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, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost 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 no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.
what a believable fairytale
This book is a dream of a fairytale from start to finish, except for the slow beginning. I had to frequently remind myself that this was not a fairytale handed down through generations from one mouth to another until someone came around and collected it – that’s how well-written it is. It’s a new book, but have that authentic fairytale feeling; with despair, loss and surely a message somewhere. The friendships of this book is fantastic and believable, you can relate with it and the language is near perfection, except for that slowness I mentioned. I’ve read so many bad cases of mixing fairytales and novel, somehow the formats usually doesn’t fit well together. You can read ten pages of things happening three times over, but not hundreds on hundreds. Also there’s trying to achieve the same things as Grimm’s fairytales which has been worked on for decades, everything uneccessary cut down or more added until we have the versions we know today. Still, I won’t say no to an extended version of that same magic, as this book is.
well-written relationships & persons
The characters, both the main girl Agnieszka (sorry I call you Agnes in my head), her best friend and the Dragon magician-of-the-tower is also incredibly believable. More so is the people of the village she comes from and their reaction to her, to how she acts and the development she has through the book. I can’t say I love Agniesza – she’s the type where you go NO, DON’T YOU DARE… shit TOO LATE. She has clear faults as a person and aren’t a very considering type, especially when it comes to consequences, but she’s herself. And I respect that. I wish you could see me reading this book, sitting in the corner like Dragon cursing this girl out, even if I didn’t necessarily agree with him either. His mood through it all is “wtf did I get myself into”, it’s hilarious.
the lovely & strange world
What I’ve seen people love the most about this book is the world, it’s very cozy and well-developed, while staying within what I would call normal fantasy. it has elements of those fantasy-villages and the mentality that comes with it, as well as more fairytale-ish areas (the wood is so interesting) and just fierceness. In many ways Agnieszka reminds me of Kvothe from the Kingkiller chronicles, just where she comes from, her values and reactions, not that they are the same or the stories are similiar.
While I say it is a fairytale kind of book, I don’t believe it’s a version or an adaption of one well-known. I hate those books, where everything is predictable because you’ve grown up with the stories, what’s the fun in reading a book you have heard before? No, Uprooted has some elements (the tower, the beauty and the beast scenario, the village), but mainly it just got the origins and feeling right. In the acknowledgments, Naomi Novik says “ag-NYESH-kah (pronounciation) comes from a fairytale called Agnieszka Skrawek Neiba”, which I found as interesting additional information, and I might check it out sometime. But right now I’m over myself in joy of having read such a beautiful book as Uprooted. We need more of them – and Naomi Novik’s writing – in the world. Her Temeraire series is definitely different from this one, filled with dragons, but nonetheless as amazing.
Go check out this book if you haven’t already, it’s definitely something else. I will say it’s not your typical ya fantasy read, even if it has that strong female, but I didn’t expect it to be either as Novik has written the amazing “Temperaire” series as well. Extra points for the villains, I liked how that played out.
favourite quotes (minor spoilers)
“And I wasn’t old enough to be wise, so I loved her more, not less, because I knew she would be taken from me soon.”
“If you don’t want a man dead, don’t bludgeon him over the head repeatedly.” aka best life advice ever
“truth didn’t mean anything without someone to share it with; you could shout truth into the air forever, and spend your life doing it, if someone didn’t come and listen.”