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Naomi Novik is the acclaimed author of His Majestys Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, Empire of Ivory,Victory of Eagles, Tongues of Serpents, Crucible of Gold, and Blood of Tyrants, the first eight volumes of the Temeraire series. She has been nominated for the Hugo Award and has won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, as well as the Locus Award for Best New Writer and the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. She is also the author of the graphic novelWill Supervillains Be on the Final?
Fascinated with both history and legends, Novik is a first-generation American raised on Polish fairy tales and stories of Baba Yaga. Her own adventures include pillaging degrees in English literature and computer science from various ivory towers, designing computer games, and helping to build the Archive of Our Own for fanfiction and other fanworks. Novik is a co-founder of the Organization for Transformative Works.
She lives in New York City with her husband, Charles Ardai, the founder of Hard Case Crime, and their daughter, Evidence, surrounded by an excessive number of purring computers.
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Amazon calculates a product’s star ratings using a machine learned model instead of a raw data average. The machine learned model takes into account factors including: the age of a review, helpfulness votes by customers and whether the reviews are from verified purchases.
Dvernik is a remote village at the edge of the Wood, a sentient and malevolent entity containing nightmarish creatures like giant mantises capable of biting off a horse’s head. It is protected by a wizard who, as tribute, selects a young woman of the village as a servant every 10 years. Agnieszka, a naive and awkward girl, is unexpectedly chosen as his servant and proves to have a gift for magic which is tested when her best friend is captured and taken into the heart of the Wood… I liked this book a lot although it’s not the kind of grimdark fantasy I usually read – the story reads like a modern-day retelling of a folk tale (and in the postscript Naomi Novik describes how her Polish grandmother’s story-telling is an influence). While traditional in style, it is very imaginative and the quality of the writing is consistently high (which is refreshing after some of the recent books I’ve read). It’s also suitable for most – there is sex, violence and horror but it’s not overdone. The ending was also a bit of a surprise and I’ll be looking for more writing from NN who I hadn’t previously heard of.
One of the best mature fantasies I have ever read. I think women who enjoy fantasy will like this one. It is a standalone book. The characters are so well crafted they feel alive. I don't wish to spoil anything for you. The story unfurls itself like a young leaf slowly opening itself to the sky, steady and unhurried. Best of all, not one moment of it is wasted. Every part of this story has something to add to the plot.
Please do yourself a favour and read this book. Better than the exasperating convolutions of game of thrones and far more interesting anyway.
I can recommend Uprooted to any YA reader who enjoys fantasy, but is looking for something a little less intense than the current bestsellers. The heroine is a textbook Hufflepuff, very relatable and consistent. I really enjoyed the emphasis on friendship and familial bonds alongside romantic plot lines. The romance in this book was very authentic, unforced, almost a secondary concept, which I found refreshing. The more I think about this book, the more I enjoy it for it's subtle yet descriptive writing and well-developed characters.
Naomi Novik has done it again! "Uprooted" is an enchanting novel in every sense of the word: stylistically it strikes exactly the right tone; it's fast paced and dramatic, with very unexpected plot twists; its principal characters are well delineated and alive; and its underlying moral, that evil breeds evil and rigidity breeds sterility, a valuable lesson for our times. Everyone from young adults to seniors can lose themselves in this book, if they give it a chance. I had been so looking forward to the release of the final Temeraire novel, and begrudged the existence of this interloper until I read it. Now I can only agree with all the other reviewers, this is a magnificent book that lingers in the mind after the last words have vanished. It has so much heart.
I recently read a wonderful novel, Katherine Arden's ‘The bear and the nightingale’, this novel is just as wonderful and engaging, whisking me away to a magical world. I enjoyed the central characters and the plot and the joy of a well constructed narrative, well edited. Highly recommended.
This was the first of Naomi's books that I have read. I didn't know what to expect but in the end this ended up going in my favourites shelf.
I loved the protagonist Agnieszka and the parallels drawn to Baba Yaga, the Dragon actually reminded me a bit of Howl from Howl's moving castle, and the antagonist was fascinating. Even though the it is portrayed as the source of evil, badness etc, the story behind it was captivating and I actually sympathised as to why it turned out like that.
Fantastic writing. Truely gorgeous sentences with poetic examples; reading this novel was like tracing a pattern with your finger. Everything links and makes sense. A great story in itself; complex but realistically so. Not so much a romance but you fall in love with the character yourself to make up for it.
This is a wonderful mature fantasy book, drawing on subtle elements and imagery of the Beauty of the Beast fairy tale, without feeling like a tired re-writing of the tale. The author builds a compact universe rather than an expansive setting, but details it enough to feel complete and unburdened by heavy descriptions and politics of distant lands. Our heroine, which I at first found slightly charactered and a stereotypical clumsy, 'cant do anything right' typecast, is forgiven as the story progresses and we grow with her in the story. The dragon, the wizard who takes her as the sacrificial maiden is just the right amount of mysterious and flawed for realism. The relationship that ensues between them is believable, which I applaud, with just the right about of sexual tension and initial dislike. The mythology around the darkness and danger of the 'wood' is wonderfully crafted and intriguing and its eventual backstory a beautiful message that things are not always light or dark, but shades of grey. I also loved the fact the author includes a strong female friendship and powerful female figures whose actions/motivations aren't directed/or revolve around men and rather driven by their own intuition. The characters are all realistic in their natures, they all suffer from their limitations, recklessness or arrogance and are reflective of their mistakes, but realistically not magically changing their personalities after an experience.
1.0 out of 5 starsBadly written and frankly, quite boring.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 January 2019
I was eagerly waiting to start this based on some rave reviews and mentions of some prestigious awards that the book has won. I just recently finished reading The Mirror Visitor and was blown away by that gem, so after one unique fantasy I was dreaming to get into some more magic and romance and adventure and thought that this one would be a perfect book to dive into after the previous one. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. The premise itself ( village at the edge of the woods, magical powers, a dark wizard etc.) is all well and good, and I like that sort of fantasy environment.
Now the writing itself though, I was doing a 'facepalm' after 'facepalm', and yes, yet again, another 'facepalm'. Nothing flows, first-person prose made me cringe so many times. First-person perspective is hard to get right in the first place and the last book which I found to have believable and comprehensive First-Person view was The Hunger Games book trilogy. However in this one, I honestly thought that I was reading a teenager's attempt at writing fan fiction, instead of a professionally published and edited literary piece composed by a fully grown professional writer. Sentence structure was choppy and in some places I had to concentrate just to try to understand how the writer was imagining a certain scene since the sentences were not well written, or at least not written in a way that portrays a scene logically. Therefore, it would have been wiser for the writer to opt for third-person perspective.
Character wise, I was disappointed to discover that the main character did indeed embody a cliched female protagonist of a YA novel. I was honestly expecting more. The 'I'm a 17 year old special girl with magical powers' thing has been overdone to oblivion and frankly I should have known better, but again, was feeling hopeful and optimistic about this one based on all the Awards and marketing. So maybe, the main protagonist would have appeared more real if she was in her mid 20's instead? In her interests, and the depth of her personality she wasn't developed enough for my liking. Though I found that I liked the male protagonist, The Dragon and found him interesting enough. Supporting characters could have been further developed as well. The romance angle - I have seen this type of romantic story play out ten times better in half a dozen other books with better character development and world building. A mediocre effort in my opinion. A dark romance is refreshing and intriguing, only if done right and well written.
So in conclusion, it felt more to me like the marketing department did a far better job at selling the book then the writer at actually composing it. The cover is beautiful so it'll still look nice on my shelf. No offense to the writer at all, but I have really read much better fantasy/romance/magic stories.
5.0 out of 5 starsA wonderful folktale inspired fantasy
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 September 2017
A wonderful folktale inspored fantasy I thoroughly enjoyed this tale. I will say I can understand why this wouldnt be for everyone as its written like a Young Adult book and the girls in the story dont get to much depth. For me I enjoyed the world to much and could forgive the lack of depth to the characters as its written like a folktale.
One of the things I loved and I saw a reviewer point out is how the two main characters are together its quite like how belle and the beast are in beauty and the beast, where ones stubborn and ones grumpy and the friction between the characters that creates which I loved. I liked that Agnieszka seems to always be a mess, its not even that she cooks and gets most pf it over her its even things like standing in a dress in no time itll have mud on it or get a rip in it, this flaw of hers is a nice constant "flaw" of hers throught the story that has every one around her annoyed/ exasperated. The fact that this is a stand alone works in its favour as the book has a nice fast pace to it though this does sacrifice a little bit of world building with regards to explaing the magic or more about the wider world it really isnt missed. Agnieszka doesnt need to know how the magic works though little bits and peices are revealed to give a bit about how it works which was enough for me i feel the slight mystery of it helps with the folktale vibe of the story.
5.0 out of 5 starsBrilliant writing and a beautiful story.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 2 May 2016
Uprooted is a brilliant, haunting, lyrical, frightening, complex and stunning fairytale.
It’s a story of someone finding her place in the world, in terms of magic, personality, life, heart and home. It’s a story of a fight against evil and the complex, shifting shades of grey that haunt every moral decision. It’s a love story and a story about change.
Agnieszka is a wonderful narrator, uncertain and afraid, angry and passionate, charming and honest. Her voice is clear throughout the book and even when we only see what she does, the plot is still very clear, and the other characters drawn with enough lines to make them complex and understandable, even as we see them through her eyes. And Sarkan, I love. You never find out too much about him; it’s just drabs, snippets, and he always seems impenetrable and aloof, even when he’s helping or annoyed or there. He’s beautifully written and is a wonderfully solid presence. Kasia is the only one who is less well-rounded of the major characters; she seems uncertain, unable to fight for herself, and we rarely see what she thinks. I would have liked her to be a little stronger, a little more of a presence; but then she could have overshadowed the major characters, so I can appreciate why she is drawn with subtler strokes.
The plot is enchanting; dancing from moment to moment, easily transferring between places. I admit I found the middle frustrating, the Court scenes; I nearly stopped reading! It felt like a return to the fantasy tropes, the little woodsy girl trapsing around the court, being made fun of, and eventually she’ll find her place or grow up or…I don’t know, I just raged silently against it. I wanted to return to the interesting part of the story! But I did keep reading, and the story caught me again. It’s got war, love, hatred, evil…it’s exciting and thrilling, had me turning pages and not wanting to stop. And then end is lovely. A really rounded, fitting one.
Love, love, love. A hard copy is on my wishlist and it’ll stay on the bookshelves as a read and re-read; it’s something that I will be happy to go back to, pick up and dip into, read through without wanting to stop. It’s brilliant writing and a beautiful story.
I chose this book because one of the book bloggers I follow (Chelsea at The Suspense is Thrilling Me) was raving about it and we have similar taste in books. Anyway, I absolutely adored it and now Naomi Novik is one of my favourite authors.
When I began reading Uprooted it reminded me at first of a cross between Beauty and the Beast and Howl's Moving Castle. It starts, very cleverly, with the tale of a village by a wood, guarded by a Dragon who chooses a maiden every ten years to take back to his tower. Our heroine, Agnieszka, is confident he won't choose her, because she's messy and clumsy and outspoken - surely he'll pick her pretty friend Kasia instead?
The first trick the author plays on us is that the Dragon is actually a very powerful wizard, and the plans he has for those girls he's taking from the village are not quite what everyone believes...
As the story develops it grows into something different, into its own fairy tale, about a Wood that corrupts and why, and the battle between what lives there and those who want to raze it to the ground. Rather than having a beginning, middle and end, Uprooted is almost episodic, detailing Agneiszka's adventures as she learns to work with the Dragon to help her people and solve the mystery of the Wood's power.
Uprooted is a YA fantasy with crossover appeal, and while there is a bit of a romance it is mainly about Agneiszka's journey as she learns more about her surroundings and herself. It is a thoroughly enchanting story and I loved the characters, especially Agneiszka and Sarkan, and the unusual ending, which I won't spoil for you. The only parts that left me cold were the battle scenes, because that's not my thing, and sometimes Agneiszka seemed a bit immature - but then Uprooted is YA and I'm not the target audience!
I should know better by now. If I pick up a book way too many times, it's a lost cause. Especially since the first picking up happened sometimes in 2019. And it took me six days to read 400 pages - seemed like 800, to be honest.
Let's start with the characters. The reason why I couldn't continue reading was because of the Dragon, the so-called hero of the book. I was perplexed as I saw another reader saying how much they laughed at this book. I have not cracked one smile, my friends, not a one. So he's an a-hole to rival all a-holes - for the hell of it, it seems. No real reason, truly. I think he just woke up in the morning and thought, 'Today, I shall be an even bigger a-hole than yesterday.' That must have been his life goal.
Moving along. Agnieszka. Oh dear, where to start with her? So, she wasn't supposed to get chosen. Why? Because she's not pretty. It's always the pretty ones that get chosen by the Dragon, to live ten years with him - we find out, toward the end why he does it - then go free, like sophisticated butterflies because the Dragon educates them or whatever. Point is, they are no longer simple village girls. So, Agnieszka gets chosen because she has powers the Dragon decides to bring forth.
This is where I would always put it aside, then try continuing, always failing. I think what was really disappointing was the so-called 'love story' between these two. I quickly realized that this author's definition of 'love' differs from mine and hey, to each their own! I think, this time around, I managed to continue reading it - painfully slowly - because I have put aside the silly idea of ever liking these two characters and of falling for them, as a couple. The idea, itself, wasn't the worst I've encountered but by God, the author's writing style makes it seem like I'm reading a never-ending book. I swear, I had one hundred pages left and, even though I kept on reading, it became harder and harder to care, to reach the big conclusion because it felt like more and more pages were magically popping up, after the initial one hundred.
I think the only character I liked was Agnieszka's best friend but her name eludes me, so sorry. Anyway, I can't say I recommend it but you can give it a try, if you like.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 21 February 2018
I'm torn between 3 and 4 stars for this one. It was such an anticipated book for me.
PLOT: We follow a world in which every 20 years the "Dragon" who lives in the tower overlooking the village, takes a girl of age to serve as a maid in his household. Based on The Beauty and the Beast fairytale, we follow our main character, Agnieszka who is the one the Dragon chooses. This ritual is performed to appease The Wood, which is the main villain of the story. Having a wood as the villain was an interesting idea which I thought worked really well.
Things I loved: -The storyline. It was unique and engaging. -I loved the characters and the strong theme of friendship running through this book.
Things I didn't really like: -I thought the author tried to cram so much into a standalone fantasy book of under 500 pages and it didn't really work for me. Also, while I loved the world, it was a little confusing at times. -I did not like the romance, at all. I would have liked to of seen some more relationship development, as their later interactions together just didn't add up, it was much too rushed. To be honest, I think the story would have been better without it, and that's coming from someone who loves romance in books.
Overall I would definitely recommend giving this book a go if it sounds like something you would enjoy!
4.0 out of 5 starsAn imaginative, highly original fantasy - a must read for fantasy lovers!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 12 July 2016
There's something about a beautiful front cover that makes me wary of the book inside. I can't help but worry that it is somehow making up for a lack of beauty within. Not so for Uprooted: this stunning cover only adds to this highly original, gripping fantasy tale.
Uprooted wastes no time getting to the point. Everyone in Agnieszka's village knows about the Wood and the dangers it presents, and they have long since accepted that the cold, aloof wizard known as the Dragon will take one of their girls every 10 years in payment for keeping it at bay. Agnieszka and everyone else in her village is certain that, when the Choosing comes again, the Dragon will take her best friend Kasia. Agnieszka is a quiet, insignificant girl and no one ever considered that the Dragon would take her instead - until he does.
Life with the Dragon is not easy for clumsy Agnieszka, who seems to displease him no matter what she does. But things go from bad to worse when she accidentally discovers that she has some kind of talent for magic - much to the Dragon's displeasure. Yet this does not become a story of a quiet girl suddenly becoming a confident, feisty heroine as is often the case with Y.A. Uprooted successfully manages to avoid the clichés, steering clear of most (but not all) of the things you'll be expecting to happen.
The Dragon, we soon come to realise, is rude, cold and irrational, and it's clear he's forgotten how to relate to people: “He wasn’t a person, he was a lord and a wizard, a strange creature on another plane entirely, as far removed as storms and pestilence.” Yet despite all this, he's an entertaining character. While to begin with he's something of a bully ("He roared at me furiously for ten minutes after he finally managed to put out the sulky and determined fire, calling me a witless mutton-headed spawn of pig farmers-"), he does have an interesting character arc, all the more so because while he mellows, he doesn't completely change. He's also full of helpful advice: “If you don't want a man dead, don't bludgeon him over the head repeatedly.” Harsh and to the point, the Dragon is not your traditional male protagonist.
Yet Agnieszka's time in the tower is not to be dull, for the Wood of course continues its quest to invade the whole land, causing constant problems for Agnieszka's friends and family. Among those most affected is Agnieszka's best friend Kasia. Raised to believe that she would would be taken by the Dragon because she is so beautiful and graceful, the profound implications this must have had on her life are dealt with well. While there's no resentment from Agnieszka that Kasia is everything she's not, it is clear that Kasia herself resented the fact that her childhood was different from her friends, her family certain as they were that they would lose her to the Dragon. The fact that Kasia is allowed to become such a complex character shows the depth of the Novik's writing, for Kasia could so easily have been written off as a secondary character whose problems were as nothing compared to Agnieszka's. It's also a display of Agnieszka's love for her best friend that she feels and acknowledges Kasia's pain, despite everything that is going on with the Wood and the Dragon, making her a genuine and likeable protagonist. Their friendship adds to the beauty of this book, as so rarely does a YA heroine get a best friend who is so involved in the plot, and whose friendship grows with the story.
There are other intriguing characters too, like the womanising, selfishly driven Prince Marek whose ambitions are ultimately the downfall of his kingdom; and Solya, the wizard known as the Falcon who, much like Marek, can't see past his own selfish goals far enough to see the potential consequences. Yet there is no single character throughout the book who is painted as entirely hero or entirely villain: heroes make mistakes, while secondary villains make occasional good decisions. Much like in real life, these are well rounded characters who sometimes make bad choices - some more than others.
Yet if this is a character driven story (and it is, for these lifelike characters move the plot along brilliantly), it's fascinating that the villain of the story isn't a character at all - at least, not in the strictest sense. The Wood is an intriguing idea, and it's not hard to imagine it being the subject of a horror film, luring people in and corrupting them as it does. But by having a villain that is not essentially a character, the story manages to avoid another cliché by having no need for the "How do we defeat the villain?" storyline. By being something other than a person, the Wood becomes all the more terrifying: this is not a fallible human with an Achilles heel; the danger here is not a person but a power. Instead it becomes an endless battle against something that doesn't seem to have any weakness.
As might be expected, there is romance here - this is Y.A. after all! But it's by no means the driving force of the book and it doesn't push the plot forward in any way. Instead it serves as an interesting means of character development, something of additional interest rather than an essential plot point. Neither is it of the dreamy romance variety; this is not a book for a new fictional love interest.
However, for all its clever ideas and fast-paced first half, the second half of the book feels less intriguing. Here the setting and the sub-plot change so drastically it could have easily been a sequel. New characters are introduced, none of them nearly as interesting or memorable as those met in the first half, and the book would have coped quite well without the presence of many of them. For example, there is a subplot where Agnieska, now in the capital city, befriends a girl there who shows her around the city. Yet the girl turns out to be cruel, one of many people in the city unnerved by Agnieszka's presence and her claim to be a wizard. This, however, has no real bearing on the story except to further prove what we already knew - that Agnieszka does not fit in here, she is not welcome, and she will find no help here with the Wood. Other characters like this are introduced, only to disappear shortly after, leaving the question - what was the point of introducing them in the first place? However, the story does pick up again towards the end, making that middle chunk just a small black mark in an otherwise excellent book.
This is an imaginative, character-driven fantasy fairy-tale that deserves to be picked up by anyone who enjoys high fantasy. It avoids the usual stereotypes of Y.A., allowing it to be enjoyed by all ages, and making it far less predictable.
The wizard known as Dragon takes a village maiden every ten years, to serve him in his castle, while he keeps all the villages in the valley safe from the darkness of The Wood. This year, to everyone’s surprise, he chooses the awkward Agnieszka. What she didn’t know is that she has magic. And her magic may be the key to unlocking the secret of The Wood. If anyone will take her seriously.
This is a great fantasy novel. Agnieszka has to learn she has magic, then learn how to use it, then learn what it needs to be used on. This sounds standard enough stuff, especially with the evil in the dark forest, and the Dragon wizard, and the king’s son, and the missing queen, and, and… Yet the plot keeps branching off in surprising directions, growing in unexpected ways, and these standard fantasy tropes are made to bear unexpected fruit.
And the plot really races along. At one point I was musing that there had already been enough material and plot twists for one or even two volumes of the typical “fat book” fantasy trilogy, but I was barely half way through! This does not compromise the richness of the plot: Uprooted is an exciting and satisfying read.
“There was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage.” I have a lot of mixed feelings about this books so I’m going to split this review into the things I liked and the things I did not like. Pros The Wood. I loved how terrifying and wild the wood is and the fact that it has a conscious presence really adds to the creep factor. The descriptions of it were so detailed and intricate and the wood is now one of my favourite villains. Agnieszka and Kasia’s friendship. I love strong female friendships and this one was great. I loved how much they cared for each other and the lengths they would go to protect each other. Ending. The ending definitely brought my overall rating up as I was completely engrossed in learning the story behind the wood Cons The Dragon. I felt he was just so rude I just could not warm up to him at all. I hated the way he treated Agnieszka the whole way through the book. The Romance. The romance in this book just completely bored me. I did not see the point in it at all as it added nothing to the story. In my mind there was no chemistry between the Dragon and Agnieszka and I’m really glad that it’s not a focal point of the story. Political intrigue. As a massive fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire series I usually enjoy political intrigue in books but for some reason I hated it in this. While I understand that this was an important part of the story I was not in anyway interested in it. Overall I enjoyed parts of this and disliked others which is why I gave it 3 stars.
5.0 out of 5 starsI loved how well-crafted the world was
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 12 October 2017
I have so many feelings about this book. I loved how well-crafted the world was, it felt very real and like it had true depth from the start, yet the author didn't feel the need to over-explain anything. The touch was light and more details were filled in over time, context was enough to help me understand the world, the people and the politics really well from the outset.
Some might think it cheesy, but I liked how the broken wizard and the broken girl helped each other find something they'd been missing. It wasn't clumsy and it wasn't overly trite, it felt very natural.
The magic system was interesting, although I'll admit to some readers' complaint that it didn't seem to have any boundaries and almost anything needed was always possible. That aside, the way the magic was imagined and how the Dragon's magic and Nieshka's magic differed was really enchanting.
Lastly I liked the optimistic and open way the story was wrapped up.
4.0 out of 5 starsFairy tale with strong female protagonist.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 21 November 2019
I bought this on a whim, because someone said they had read it was like Howl's Moving Castle. It isn't, or at least only in very minor ways (it is probably aimed at an older audience and doesn't have Dianna Wynne Jones lightness). I had not read any of her other books and initially I found the constant reference to the protagonists scruffiness quite annoying. As the book progressed I became more comfortable with the idea she was not "not beautiful", just not conforming to standard notions of "heroine". I also have a problem with the romance between a teenage girl and a man over 100 years old ( a la twilight), but again as the narrative went on the positioning of the protagonist meant that this was less problematic than in other stories with same trope. If you like fantasy/magic/fairy tale type stories this is well written and engaging. Suffice to say I enjoyed it enough that I went on to read Spinning Silver, which I think is even better.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 December 2017
Read the full review on my blog - LOVELYOWLSBOOKS
Do you know when you read a book so good that you have no words to describe it? But you want everyone to read it and blindly trust you - even if you can’t explain how magnificent, how incredible a book is or string together a coherent sentence to tell them? Well, Uprooted is one of those books.
Uprooted follows the story of Agnieszka and her village which is situated close to the dark and eerie woods. And whatever goes in; never comes out or if they do, they’re never the same as before. People have gone missing inside or have come out completely insane in the most terrifying way.
For years, Agnieszka and the villagers have been protected from the evil lurking in the woods thanks to the Dragon, a very powerful and ancient wizard. But, in order to do this the Dragon takes a girl every ten years to serve him in his tower.
When the time comes and the Dragon visits their village, everyone is shocked that Agnieszka is chosen instead of Kasia and whisked away to his tower. We learn more about this wizard called the Dragon, we get to see how his and Agnieszka’s contrasting relationship progresses, and soon secrets about the woods are unraveled.
We have the Dragon who is a powerful and learned man. He loves to study and strongly believes that even the wrong intonation behind a spell can vastly change how it’s cast. Then Agnieszka challenges what he knows, what he’s learned and studied over hundreds of years.
As for the actual story, I was completely immersed and fascinated by Polish lore. The wood is one of the focal points in this story and we read about the horrors inside. There were particular scenes that were frightening because you don’t understand what it is, and neither does Agnieszka. I really enjoyed the eeriness and mystery behind the woods.
I finished Uprooted and I haven’t left its pages. I’m still wandering around, lost between the words and reality. I wish I could have written more or explained things better but I highly, highly recommend Uprooted.
5.0 out of 5 starsgreat atmospheric fantasy, much less romance than I was expecting
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 8 October 2018
Several people had recommended this book to me, and it didn't disappoint. It's got a great atmosphere and a nice mix of exciting, tense scenes and slower, more contemplative moments. I loved the descriptions of the Wood, seemingly a sentient, natural evil that is constantly trying to corrupt and expand, and the plot - particularly who had and hadn't been infected and corrupted by the Wood's magic - kept me enthralled and guessing. There's lots of lovely - but also at times bittersweet - points about friendship, family, and growing up and changing. And the Eastern European-style secondary world was unusual, felt authentic, and worked well. One thing that surprised me was that I've often heard this book talked about as though it's either a straight-up fantasy romance or at least very focused on the romantic elements. I actually found that the romance was secondary, or perhaps even tertiary, to the action plot, the friendship, and the general world-building and atmosphere. What there was was okay, but despite loving that sort of plotline, I thought it was a bit underdeveloped and probably the weakest part of a very good book. In particular, I thought the "hero" was pretty awful before the romance kicked off and not that much better by the end - and I say that as someone who loves broody/mysterious/dark/borderline evil romantic interests! That aside, I'd definitely recommend this.
Novik is the author of the Temeraire fantasy series, and “Uprooted” is her only standalone novel to date. She captivates the reader’s attention from the get-go when she tells of a Dragon that whisks the villager’s daughters to his castle, one per decade, as a kind of tribute, and then the unreliable narrator, a young woman who is awaiting the year of her cohort’s selection, self-corrects, but the truth is not any less magical or intriguing.
We find out that Agnieszka lives in the village of Dvernik, as part of the larger kingdom of Polnya. Dvernik is in the valley just next to an enchanted forest, and she is quite unlikely to be chosen, messy and clumsy and unremarkable as she is. But we all know such are the qualities that are bound to hide some magical gifts which would propel the story forward.
In terms of plot, it reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones’s “Howl’s Moving Castle”, with the same old crusty magician who develops a kind of relationship with a simple girl. But what sets Novik’s story apart is her ability to make magic come alive without you even really noticing it. She has a remarkable way of conjuring up the right language to describe spells and incantations, and giving them a musical quality that sings in her narrative. (Readers who speak Malay would be amused to find out that “alamak” is a spell for walking through walls/barriers).
Her portrayal of the enchanted wood and its threatening presence, and creatures that lurk within is also very well done and the battle scenes, which can be a little graphic and gory, brings the drama right inside the reader’s mind effortlessly and with rather lurid prose. Perhaps the touch of sensuality surrounding the romance part of the novel would appeal to some as well, though I felt it unnecessary. What moved me most was the close sisterhood between Agnieszka and her childhood friend Kasia, which gave Agnieszka’s daring and reckless rescue of Kasia when the latter is captured by the wood, a touching motivation. The conflicting emotions and the way she has to lay bare her jealousies, anger, and the nastier parts of her friendship with Kasia in order to totally rid her of the wood’s possession with the spells she casts over her friend, was realistic yet fantastical.
There is much to recommend in this book, and not least Novik’s able prose, which is totally free of the awkwardness in description of fantastical elements, and the shallow characterisation which sometimes mar some works of this genre.
5.0 out of 5 starsExciting fantasy adventure with an underlying sense of menace
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 8 July 2018
Do you love stories full of fantasy and adventure? Then buy this, put your feet up and enjoy! This is a classic fantasy novel with a likeable heroine, an interesting premise, and plenty of excitement and magic. Agnieszka is our 17 year old narrator, plucked from her village home to serve a fearsome wizard for ten years. Set in a fantastical version of Poland/Russia, the wizard's job is to prevent the evil wood (yes, you read correctly) from advancing further and swallowing up more villages and luckless peasants. The wood is a surprisingly frightening enemy, it's brooding presence and creeping evil coming through strongly throughout he book. It makes a refreshing change from roaring dragons or armies of orcs.
It's a highly compelling story, one that I found very hard to put down. I even stayed awake for two long bus journeys reading it - and I'm someone who usually passes out and drops their Kindle within minutes of sitting down in a warm coach. So it's not a good idea to pick up if you're supposed to be doing a job you've been putting off! Like all good adventures, it is filled with incident throughout, as well as building inexorably to the final showdown.
Some elements are predictable and if you want to go spotting fantasy 'tropes' you'll find plenty here, but when a book's this good it's hard to care. These clichés have become popular precisely because they work. This will be one of the most engaging, enthralling and enjoyable stories I read all year. If you enjoy fantasy adventure then you need to add this to your reading list! And even if you only read the odd fantasy, this is one that's worth giving a whirl. It's good enough to be enjoyed by a wide readership.