Uprooted is an award winning stand alone fairy tale influenced fantasy novel by Naomi Novik. The story centers on a small village on the edge of an encroaching malevolent wood. The villagers lived by three rules: Don’t go in the wood, kill those who do before they kill you and, when it gets bad, send for the Dragon.
The Dragon, a cold, distant figure, had lorded over their village for centuries. Though he protected them from the wood, the villagers did not love him. Every ten years he asked only one thing of them: a girl. Every ten years, they obeyed. After ten years, he would release her from the tower, changed.
Agnieszka has grown up knowing her best friend, Kasia, will be chosen by the Dragon. Good, kind, brave Kasia would disappear to the tower and, after she is freed, leave the village for adventure.
The day of the choosing arrives and Agnieszka discovers she was wrong.I’d recommend Uprooted for lovers of fairy tales and classic fantasy.
The plot over all was well-structured; the reader could trace almost each event to a clear cause. In other words, the plot made sense. Some have complained that it followed too tried and true a fairy-tale formula; however, I disagreed. The writer noted that the story was influenced by the Polish fairy tales her grandmother told her when she was young, but Uprooted still felt original. It mixed cozy nostalgia, a creep-crawling villain, tragedy and redemption. Most of all, however, Uprooted was a tale of friendship and bravery.
There were a few moments where the story faltered– the world slipped or the character’s relationships felt strained, a scene went on too long– but, overall, I really enjoyed this story.
World and Writing:
The rules of the world were, mostly, consistent. Naomi Novik’s writing shone the most in this section. The wood felt spine-tinglingly creepy.The wood had a darkness which added a dark undertone reminiscent of Grimm’s fairy tales. And, following in true fairy tale form, The Wood had a lesson; the story a moral.
My main complaint with Uprooted lied with Agnieszka’s relationship with the Dragon. Here, the Beauty and the Beast influences were most evident; however, the transition felt much less believable. More on that can be found in the spoiler section.
On the other hand, one of the highlights of the book was Agnieszka’s relationship with her best friend, Kasia. The support they show for each other and the unshakeable bond between them is something I’ve sorely missed in other fantasy novels. Honestly, I would have been more than satisfied if the book focused more on their relationship instead of Agnieszka and the Dragon’s.
I’ll be honest, I rarely found myself sympathizing with the Dragon. The intimacy between Agnieszka and the Dragon seemed to largely be based upon their magic. In fact, the author referred to them intertwining their magic as a form of intimacy. I’ll say that was the only intimacy that buoyed their relationship. Even though Agnieszka spent a great deal of time thinking about the Dragon, the character, I still felt like I knew nothing about him. I didn’t really understand how he felt about Agnieszka and he almost never showed any vulnerability, even at the end. It did not feel like love to me in anyway. Magic does not a relationship make.On top of that, the centuries between them in age made me cringe just a little bit.
Second, and this is something I’m on the edge about, I had a small problem Luthe’s Summoning. In the beginning, the Dragon claimed that Luthe’s Summoning was impossible, and dangerous to read. He informed Agnieszka that the last people to read it were three witches, each taking a part, and it had damaged them considerably.
Yet, the two are able to do it multiple times. The reader can infer that it succeeded because they read it together, but it would have been nice to see a bit more strain between them the first reading. On the other hand, this strain may have taken focus from their task– saving Kasia.
I don’t know. I have mixed feelings. What did y’all think?
Finally, sections of the second half of the book could probably have been cut. Some moments of political fighting in the court contributed so little– I don’t need another trope of outsider vs insider, especially with women. The story would have been aided by cutting this section down to the intrigue between siblings, Agnieszka’s presentation, Alosha’s advice, the book and the attack. I had spent so much of my time invested in the wood and the village and the tower, I often found myself itching to return. If that section of the book had been reduced; I would have appreciated it.