I *very* much enjoyed this book. I failed out early on in the Temeraire series, and only tried this because a good friend recc'd it to me. It was super worth it.
I feel like Novik's writing has really strengthened, and this was the kind of setting that it GLOWED in. She still can't write a non-romantic friendship for love nor money, and so it's actually kind of jarring early on when our Heroine is so INCREDIBLY in love with her best (female) friend. It's actually kind of an impediment to me getting with the het romance because it's contrasted so much with the best friend. That said, I really like how you see the friendship change and evolve as the girls do, and the ending with Kasia the captain of the guard in the capital and Agnieszka wandering and healing the Wood
actually really works for me. Agnieszka's romance with the Dragon also should really work for me-- I'm super into exactly that kind of romance -- but while I like it, it's not quite all there. If the crush/romance with Kasia was texual and they split because they changed as people whatever, the relationship with the Dragon would be better and more convincing.
Also, while I actually really like what ends having been going on with the Wood, the MASSIVE body count by the end of the book, and how many of them were high ranking political figures, doesn't really seem to get, idk, resolved? Like, they install a regency for Stashek, and he gets engaged to a baron's daughter whatever
but we don't see what MUST be political turmoil at the capital. I get that's because Agnieszha really doesn't care about what's happening out of her valley, but like. Include a bit more of the Dragon fixing and quelling the political situation or something.
All in all, really enjoyed this, loved that it wasn't loaded with the same MASSIVE AMOUNTS of misogyny that the Temeraire series has, felt like Crown Duel and Grimms Fairy Tales had a baby. Would love to see a sequal about Kasia's adventures in the capital.