on the link, get your butt to Amazon, and buy it right now. Then go find a shade tree. Snuggle up under it and read this beautiful book.
If you like fairy tales At All, this book is the closest thing to a new classic I have ever read. I heart this book so much just telling you about makes me want to read it again. Ms. Novik is a genius at making a fantasy seem real. The world she has created is sumptuous and beautiful and believable and true. Her characters are sympathetic, likeable, and so real you will miss your friends when it’s over. And the story? Oh my.
There is a valley that is ruled by a dragon. Only this dragon isn’t really a dragon; he’s a wizard. He is divine. I fell in love with him pretty much from the moment he was introduced. But this wizard, he comes down from his tower once every ten years. He travels to the nearby villages in the valley and picks a girl to go back with him. He doesn’t abuse her. In fact, he does almost nothing at all as far as the villagers can tell. From what they know, the girl works as a servant and is largely left to herself. But when the chosen girl comes back, she is no longer satisfied with valley life. She moves away. To the cities. To be chosen is to be lost to the valley.
When Agnieszka comes of age, she knows the Dragon will never pick her–she is not special enough. She is an average girl with no real stand-out qualities. Her friend Kasia is the expected chosen. The Dragon picks the most special girl–not always the prettiest, but maybe the brightest, the kindest, the best dancer. Kasia is all those things. So Agnieszka is not worried on the day of the taking. Kasia will go, and Agnieszka will get on with her village life. The Dragon will not pick her.
Then he does.
What follows is one of the absolutely most magical tales I have ever read. It is full of magic and spells, battles and political intrigue, all overshadowed by the dark corruption of the Wood, where monsters come from and where they are made. Anyone who wanders too close gets lost in the wood. If they come back out, they are changed, Corrupt. The Dragon protects the valley from the Wood and its creatures; it is his sole purpose for living in the tower. Soon Agnieszka finds herself becoming his helpmate. Together, they wage a war against evil that is awe-inspiring. No more so than their reluctant love for each other. This love story… wow. Like I said, I fell quite hard for the Dragon myself. I love the guy who turns out to be unlike anything he seems. You should meet my beautiful husband. He’s that guy, too.
This tale is woven through with messages about kindness, accepting others’ differences, putting down roots, and being good to nature. It is written with a sort of golden glow that can be best appreciated by sitting outside in the sun, in the woods, with a breeze blowing. My only criticism–and it’s not really a criticism–is that I could have stood a little more to the love story. Mostly because I wanted to soak the Dragon up, so that’s personal. The truth is, I was impressed by how Ms. Novik did not let the love story overshadow the true tale. I Cannot Recommend This Book Enough In Words To Make You Understand. Buy it. Go to the library and check it out. Read This Book. Then let your children read it. Because everyone should.