Uprooted by Naomi Novik

GENRE: FANTASY | PAGES: 448

My rating: ★★★★★

Uprooted was the perfect blend of fantasy and fairy tale. I loved it. The story begins with the brief history of the routine taking of a girl by the Dragon. Agnieszka eventually meets him, and under the flimsy rumours of all the village and all the taken girls before her, believes she should fear for her life and her virtue.

Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.

Instead, what awaits her is magic. She possesses it and so does the Dragon, and as she settles into her role as apprentice, she learns that the real danger is the Wood—a living breathing entity which threatens her life and the lives of everyone in her village. The Dragon is a protector but so focused on the task he’s been given, he has, in his immortal existence, become cold and distant. Little by little, Agnieszka breaks down the Dragon’s walls and learns to embrace her power instead of fearing it.

The story has been likened to a loose retelling of Beauty and The Beast, and I can see the resemblance there in the most basic of elements–it was this that initially appealed to me–but this book goes above and beyond the fairy tale.

The magic in this book is beautiful. The element of it is brought to life with wondrous detail, steeped in the essence of the entire novel: nature. Nature and magic are fully intertwined; even spells are demonstrated as the growth of nature–an intricate blossoming of a flower or a ferocious eruption of moss and decay–the description is vivid and imaginative.

Agnieszka begins her journey as a fearful, cautious girl, reluctant to step into the spotlight. When she embraces who she truly is, she shows great strength–a wilful, stubborn bravery, and a tender understanding toward the often arrogant Dragon.

Her relationship with him is believable, realistically and beautifully written, evolving first into mutual respect and trust, struggling with their own misgivings before fully embracing and accepting their inevitable love.

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year and my only disappointment is that it is not part of a series—I would gladly jump back into this fascinating, beautiful world.
 

 uprooted book cover

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.

From the author of the Temeraire series comes this hugely imaginative, engrossing and vivid fantasy novel, inspired by folk and fairy tales. It is perfect reading for fans of Robin Hobb and Trudi Canavan.