Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey
Dragonswood, the sanctuary for dragons and fey created by the late Queen Rosalind, is surrounded by a wall and is patrolled by a select few border guards that live in the forest itself. Humans mustn’t enter, for to do so is a crime. Only witches enter Dragonswood to dance, and witches must be hunted and tried for their crimes. Thus begins Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey.
Queen Rosalind was of the Pendragon line, and they are the only royalty with Dragon blood flowing through their veins. She formed the refuge as part of a pact between humans, dragons, and fey. The king has died, a new king must be named, and the pact is falling apart. The eldest son is away at the Crusades and the younger son cannot be found. Meanwhile the land is being ruled in their stead by a power hungry lord, who incites the witch hunting frenzy for his own gain. The only thing that might save them all is an ancient legend that foretells the union of a Pendragon prince with a fairy child, which will bind all three into one bloodline.
Tess, the daughter of a heavy-handed blacksmith in a small coastal town, has fire sight which allows her to see the future. The only person who knows is her grandfather, who tells her to keep it a secret. Drawn to Dragonswood forest for reasons unknown to her, she flees into the forest to find a safe haven from her father’s fists and sees some of the fey and dragons. A noblewoman arrives in town, hunting witches for trial before a king can be crowned. Tess soon finds herself accused of witchcraft and is sentenced to trial by water. With the unexpected help from strangers, she flees with two of her friends deep into Dragonswood. There she discovers secrets about her past that will change her future, and the three friends begin an unforeseen journey full of adventure and intrigue.
Carey has done a fantastic job with the characters of this story. Tess is a courageous young girl who is strong and willing to stand up for herself. She is also confident in some ways, but vulnerable in others, which makes her seem very real. I really enjoyed Tess’ narration and felt for her as a young girl trying to fend for herself and take care of her friends.
Meg and Poppy, Tess’ two best friends whom she betrayed, are interesting roles as well. Meg, as a young mother who is forced to flee her husband and child, is probably the more stable of the two friends. Even though she yearns for her family and is angry at Tess for giving her name to the witch hunter, she keeps a level head and realizes Tess is their best chance at survival. Poppy, on the other hand, is annoying at best for the majority of the novel. It isn’t until the end you really begin to understand why she is the way she is and even begin to like her.
Garth, the huntsman who helps them in the forest, is probably one of my favorite characters. He has just the right amount of quiet and brooding without it being overdone. He’s mysterious and secretive, yet has a deep sense of caring and tenderness that shows through at just the right times.
The author’s descriptive imagery is very beautiful. The forest, villages, and lakes all come to life as you turn the pages. The eloquent descriptions of the different dragons and the fairies are extremely imaginative. I found myself wanting to get lost in Dragonswood and go dancing all night with a fairy.
For those of you wanting more than just a fairytale, this story is full of action, adventure, and romance. There is just the right blend of joy, heartbreak, and humor in this story. Carey wraps up the book with a nice epilogue and I loved how the story ended. I would definitely recommend this book to fantasy lovers and to those who enjoy novels set in medieval times!