ARC Review: UPROOTED by Naomi Novik

I received this book for free from Del Rey. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Review: UPROOTED by Naomi Novik

Written by: Naomi Novik
Published by: Del Rey
Release date: May 19th 2015
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 438
Source: NetGalley
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads

Naomi Novik, author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Temeraire novels, introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.


I’ve been incredibly delinquent in writing this review, because this is one of those books that I just want to shove into people’s hands and say, “Just read it, you’ll thank me later.” What else is there to say, other than that?! Nothing, that’s what.

But I really need to try, becuase if you’re not convinced you need it yet, then I’m not doing my job right. So, here goes.

First and foremost: Reading Uprooted was an awesome experience, for me. I love re-reading books, and I often fantasize about being able to read an amazing book again for the first time — obviously, that’s impossible… but I think Uprooted is the closest I’ve ever come to what that would feel like. Reading this book felt like re-reading an old favorite, but getting to do so for the first time again. I felt such an intense familiarity with the tone, with the story, with the world and the characters — it reminded me of my favorite fantasy books, in the best way. But it never felt overly derivative — there were so many new twists and unique characters and such a sense of newness to the book, coupled with that old familiarity… It was just amazing.

Uprooted is told from the main character Agnieszka’s perspective. Agnieszka has grown up in a small town close to the Wood — a malevolent, dark place (and a character in and of itself) whose influence over the lands on its borders is only held back by the “Dragon,” a wizard who lives in a tower on the Wood’s edge. (Yes, I’m sorry, but the Dragon in this book is not a real dragon. There are no dragons.) Every ten years, the Dragon chooses a girl from Agnieszka’s village to serve as his servant, and this year, as the book begins, Agnieszka (along with her best friend, Kasia) is among the girls eligible to be chosen. But Agnieszka knows she won’t be. She’s clumsy and unskilled and not particularly beautiful — the Dragon has only chosen the most exceptional, the smartest, the prettiest… until that day, when he chooses Nieszka.

Agnieszka might sound like a heroine that we’ve all seen too often — the one who thinks she’s not pretty, the one who’s overly clumsy, and who’s self-confidence is pretty much nonexistent… That is not Agnieszka. Agnieszka knows she’s clumsy, and she doesn’t care. She owns who she is, stands up for herself, takes joy from her life any way she can, and she knows she’s strong and resilient. I loved this.

I was a glaring blot on the perfection. But I didn’t care: I didn’t feel I owed him beauty.

eARC, 8%

So when she gets chosen as the Dragon’s servant, and her stubbornness and strength is matched against his own… well, let’s just say he really didn’t understand what he’d signed up for. :P The two of them end up clashing more often than not throughout the book; their personalities are just so different. But when they work together… UGH. I have so much love for them and their partnership. I can’t say too many details because spoilers, but they just… they’re fantastic.

One thing I loved about this book was not only the character development, but also the way the characters all stayed true to themselves. Agnieszka grows into someone who finally finds her place in the world, but she’s always herself, if that makes sense. And the Dragon is irritable, set in his ways, and doesn’t have much patience — that’s just him. It’s always him. And as Agnieszka gets to know him, their relationship grows into something more. But it’s not one of those situations where the love interest has these completely jerkish tendencies that magically seem to disappear once the girl gets to know and “understand” him, which I really appreciated.

Another thing that surprised me about Uprooted was Nieszka’s best friend, Kasia. I can’t say much (again, spoilers!!) but I was thrilled to see her play an actual, important role in this book. Kasia was fantastic.

In addition to the wonderful characters, I really loved the worldbuilding. It’s not complex or sweeping, but you get the clear sense that this piece of the world you’re seeing through the eyes of Agnieszka — her small village, the Wood, the Dragon’s tower — is just one part of a much larger whole. And that’s one of my favorite kinds, where you can feel the world around the story’s setting, but in the periphery.

I also adored Naomi Novik’s writing. It’s beautiful, and so reminiscent of old fairy tales. It’s a little bit dense — Uprooted isn’t YA — but if you give it the time it deserves, it is so worth it.


In conclusion…

Uprooted is easily one of the best books I’ve read in 2015 so far, and I have no doubt that it will be in my top-ten list at the end of the year. The characters are amazing, the worldbuilding is wonderful… It’s got a bit of romance (and it’s marketed as an Adult title for a reason), but there’s more to it than just a “fantasy book with romance”. Uprooted is about love, but also about friendship and strength and courage, about holding on to your friends and not letting go, about having faith in people, and in yourself… and it’s truly, truly deserving of all the hype that surrounds it.

If you’re a fantasy fan, pick up this book. Just read it, you’ll thank me later. ;)

11 thoughts on “ARC Review: UPROOTED by Naomi Novik

  1. I’m so glad you loved Uprooted. It was one of my favourite reads as well! It’s been so long since I read about such a fantastic female friendship – I think this really tipped the story from good to great for me. And the slow burn romance! The creepy wood! Agnieszka! It’s pretty damn close to perfect.

  2. I have this book and I had started it but then put it down because the writing style was not working for me.. but I did love the synopsis, so I’ll probably pick it back up again some time soon :) Lots of people are giving it 5 stars!

  3. I love your review as much as I love this book. I totally agree, it felt like reading an old favorite for the first time. It was familiar and creative all at once. It’s the perfect modern fairy tale. And not like a fairy tale in the modern era, like an old school fairy tale but written today. And I’m rambling. Anyway, great review.

  4. Gosh I’ve been dying to read this book, and after reading your review, it has gotten me MORE excited to read it!! I love that this book made you feel all homey and familiar, yet it was definitely something unique in itself. Also, Nieszka seems AWESOME. I love that she owns her clumsiness unlike other YA characters who are insecure all the time. I can’t wait to meet Dragon (who isn’t actually a dragon – le sigh, but that’s okay). Fabbbulous review, Nikki, so happy to hear that it’s a favorite of 2015!

    – Jen

  5. I adore this one! I was so happy that Nieszka does change and grow during the story, but does it keeping true to herself and who she is and what she wants!
    And I love how once she got a lil more confidence, she was really good at calling the Dragon on his bullshit! ;)
    I was so very happy about what a wonderful complex and honest friendship Nieszka and Kasia have, and how you can find tooth and nail for more than just a love interest!

    And of course, I was a BIG fan of the creepy-human-eating-forest of the Woods!!

  6. Ah, I looove your review! You’ve said everything I wanted to say and more. You’re right that it felt like reading an old favorite, but it was also so new and fresh and just quite excellent. It was actually hard for me to get INTO the story, but once I did, I couldn’t stop. Though, I DID take a few weeks to finish, but I think it was because I just wanted to savor the story. I wanted to take my time with it. The characters were just so wonderful, and true, and real. Agnieszka is now one of my favorite heroines ever, and the Dragon was charming in his own sense. They very much stayed true to themselves and their characters, all the while their relationship grew into something of its own. They were SO different but that just made for spectacular banter and so many SHIPPY FEELS. But I wanted just a *bit* more of the romance. Always more of these two. :) And Kasia! Loved her and her relationship with Agnieszka. The Wood was creepy, and I loved how our questions about it were answered, though I could have done with a bit more explanation on that part. But I digress, I didn’t much care about the flaws of this book. Everything came together so, so well. It’s definitely one that is harder to get into, but I think it’s worth it too.

    Lovely review, Nikki!

  7. I am SO happy to hear that the Dragon’s jerk tendencies don’t just disappear when Nieszka starts to develop feelings for him! I HATE it when that happens.

    YOU’VE BEEN PRAISING THIS BOOK FOR SO LONG, Nikki, and I need to READ it. I said I’d read it, and I still haven’t so now I am going to solemnly swear to read it after I finish reading my next book. I’ve said it. So this could maybe be tomorrow. It’s time I catch up with this gorgeousness!

    Lovely review, hon!

  8. “I was a glaring blot on the perfection. But I didn’t care: I didn’t feel I owed him beauty.” — I LOVE THAT! Amazing review! I’m even more excited to read this book now =D

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