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 (p 1).
Agnieszka, like the her whole town of Dvernik, expects the dragon to take Kasia. Kasia is beautiful, brave and talented while Nieshka’s hair is always tangled, her dress always stained and her domestic skills merely sufficient. No one knows what the dragon does with the girls he keeps in his tower, only that after a decade, the girls return changed.
It comes as a shock to both girls when Nieshka is selected and spirited away by the dragon. Stunned and confused at the outset, Nieshka slowly begins to realize her relationship with the dragon is unique. Mainly, they are working spells where the previous girls simply served.
The reader is hooked from the first. Novik’s world is well-formed. The Wood is a constant threat, unknown and malicious. The Dragon is enigmatic but fascinating. And the narrator, Nieshka, is tenacious while being wise and compassionate.
Definitely one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year and the most satisfying fantasy book I’ve read since A Song of Ice and Fire series.