Publisher: Del Rey
Published: May 2015
Genre: adult fiction, fantasy
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.
Agnieszka is worried for her best friend Kasia — it’s clear she’s the one the Dragon will choose to keep in his tower for ten years. He’s not really a dragon, but a powerful wizard that protects her village and the surrounding area from the malevolent Wood. Agnieszka’s life changes when the Dragon chooses her instead, and she’s whisked away to his tower and taught how to explore, grow, and harness her magic, abilities she didn’t even know she possessed. But Kasia is taken into the Wood, and Agnieszka will stop at nothing to rescue her — and the consequences are dire.
First, hello Polish fairytale retelling. Second, hello malicious forest. Third, hello incredibly vague book jacket that only summarized the first twenty pages instead of what the book is actually about. (The third part I am a little peeved over, and yet I can see why marketing would do such a thing! Uprooted is complex and beautiful and should not be spoiled.)
I’d heard great things about this book, especially after Gillian @ Writer of Wrongs freaked out about it. Even New York Times and Slate had great things to say, and Twitter was all agog over the “Jane-Eyre-and-Mr-Rochester” romance. So after reading the reviews, watching the freak outs, and staring at the vague book jacket, I decided to give in and read it. It’s nothing like I expected (which I’m only slightly disappointed over) and still tremendously stunning.
Uprooted has a very classic fantasy feel to it. Novik uses long, lush descriptions of just about everything you could think of — scenery, spell-casting, battles and skirmishes, emotions — which I thoroughly enjoyed. I felt like I was a part of Agnieszka’s world. Her character was deeply relatable as well, with a quiet, sly sense of humor and immense love for her friends and family. I admired her and cheered her on when she decided to rebel against the Dragon (countless times), when she’d tinker with spells and experiment with variations. Her time in the tower was my favorite, followed by her scenes with the Dragon and with Kasia. Gosh, even when she’s in the Wood on her own, I was enthralled.
Let me take a moment to discuss the Wood. What a breath of fresh air, a villain that has no face, a villain that is neither human nor creature, but an entity on its own! That’s what I found most frightening about it. The Wood can take whomever whenever it wants, expanding across the land and destroying whole villages. People are trapped inside with no hope of escape, and corruption is inevitable. How intense and original is that? Thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the fantasy!
But this wasn’t like I expected, as I stated previously. I thought this was going to be a more solitary sort of book. Yes, something would be done with the Wood, but I wasn’t expecting as much traveling as Agnieszka and the Dragon embarked upon, or as much courtly politics or as battle-intensive (gosh, the battles really weren’t splattered across the pages like I’m making it sound — it was just one or two scenes too many for my “I’m not into fight scenes” self). And when the writing is descriptive, well…it can get a little weary in these passages.
I liked the Dragon (or Sarkan, as we later learn). He was an amusing character, and I know plenty of people who are grouchy and stuck in their ways just like him. But I didn’t love him. Agnieszka’s curiosity and infatuation with him is a completely natural response, but there was no way I could love him. He could be a bit abrasive and insulting, neither of which I find conducive to a healthy relationship, let alone a romance. So while there were some steamy scenes (I’m looking at you, page 353!), I wasn’t in love.
Please don’t throw tomatoes at me.
Uprooted is enjoyable, beautiful, intricate, powerful, unique, and magical. It’s the kind of story you want to take some time to sink into and savor.