Hello everyone! I am SO EXCITED to talk about this book with you guys. Seriously. I’ve been starving for discussion since I read it in June, and no one else I know had picked it up.
(Sweet pixel art brought to you by @QuinnStephens )
So, on to the questions! Feel free to talk about any or all of them, or bring up something new in the comments!
1. The basics: Love, hate or meh? From reading other people’s discussions, those are the only three options for how people have felt about this book. If you didn’t like it, that’s okay!
While I found that this book hit a lot of my sweet spots, I definitely had problems with the pacing once we got to the capital, and I really was confused and felt like I was missing something during Nieshka’s flight from Marek and Solya to the tower. Did I skip a paragraph or something where she learned how to make golems earlier in the book, or is that part of the Baba Jaga myth that I should have known about?
2. How did the first person viewpoint work out for you? And when did you realize (or, I guess, did you realize) that Agnieszka is an unreliable narrator?
I picked up on it on my second read-through, after getting offended when I saw a lot of people hating on Sarkan (more on him later) and realized how much how she was telling the story matched her description of casting Luthe’s Summoning. She’s telling it after the fact, glossing over pieces she thinks aren’t important, moulding them onto the bones of the fairy tale form. But the specific moment I realized that she was unreliable happens in almost the first few pages of the book — when she talks about how the men of the village feel about sacrificing their daughters, since it’s clear that she’s sheltered and really doesn’t know how dangerous the work the men do burning back the forrest is. You see little glimpses of what Sarkan’s been up to the past century when she’s able to “summon” him for long distance communication in the capital, but it doesn’t seem like Agnieszka’s really aware of exactly what’s up because she’s not directly involved.
3. The relationships and the sexitimes — did they work for you? Did you want Nieshka and Sarkan to get together, Nieshka and Kaisa, or did you not care about them at all?
I loved the portrayal of female friendship - when they’re ripping Kaisa from the grip of the Wood, when they’re looking into each other’s eyes and seeing all the petty jealousies and anger and shame, and still love each other... that’s some powerful stuff. I didn’t see them as romantic partners, though a lot of people in the other discussions I lurked in wanted them to pair off.
I adored Sarkan, in all of his grumpy fastidious splendor. (I’m #teamsnape, and I’ve described him to other people as “Snape sorted Ravenclaw” in an effort to make them read the book). I found that the relationship worked for me, because Nieshka was almost entirely in control. When he kisses her, after the rose illusion, she’s the one that shoves him onto his back. When the have sex, she’s the one who pushes the issue. And how refreshing was it to have the woman come first!
There’s a lot of other stuff to discuss, and I’ll come back with more questions later, but feel free to discuss anything you like! I’ll try to reply to everyone, but I’m several time zones ahead of most of you.