You know how there are books that you just can’t put down? You find yourself reading instead of eating, reading instead of sleeping, you are late to work because you had to finish just one last chapter? You basically cannot stop thinking about this book?
Well, that’s how I felt about Uprooted.
The main character in Uprooted is Agnieszka. Agnieszka has grown up and lived her whole life in a quiet village, bordered by the Wood. Everyone knows that you don’t go into the Wood because the Wood is wicked and malicious and filled with unspeakable beings and creatures. Most people that go into the Wood never come out, and if they do they are filled with evil and corruption.
The only defense the villagers have against the Wood is the Dragon, a wizard who lives in a white tower at the base of the western mountains. In exchange for his help, the Dragon chooses a young woman, always the most special from all of the villages, who must leave her village and serve him for ten years. It is unknown what the women endure during their service but when they return to their village they are different, more educated and dressed in fine clothes, and end up leaving their village for finer things. The next choosing is soon approaching and Agnieszka knows that her best friend Kasia will be chosen. Kasia is the most beautiful and brave and has been groomed her whole life in preparation to serve a lord.
However, when the Dragon appears, it is not Kasia he chooses, but Agnieszka. Agnieszka is quickly thrust into a new world and embarks on a journey to learn more about herself, magic, the Dragon, and just what exactly the Wood hungers for.
I loved this book. I thought it was a wonderful and creative fantasy tale about sorcerers, witches, kings and queens, and the enchanted Wood. It had remnants of fairy tales that I grew up reading, but the Brothers Grimm kind, not the happily-ever-after Disney tales. In fact, one of the things I liked so much about this book was that it was dark and bleak at times. The hero isn’t your average prince and Agnieszka is far from a princess.
What I also enjoyed was the magic in this story. Agnieszka has a unique brand of magic that allows her to create magic by singing a song that tells a tale. Her magic is so different from the Dragon’s magic, which is more barbed and is formed by the Dragon’s chanting, yet the way their magic blends together is beautiful. Not only is their magic stronger, they are able to create the most exquisite imagery when weaving their magic together.
Uprooted also contains a well-rounded set of characters. Agnieszka is stubborn and loyal to her village and I really appreciated the friendship between her and Kasia. Likewise, Kasia proves to be more than a pampered beautiful girl. At times you may want to hate Prince Marek, but then you realize he’s just a boy looking for his mother’s love. And the Dragon shows he is more than just a disagreeable wizard.
Naomi Novik is a gifted storyteller and has a way with words. I’m not going to lie – sometimes she was a bit wordy, but overall I thought it just added to the loveliness of the story. Unfortunately, this novel is a stand-alone. I would love to spend more time in Agnieszka and the Dragon’s world. I guess I’ll have to check out more of Naomi Novik’s other works.