I loved this book so very much. It was the warm, cozy blanket I needed in my life right now. I picked this up thanks to Jenny S’s review from a few weeks ago and I’m so glad I did.
“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.”
That’s the pull quote from the Amazon page and it’s a great place to start. It’s the story of Agnieszka and the Dragon. The Dragon is the Wizard mentioned in the quote, he protects her valley from the dark forest that tries to consume all the villages and all the people within and corrupt them to it’s dark, wicked ways. As mentioned, every ten years he picks a teenage girl to serve him for the next ten years. After that, she is free to go and it seems nothing bad happens to her during that ten years, on the contrary, the Dragon provides a good dowry to compensate her for her service; but, while almost everyone else born in the Valley stays their entire life, every single one of the Dragon’s girls have gotten the hell out of Dodge as soon as possible after their ten years is up.
The Dragon almost always chooses pretty, talented, entertaining girls, girls like Agnieszka’s best friend Kasia. So while Agnieszka is afraid for her friend, she isn’t really worried herself when it comes time for the Dragon to choose his new servant… until he picks Agnieszka. Agnieszka is smart and resourceful, but she is also stubborn and clumsy and very messy. Dirt seems to jump off the ground to attach to her dress, tree limbs reach out to tear her sleeves, her hair is always in tangles, and she really couldn’t care less. She has no idea why the Dragon chose her. It turns out, he chose her because she is a witch, and having found her he is obligated to train her. Plus her innate power will be helpful to him in ways she won’t understand for quite some time.
The story is so wonderful, Agnieszka is so lovable in the most frustrating way. Once you figure out who the Dragon really is as a character you start to understand why he cringes so much around her, you kind of feel like you would too, but you’d still want her to stay. Her story, and the ways she grows and learns to use her own power and personality to become something greater that the whole of what she “should” be is so sweet. Honestly, I could gush forever about this book. The way they play out the politics of the country against the needs of the small villages, how love and friendship can coexist with jealously and greed, and the desires of the individual people verses the “greater good.” I really just didn’t want it to end, I wanted to see where Agnieszka’s life kept going even if it was just puttering around her house.
I almost never reread books, but I can pretty much guarantee this will be read again in a year or so.