Author(s): Naomi Novik
Edition: ARC, 438 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Source: Goodreads First Reads
Buy: Amazon - Barnes & Noble - Book Depository
“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 LOVED THIS BOOK!
I'm sorry I had to get that out of the way. Uprooted is hands down one of the best books I've read in recent years. It is all-encompassing; as I read I felt the world spring up around me, engulfing me in the magic of the prose. At all times both familiar and foreign, Uprooted takes you deep into the heart of Agnieszka's journey to save herself, her friends, and her family from harm.
This is not like any other fantasy book I've read recently. Naomi Novik does an an amazing job of mixing the elements of high fantasy with accessible prose, which, let's be honest, does not happen that often. The world building delves the reader into that high fantasy epic, but it is the characters that keep us grounded in the familiar. I think this makes Uprooted a book that people who don't typically like to read fantasy would enjoy.
Agnieszka starts off unsure and hesitant, but as she has to fight for the people she loves not only does her power grow, but her strength of character. You think, at first, that she's going to be turned into that "perfect girl", the one who transforms from the frumpy tomboy to the sleek beauty. But that is not who Agnieszka is, and while she isn't frumpy she definitely doesn't mind getting dirty and pays little mind to fancy trappings. I found this really refreshing, because to be powerful she doesn't need to change who she is, and to be commanding she doesn't need to sacrifice her own principles. In fact this is what makes her as strong as she is. Her heart, in each decision Agnieszka makes, is always front and center. This can cause problems, but it always guides her through the other side.
Another aspect of the characterization is the relationship between Agnieszka and her best friend Kasia. As you read from the summary, Kasia was thought to be picked as the next servant to the Dragon, but that doesn't happen. Typically in this situation the best friends become enemies over jealousy, but that doesn't happen between Agnieszka and Kasia, which was just so great. It read very true and highlighted the bonds that friends who have lived in each other's pocket their whole lives really develop. Without this relationship, the story would be lacking real feeling, for the love the girls share is tantamount to the journey they have to face.
The underlying mythology is based on a Polish folktale with Novik's own spin on it. That's the atmosphere when you read the book, very eastern European, reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm fairytales. The Wood, which is the evil entity in the book, has so much wrapped up in it, and there are so many different things you learn about it, that it's hard to always think of it as EVIL. The Wood is used to show what hate and betrayal can do to a person's soul, and really brought a complicated layer to what could have been a straight forward "bad wood, must destroy" plot.
It's hard to really review this book properly because I just fell right into the story. When I read a book like that, I can't always explain how it made me feel properly, or the aspects of the story that really resonated. I just really encourage you all to give this one a try, even if you don't usually read fantasy. Uprooted has moved me like no other book as in years, and it restarted my reading appetite when it was dormant for the last year. If that doesn't sell you, I don't know what will.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik is my absolute, hands-down, number 1 book for 2015 and you'll be missing out when all the cool kids read it if you don't run right now and snag a copy (enter below for a chance to win one of your very own)!!!
Naomi Novik's Other Books:
Book Cover: 4/5
Book Title: 5/5
Overall: 49/50: A+
- Giveaway runs from September 14 - September 21, 2015
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