Uprootedby Naomi Novik
Published on May 19, 2015 by Del Rey
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“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.
Sometimes the dragon guards the tower. And sometimes he stomps around inside despairing about his dirty housemate.
Uprooted takes the classic idea of the dragon-guarded damsel in the tower and gives it new life. Agnieszka comes from a small village where, every so many years, the Dragon appears and takes a girl of a certain age to stay with him in his tower for a decade. The girls are then free to leave and generally do quite well for themselves afterward. Meanwhile, a sickness plagues the people living closest to the Wood, that which the Dragon protects them from. The Wood is no ordinary forest, but alive and ready to spill as much blood as necessary to spread its roots across the valley.
This book reads like a fairy tale retelling, and I mean that in the best way. The world is defined enough to satisfy the reader for the time being while the plot continues to thicken. There’s more to this story than a girl in the tower. Uprooted isn’t a character-driven novel much like fairy tales tend to focus more on the story and less on the characters, even going as far as not giving them names. And when it comes to the plot, this book steals the show. Everything is crafted and drawn out in such a beautiful way that it’s hard to stop reading. Is it original? Not when it comes to fantasies. Evil monsters, dark forests, magic controlled by unpronounceable words. It’s been done time and time again. Are the characters a little bland? Yes. But this brings me back to my earlier point.
I consider Uprooted to be in the realm of fairy tales. Perhaps because of that expectation, I didn’t care so much that the characters were a little flat. There isn’t much development there and if this was the first book in a series, I would knock of a star for that alone. Later Novik attempts a romance subplot between the Dragon and Agnieszka which could have been done without but it happened and I realized I didn’t mind so much. To be perfectly honest, I can’t really remember the characters from this book.
The story on the other hand, I loved. The evil of the Wood always creeping closer became more than just the grand evil of the world but almost a character on its own. Initially, Uprooted focuses on Agnieszka’s time in the tower but by halfway through, she was out…and I was really confused because what could possibly happen after that. The story was done, right? Instead, Novik took the plot on the twists and turns of a roller-coaster, knocking the characters down one by one until I couldn’t imagine it getting worse. I read this book in one sitting, couldn’t put it down.
Is this book the next fantasy bestseller of all time? Absolutely not. Did I really enjoy it! You bet. And if you go into it with the intentions of enjoying it instead of performing a critical analysis, I think you’ll enjoy it too!