I came for the beautiful cover, I stayed for the magical sex scenes...
Agnieszka loves her village, set deep in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest's dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. One young village woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all they value behind.
Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she's everything Agnieszka is not - beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it's not Kasia he takes.
A nice little dose of high fantasy. I enjoyed this one. Made me think a lot of Diana Wynne Jones in terms of how magic works and kick-ass female protagonists, and a little of Janny Wurts's Sorcerer's Legacy in terms of all the court politics.
It is undeniable that there's something a little bit sexy about irritable wizards. This follows in the tradition of self-absorbed sorcerers with Sarkan, The Dragon. He's right up there with Howl on a bad-hair day, and rivals Dr Diablerie in his need for privacy.
It also played to the Beauty and the Beast scenario of a woman being locked up with a short-tempered old codger she can't stand, and somehow coming to find mutual respect for one another. Even I'm not entirely sure why, but that is a scenario I can get behind. It's always more fun when people have to navigate their dislike of one another and rewarding when that pays off.
This was a lot of fun, and kudos for the well-written hanky-panky. It's never comfortable writing sex, and I think she managed to get through that without a single direct or figurative reference to the penis. Not easily done.
There were some nice similes:
Her laugh was like a song that made you want to sing it.
And some really cute bloodlust:
Those the walkers carried into the Wood were less lucky. We didn't know what happened to them, but they came back out sometimes, corrupted in the worst way: smiling and cheerful, unharmed. They seemed almost themselves to anyone who didn't know them well, and you might spend half a day talking with one of them and never realize anything was wrong, until you found yourself taking up a knife and cutting off your own hand, putting out your own eyes, your own tongue, while they kept talking all the while, smiling, horrible. And then they would take the knife and go inside your house, to your children, while you lay outside blind and choking and helpless even to scream. If someone we loved was taken by the walkers, the only thing we knew to hope for them was death, and it could only be a hope.
A good read, and there's some nice fan art if you search for it.