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.
Cover image and description sourced from Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27827627-uprooted
Because Naomi Novik’s beautiful story somehow managed to be darkly enchanting while still remaining entirely down to earth.
Uprooted was something I had been meaning to read for quite a while; I was drawn to it’s striking cover while putting stock away when I was working at the bookshop, and when I saw the near-endless list of praise on its cover, including comments from some of my favourite authors, it moved to the top of my to-read list. I put a copy on hold at my local library; I picked it up three days later, and had finished it three days after that.
Naomi Novik’s writing reminds me in some ways of Laini Taylor’s. They both use beautiful language to create incredibly realistic, three-dimensional worlds full of magic and wonder. I felt like Naomi’s writing was somewhat darker, but not in a way that left me feeling pessimistic and down-trodden. Instead, it had a wonderful heartiness and earthiness to it – it is the darkness not of a lonely car park in an unpleasant area of town, but of a clearing in the wood, lit only by the moons glow through the leaves, filled with the sounds of small creatures rustling through the undergrowth and the smell of rain on warm earth.
Uprooted takes many cues from well-known fairy tales and fables, but it remains entirely unpredictable. The story flows along very like a river – rumbling along gently, until an unexpected boulder diverts it along an entirely new path from the one you had anticipated. While many of the settings tower high into the sky, the story as a whole is kept very much grounded by the narrator and protagonist, Agnieszka. I found Agnieska to be a wonderfully relateable character – it probably says something about me that I connected so easily with such a stubborn character, but I choose to ignore that! I particularly loved Agnieszka’s disinterest in the beautiful, elaborate clothing that so often accompanies life-altering occurrences like the ones she experiences. Long-winded, overly-detailed descriptions of clothing have become a bit of a pet peeve of mine, so to see them being wryly made fun of was definitely something I enjoyed!
I sometimes struggle with finding fantasy stories that I truly enjoy – it is a fine line between books which I find too childish, and those which I find too dark and unpleasant to be an enjoyable read. I often struggle with fantasy that isn’t labelled as Young Adult – I have tried a number of times to read or watch Game of Thrones, because I find the world and its characters absolutely fascinating, but I just can’t get through it, as I find it too disturbing. Uprooted is one of the few books that perfectly slots into that small space that hits all the marks, along with books like Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor and The Night Circus by Erin Morgernstern. I have heard good things about Naomi Novik’s other works, so while they aren’t quite my usual type, they have made their way onto my to-be-read list, and I have a feeling I’ll be searching the library for them fairly soon!
Naomi Novik’s wonderful story was an incredibly enjoyable read, centred around a protagonist and a magic that were both intricately complex, yet also practical and humble. I was quickly drawn in by the wonderful writing and the beautiful world it was used to create, and it has made it’s way onto the mental shelf reserved for my very favourite fantasy books.