Thursday, September 10, 2015
Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Author: Naomi Novik
Published Date: 21 May 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia
“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. (summary from Goodreads)
Uprooted is enchanting, from beginning to end. I lost myself to this book and I loved every moment of it.
As a fan of Novik's Temeraire series (though okay, I've only read four of them. There's going to be nine books! I have a hard time finishing even a three book series!) I was ecstatic to hear about Uprooted. You know that feeling when you first learn about a book and it's the awesome sense of "yes"? That was it exactly, and Uprooted lived up to the feeling. Novik's writing has this way of drawing you in and not letting go. It's beautiful, and the old time fairy tale nature of it is wondrous. There was so much to the story - magic, romance, friendship, intrigue, betrayal, battles - and yet it flowed nicely, so there was never a moment it felt too overwhelmingly fast paced. With every new tidbit learned the story would detour in a way I was never quite expecting, so that I constantly felt engaged. I adored the setting of Uprooted. Villages, kingdoms, a tower fortress, and all of it shadowed by the Wood - a sinister forest with power that pulsated off the page. The Wood was like a character in its own right. It was so creepy, and with every journey into the Wood the heart pounding thrum of the story would swell. Novik has entwined whimsy and terror together to craft a fantastic and captivating world.
Novik also created characters that are well rounded and full of as much depth as her story. I quite liked Agnieszka. Early on she frustrated me, but honestly, it was part of her charm. She's so real. She's not a rare beauty, or brave, and she's very clumsy - she's just your average girl. But she's determined and wholly loyal, and rooting for her is easy. Agnieszka's love for her valley, for her friends and family, is special and reading along as she becomes everything she can be was fun and inspiring. I loved her relationships with Kasia and the Dragon. Kasia and Agnieszka's friendship is one of my favourite things about Uprooted and it drives much of the story. They love each other truly and will go to such lengths to protect and be there for one another. Me, I want Kasia to have a book all her own. She had quite the journey throughout Uprooted and it's only just started! As for the Dragon, you kind of have to love him. He's such a dick, but there are glimpses of a soft and cuddly interior that have you swooning. Seriously, at the end I was a gooey, squealing, flailing mess. He and Agnieszka have a connection that sparks - first from contention and then attraction, and boy does it get steamy! Novik's characters are never what they first appear. They're flawed. The good guys aren't perfect and the bad guys aren't entirely villainous. Novik rouses sympathy even for the worst of them. It adds to the depth and awe of the story of Uprooted.
I ended Uprooted with a dreamy sigh and smile. It's the kind of book you just want to sit in silence with for a moment to appreciate all it is. And maybe stoke it a little.