by Naomi Novik
Read: April 29 - May 2, 2015
Published: May 19th 2015 by Del Rey (RH)
Source: NetGalley (THANK YOU, RH!)
Category: Adult, Fantasy, Magic,
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound
“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 hadn't even heard of Uprooted until I saw Kim from The Midnight Garden raving about it. Then I wrongly assumed it was Middle Grade, which it is not at a all. The heroine is 17 when the book begins, but this is an adult fantasy, and it is wonderful.
Despite the fact that I cannot spell or say her name, I loved Agnieszka fiercely through this entire book. Even at the beginning when she was awkward and had very little self regard, I wanted to give her a hug and be her friend. But she grows a tremendous amount through the course of this story, and though she discovers amazing things about herself, she never loses herself. She is always true to who she is, and always fights for what loves.
One of my favorite relationships in this book is the friendship between Agnieszka and Kasia, which begins in childhood and is an element that drives this story. Though both girls experience great change through the course of the story, and their relationship suffers separation, jealousies and tragedies, there is a steadiness at its core that is unshakable.
I love the way the romance in Uprooted is subtle and never overtakes the plot, but is a thread running through the entire book and could be very swoony. This is a slow building relationship that begins in true dislike and inequality - Agnieszka is a captive of the Dragon. But one of my favorite aspects of their romance is how different they are, but how well they compliment each other, especially because that's not at all obvious at the beginning. (highlight for spoiler) Every time they worked together and combined their magic, I swooned. Their changing relationship is perfectly paced along with Agnieszka's personal growth, so that it makes sense when it begins. I do wish there was a tiiiiny bit more of the romance, though that is for selfish reasons, because it wasn't needed. The author did a great job at making it meaningful, but still a side element.
The world building in this story is divine. The magic is complex and beautifully described, and the danger of the Wood is terrifying, but also fascinating, I only wish I had a map to see the landscape for myself (perhaps there's one in the final version?). I'm struggling to say more about the larger fantasy part the story. It's very important and one of the reasons I love the book so much, but it's fun to go in not knowing what you'll expect, so I will just leave you with the bit I said above.
I did think Uprooted went a little long, especially near the end, and that affected my reading momentum somewhat. However, overall this is a stunning fantasy story, and I was very satisfied with the end. As far as I know, this is a standalone, but I would love to read more of this world, and I need to check out what else Naomi Novik has written - and is going to write in the future. You don't want to miss this one - don't make the assumptions I did.
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone
A side note: This book has some similar elements to another very popular recent release, especially in the captive heroine set-up. But where that book didn't work for me for various reasons, this one did beautifully. I don't think it has to be one or the other, but if you are a lonely black sheep for ACOTAR like me, I'd definitely recommend giving this one a shot!