Publisher: Del Rey, Random House
Released: May 19, 2015
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Mmmm this book was a delight in storytelling. That said though, it has some rough spots for me.
Sadly, the characters are the biggest points off for me, and I live for characters. While I liked Agnieszka, there was a something about her that kept me from truly loving her. All the ingredients were there and her character journey is awesome. But. Something. I do think I'll like and appreciate her more on my second read (and, yes, there will be a second read, and a third, and a fourth, and so on).
The Dragon was a big disappointment. He's too jerky for me to get behind and not fleshed out enough for me to like him beyond his prickliness. I needed more depth from him, and I didn't get it. I was really looking forward to his character, so this was crushing.
While the romance did give me hate-turned-love, it failed to give me sparks, toe-curls, or heel-pops (see disappointing Dragon). I'm not convinced he's worthy of Agnieszka. Part of me thinks she would be better off on her own, while part of me is disappointed at that idea because then she wouldn't get a happily ever romance. But, I think my torn feelings all go back to the Dragon being an unworthy happily ever after. I don't feel satisfied.
Then there was the pacing, which, at times, did not make me happy and pulled me out of the story. I could have done without the slow start (almost DNF-ed because of it) and the jarring jump from the tower/wood setting to the court setting. This last wasn't a bad thing, but it was unexpected and I don't like that and the transition could have been smoother.
But, even with all that, this is a Special Shelf book.
It's the Wood. It all comes back to the Wood. This palpable, living, breathing character in its own right. This menacing, creeping, constant presence that made me feel equal parts dread and intrigue. Figuring out how it works, what it is, and why it does what it does. Visualizing its actions, magic, and attacks. This kept my eyes glued to the pages, wishing I would never run out. The Wood has all the depth, backstory, and nuance that the Dragon lacks.
Also, the magic. This ties in with the Wood, but it also stood separate and in both cases I was enthralled. I was entranced by the descriptions, but I also loved how character growth was intertwined with magical expression. Characters wield magic and are changed by magic, victims of magic and allowed to be their true selves through magic.
This was a book I could touch and feel and become so totally absorbed in that the real world disappeared around me. I've thought back on the story many times since finishing it and it still keeps pulling me back. This was an experience I'm glad I had.
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