16 July 2012

Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey

I see visions in the first sometimes, images of the past or what is yet to come. The fire-sight does not lie. But I did not see the witch hunter who would ride in to scour our town of sin, so I did not know to run.

Wilde Island is in an uproar over the recent death of its king. The uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans is fraying and the royal witch hunter begins a vengeful quest to hunt down girls with fire in the theirs and sparks in their soul.

Strong-willed Tess, a blacksmith's daughter from a tiny hamlet near the mysterious Dragonswood, wants more for herself than a husband and a house to keep. But in times like these, wanting more can be dangerous.

Accused of witchery, Tess and her two friends are forced to flee the violent witch hunter. The journey is bleaker than they ever imagined and they have no choice but to accept when an enigmatic huntsman offers them shelter in the dangerous Dragonswood. Staying with him poses risks of its own: Tess has no idea how to handle the attraction she feels for him -- or the elusive call she hears from the heart of the Dragonswood.

Dragonswood is distinguishable to me for being (basically) the first book for me to buy on pure impulse rather than a desire nurtured and built up over several months to read it.  My attraction was instantaneous and my instincts won out.  Dragonswood had me captivated in the first few pages on Amazon's Quick Look.  Elegantly written from the point of view of a tortured soul, I was drawn into the world with dragonlords, stolen treasure, and witch hunters.

Janet Lee Carey's writing style was simple, but elegant. It held the charms of an archaic style, but wasn't riddled with overwhelmingly abstract thoughts about life, and there was just enough detail for me to appreciate the level of research the author did, and also how much she cared about her world.

I think it was the setting that distinguished Dragonswood from all the other fantasy books I've read. I really enjoyed how it was set in history -- there were references to Arthur Pendragon and Merlin and Ireland. It was also rife with detail about how life was back in the 1100's. Dragonswood was so set in its own originality that it was hard looking up to electricity and oreos and clean water and indoor plumbing.

I loved how the entire story was character-driven, centered entirely on Tess. And Tess was a good main character. I loved her for her inability to be perfect: Janet Lee Carey brought out aspects of things that you have to deal with in life that, I think, would really hit home to a reader. Injustice, betrayal, uncertainty, determination. All these things major themes in Dragonswood and apparent in Tess's experiences.

My favorite part though? The legit romance. It's the kind that makes you want to believe in (and yearn for!) a happily ever after. While romances are generally very straight forward (sometimes even in love triangles), I was tiring of the in-your-face method of mainstream YA novels. The romance in Dragonswood was subtle, and built up slowly over the entire book. That was what made it awesome.

Dragonswood was an amazing novel. The writing, the world, the characters, the romance: everything perfectly combined to make one stunning read.

There was something of the wildwood in the man who came and went illusive as moonlight moving through the branches. (p. 116)
Dragons cannot cry, but he did not turn his back when my tears came hot with anger, then cool with sorrow, then empty of both. I felt hollow when all was said, and lighter somehow. (p. 354)
For him I used my ink block to mix new ink, for his eyes and wicked smile, for his moods and corners, for his hands ... that offered me drink in the tower, that touched my neck as he asked if my chin still hurt. But mostly for the man who had taken in four starving strangers even though our presence had endangered him, the man who would not give up on his brother, though his brother had given up on him. (p. 368)
Book Info
  • pages - hardcover, 407
  • published - January 2012
  • publisher - Dial
  • genre - fantasy
  • received via - Amazon :)
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - companion novel to Dragon's Keep