3.5 stars. Honestly, Goodreads, why can’t you give us half stars?
Let me first start by admitting I am woefully ignorant of Baba Yaga myths. So I’m not even going to touch on that, nor on whether this was a good/accurate/interesting addition to the body of Baba Yaga legends or not. I know my best friend recently read this and fucking loved it, and she does love Baba Yaga stories, but beyond that, I got nothing. For myself, I am indifferent in that regard.
So I thought the overall story was unique. I loved the concept of the evil Wood and its corruption of people. It was a spin on how I normally view nature, which is something as pure that humans corrupt, not the other way round. I also thought it was interesting, and sad, how the evil Wood got started in the first place.
Agnieszka’s story was ok. I didn’t think it was terribly unique, but it wasn’t bad. I liked her character well enough, and I always like stories about young witches learning their magic and coming into their own. So that was good.
On his own, I also liked the Dragon/Sarkan, too. All fantasies with witches need a good, cranky sorcerer. However, I am remarkably tired of verbally, and sometimes physically, abusive men in general, and I definitely do not like it when they end up with the girl in the end. What’s with the Stockholm Syndrome love affair? At multiple points throughout the novel, Sarkan calls Agnieszka ugly, idiotic, useless, dirty, or in some other way abuses her, and yet she (stupid girl) falls in love with him anyway and he ends up presumably staying happily ever after with her. Is this really how we want to teach our young people that love is supposed to be? Is it ok for our daughters to be spoken to in that way, and for them to think it’s acceptable? If someone told my daughter she was stupid or ugly or useless, I’d knock that person into the middle of next week. This business with Sarkan is the reason I can’t give the novel 4 stars.
There were some parts that did drag a bit, too. Some bits that I think could have been cut out or shortened that weren’t really necessary to the overall story that made it kind of overly long. I think that’s why it took me so long to read what was really not that long of a book. It was only around 400 pages. I should have been done with it in a week but it took me nearly three.
Overall, I would recommend this novel to lovers of dark fantasy. It was a solid story, I just had some issues with a few things. Others clearly did not, as the book is exceedingly popular.