Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

May 12, 2015
Review: Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted by Naomi Novik
Also by this author: Spinning Silver
Published by Del Rey on May 19, 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley, Publisher

Thanks to Del Rey for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Naomi Novik, author of the New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed Temeraire novels, introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.“Every so often you come upon a story that seems like a lost tale of Grimm newly come to light. Uprooted is such a novel. Its narrative spell is confidently wrought and sympathetically cast. I might even call it bewitching.”—Gregory Maguire, bestselling author of Wicked and Egg & Spoon   “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.Advance praise for Uprooted  “The magic in Uprooted, with its realistic moral dimension, is so vividly believable that it almost seems you could work the spells. But the book will do that for you.”—Ursula K. Le Guin, award-winning and bestselling author of The Earthsea cycle   “Uprooted has everything I love: a great heroine, new takes on old myths and legends, and surprising twists and turns. A delight.”—Cassandra Clare, New York Times bestselling author of The Mortal Instruments series   “Magical and practical, otherworldly and planted in the real, I could not stop reading this book and neither will you!”—Tamora Pierce, New York Times bestselling author of Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen   “Wild, thrilling, and deeply, darkly magical. An instant classic.”—Lev Grossman, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Magicians Trilogy   “Uprooted is one of those tales you come back to over and over again because it’s just that enchanting. The adventure builds with such tension that you are peeking through your hands at the end, hoping it will all be okay, and Naomi Novik delivers a conclusion that’s deeply satisfying, earning a permanent space on my bookshelf that I’ll revisit often.”—Kevin Hearne, New York Times bestselling author of Shattered   “Reading Uprooted was like rediscovering a favorite old sweater, familiar and beloved. It feels as if it has always existed and has been waiting patiently for me to return to it.”—Maggie Stiefvater, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver TrilogyFrom the Hardcover edition.

Naomi Novik’s Uprooted tells a beautifully unique fairytale complete with magic, love and of course, evil.

Agnieszka lives in a valley which lies on the edge of the Wood. The Wood is not a friendly forest, but rather a malevolent place that seeps past its borders to spread  its evil. Their valley is protected by their lord, Dragon, who lives alone in a tower. The price he asks them to pay for their protection to send him one girl every 10 years. These girls are supposedly not ill treated, but none come home, so of course, rumors fly. Agnieska and her best friend, Kasia, are of an age to be part of the Dragon’s next selection. Everyone is certain Kasia will be taken. They have all prepared their entire lives for this inevitability. Kasia being prepared to serve her lord, Dragon. And Agnieska to lose her best friend. So, what happens when the choosing does not go as planned? A-ha, well, quite the story comes about.

Agnieska is a wonderful protagonist. She is the right blend of likability, stubbornness, messiness and willfulness. I love her relationship with Kasia and how it is explored and challenged at times. Nobody is perfect, no relationship is perfect, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be wonderful.

I also love how the Wood acts as a character in this. It is the evil that drives the story, the antagonist that must be brought down. It is interesting seeing how what I initially thought of as just a “haunted wood” type of place began to take on a shape of its own. It has the ability to send its “corruption” out, it’s borders are creeping, stealing land. It has the ability to take over people as they absorb its corruption and unleash horrors. 

As this is a fairy tale, it did require a rather strong suspension of disbelief at times. This is something that with a standard book, I would find bothersome, but in this it fit. Fairytales can take things to extremes, they show events that defy the odds, this is no exception. This book also doesn’t shy away from getting quite dark in places. The journey is not all sunshine and rainbows, and there is real work and sacrifice involved. There is also some serious magic.

This was a wonderful tale of good versus evil, survival, love, friendships and sacrifice. Parts of the story were heartwarming, other parts were heart wrenching and the journey through it all was magical.