Poor Agnieszka, she’s such a klutz, but at least everyone knows that the wizard who lives up the valley won’t choose her for his ten-year tribute. Until he does, and away she goes to live with the Dragon in his tower. The evil Wood is stirring, sending noxious poisons and vicious beasts into the villages to destroy crops and herds and kill residents. It becomes apparent that the Dragon is capable of fighting only a holding action against it, and then Agnieszka’s unsuspected talents begin to manifest themselves, bringing with them a hope of victory.
The best fantasy novels use their genre to echo events in the present day, and there is a lot going on here, nature versus technology, tradition versus innovation, environmental degradation disguised as murderous demons. Novik makes the villain credible and understandable and even sympathetic, and as much sinned against as sinning. The battle scenes went on too long but what the heck, you can skim those. This is a fully realized world, with a love story that is delightfully under the top, where the reveals make total sense within the construction of the plot–Novik never cheats–and the ending is sheer perfection. Recommended.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.