I'm halfway convinced that Naomi Novik wrote this novel just for me. It was AMAZING.
It had so many things that I love. It had a great magic system that embraced both whimsicality and darkness. It had adventure, comedy, and romance. The excellently crafted world building never felt tedious, and its characters were believable and memorable (who doesn't love a grumpy anti-villain in a romance plot?). It also wasn't afraid to shy away from sex or brutality.
This wasn't mindless escapist fiction - Don't get me wrong, I was happy to escape there, but it wasn't afraid to challenge the world it was escaping from. It didn't blatantly reinforce norms of the real world under the guise of giving the reader something "different" like some fantasy novels are prone to do. ("There's magic! But let's just keep everything else the same anyway!") It's representation of women was @#$&ing fantastic. There were meaningful relationships between women. Women being warriors, teachers, and peacemakers. Women feeling unapologetically sexual (and not being shamed for it). And the female lead isn't a fair maiden, locked in a tower. Much to her captor's chagrin.
AHHHH this was the best novel I have read in a LONG time. It was so good that I'm raving in capital letters and swearing in ampersands and dollar signs. It was thrilling and satisfying, and kept me glued to my bed for two days. Now I have to deal with the fact that I have to get back up.