I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Published by Pan Macmillan on May 21st 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
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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, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood's powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost 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 no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him. From the author of the Temeraire series comes this hugely imaginative, engrossing and vivid fantasy novel, inspired by folk and fairy tales. It is perfect reading for fans of Robin Hobb and Trudi Canavan.
Naomi Novick’s Uprooted is wholly original and yet feels staunchly rooted and steeped in tradition. Drawn to Uprooted by the various glowing reviews from my favorite authors, I picked up Novick’s latest release and spent days savoring it. I did not rip through this book because it’s the kind that demands you take your time and absorb the imagery, the characters, and the magic. This book weaves together familiar elements like damsels in distress, magic, the Woods, battles and heroism into a gripping story about love and courage.
Every ten years the Dragon comes from his tower to select a girl from the valley to be his assistant for ten years. He always selects the best and brightest girl so Agnieszka is not worried about being selected. After all, her best friend Kasia might as well be a maiden straight out of a fairy tale. She is beautiful, courageous, and gentle. It comes as a shock when the Dragon selects Agnieszka to be his assistant, however, he has no other choice given that Agnieszka has an affinity for magic and it is his duty to train her. You might be wondering why the people of the valley are so willing to give up their daughters every ten years. The Dragon is a wizard who keeps back the Wood from devouring the valley — something that is impossible to do without magic. And so, Uprooted is the story of Agnieszka navigating her powers and tenuous relationship with dragon while evil lurks.
If you like main characters that are stubborn and steadfast, then you will love Agnieszka. She seems to think that she is nothing special, at least not in looks compared to Kasia. Yet, within Agnieszka beats the heart of a heroine. We get glimmers of a tough as nails inner strength when she begins serving the Dragon. You see, he is kind of rude and always telling her to dress nicer even going so far as to perform a spell on her that changes her simple frocks into ballgowns which is not her endgame. Dirt and rips and tears and stains follow Agnieszka though and she can’t help it. So, she learns to modify the spell so that her dresses are simple and not ballgowns, defying the Dragon. Even better, she looks at magic in a completely different way. Agnieszka is all about what feels natural with her magic, whereas the Dragon is very rigid and orderly and believes magic must fall under specific workings. I loved that Agnieszka is resistant and then eventually forms a partnership with the Dragon to overcome evil.
The Dragon is pretty much a jerk, but I came to love him as I read Uprooted. Sure, he takes a girl every ten years. However, we find out why as we read and it makes total sense. Furthermore, although he is sort of negative toward Agnieszka, we can see that he has everyone’s best interest in mind, especially when it pertains to keeping back the Wood. The Dragon’s quirks and bad habits eventually became something that I as a reader got used to. This happened when I understood where Naomi Novick was going with the Dragon and his motivations. You see, Agnieszka is just completely different from any wizard or witch he’s ever met. She has this natural affinity for magic that was previously believed impossible. Her magic is on the level of Jaga, a famous old witch whose power was unrivaled years and years and years ago. So, the Dragon doesn’t really know how to teach or interact with her, except to pass on his opinions and views of things which are quite rigid. He eventually bends though.
The very best element of Uprooted by Naomi Novick is the Wood. The Wood is not just a setting, oh no. It is a sentient being who is pissed off. As the Wood is pissed off, it has the power to corrupt. Anything that comes out of the Wood must immediately be put to death lest it kill people or spread the corruption. The Wood wants to take back the land from the Valley and so, the battle between the Wood and the people helped by the Dragon has gone on for what seems forever and will go on for what seems forever. I loved that Novick’s portrayal of the Wood was so chilling. It is absolutely a sinister character and you can feel it’s vitriol dripping off the page even though it’s not as though the Wood can talk.
If you are looking for a book that is wholly absorbing with this sense of claustrophobia as you read, be sure to order Uprooted. This book is long and perhaps a bit slow, but the payoff is huge. There’s so much to love about Naomi Novick’s book. If you like your fantasies traditional with that storyteller sensibility that minstrels seem to have, this is the book for you.