Written by: Naomi Novik
Published by: Del Rey
Release date: May 19th 2015
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
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.
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.
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. ;)