Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik
|My Rating: 5 Stars|
Summary: “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.
Review: This may well be my new favorite book. It has the wonderful feel of a Russian wonder tale, the world-building is exquisite, and the main characters are wondrous enough to make them exciting while remaining human enough to make me love them. I have a soft spot for Russian fairy tales, and Uprooted made me hungry for more. The system of magic Novik has created is believable and fleshed out without becoming overwhelming with details. Agnieska does have some of the typical YA Mary-Sue elements with being an "ordinary" girl who turns out to be extraordinary, but franky - who wants to read about boring people?! I love that both Agnieska and the Dragon have flaws and foibles that make them feel real, while still being super-amazing-kick-ass characters who will SAVE THE WOOOORLD! So I love the setting, I love the characters, what's left? The plot. OH MY GOSH, the plot. This is a multi-layered adventure with elements of romance, revelations about friendship and what it means to be special, insight into what "evil" is (or is not), how events can shape a lift in drastic ways... Uprooted can be read on a number of levels, from enjoying the shade from the trees of the obvious plot to digging into the moist, nutritious mast of the forest floor.
I only wish I hadn't read this book so I could experience reading it for the first time all over again. I hope to find even more to love on my next re-read.