Best book of the year, so far!
Are you, like me, one of those people who’s been disappointed for years that Robin McKinley never wrote any companion volumes to ‘The Hero and the Crown’ and ‘The Blue Sword’? I don’t think(?) it was intentional on Novik’s part, but there is absolutely nothing in this book to counter my theory that it takes place in the same world, temporally somewhere between the two books, but in a geographically different location – an analogue of Poland.
Of course, the only detail bolstering this theory is that the events of this novel hinge on a grimoire known as ‘Luthe’s Summoning’ – a magic spell created by a wizard named Luthe, which is very much in keeping with what readers know of McKinley’s wizard Luthe.
But – that’s my theory, I like it, and I’m sticking with it. In addition, the ‘feel’ of the book, the writing style, even the nature and dynamics of the relationship between a wizard and his apprentice witch is all very much in keeping with what fans of ‘The Hero and the Crown’ (aka, me) would want.
Agnieszka is a young woman who’s grown up in a small village on the edge of a cursed wood. The wood’s malevolent magic is part of the facts that she takes for granted, as is the reality that every ten years, the local lord, known as Dragon, comes down from his isolated tower and selects a girl to return with him. These girls are not killed, but at the end of their ten-year service, none ever return to their village.
Since childhood, Agnieszka and the rest of the village have pretty much assumed that Agnieszka’s best friend, Kasia, will be the one selected. She is beautiful and talented, and Agnieszka loves her with friendship that borders on hero-worship.
However, events do not turn out the way anyone expected – not even Lord Dragon. Agnieszka discovers previously-unrealized depths to her abilities, and becomes essential in the fight to push back the ever-more-quickly encroaching wood.
Now, I’ve really got to read the other Novik books that I’ve put off getting into, for some reason!
Many, many thanks to Del Rey Spectra and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book. As always, my opinion is my own.