Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher: Del Rey (May 19th)
Source: Review copy from publisher
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
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.
This review for Uprooted by Naomi Novik is going to be short and concise. Here it comes: One of the best books I have read in a long time. Go buy it now and read it. Not enough? Okay let me try to convince you why you have to read this book.
Agnieszka grew up knowing that at the year of her seventeenth birthday she will be standing next to her best friend, Kasia, -and other girls of their same age- at the Choosing. They will wait for the Dragon to choose one of them to take back home with him; as it has been custom for hundreds of years. One girl every ten years, that’s the price the people of the valley pay to the Dragon, the wizard who protected them from The Wood and the terrible creatures that dwell within.
Agnieszka’s best friend, Kasia, was beautiful, smart, and courageous and since she was very little everybody believed she will be the one chosen by the Dragon. She was prepared for that her whole life; but the day of the Choosing came and the Dragon surprised them all by choosing Agnieszka.
The life next to the Dragon was not what Agnieszka was expecting. He was easily irritated and brooding most of the time. He liked everything clean and in order and Agnieszka was a mess. To the Dragon great dismay, she was always spilling things or ripping her clothes; but the most disconcerting thing about the Dragon was that he was teaching her magic; that was the reason why he chose her, he saw the magic in her.
On the beginning Agnieszka didn’t want to learn magic, she dreamt of going back home, but soon after she realized that she could do a lot of good if she learned what the Dragon wanted to teach her, because together they were stronger against their common enemy, the Woods.
Agnieszka is one of those heroines that grow page by page. She starts as a young immature girl with many fears, but soon after she finds her strength and sees her own potential. Despite learning about power and magic her inner beauty never changes. Her values and compassion are ever present and never in doubt, and when she is needed she goes the extra mile for those she cares about or for those she feels responsible. It was very easy to root for her. No pun intended.
The Dragon is a dark hero and you know I love those. He has lived over a century and little by little he has lost the passion for living. Seeing people grow and die while you stay the same it’s very difficult. Apart from that, he has seen terrible things and in a way he feels responsible for the people under his charge that he hasn’t been able to save. To protect himself from more pain his life is methodically organized and he doesn’t like changes or to deviate from the things he knows, and Agnieszka brings that in spades into his life.
A romance blooms between Agnieszka and the Dragon. I liked that is not the main plot of the story, but a delicious morsel that add something more to the whole. Their attraction also develops slowly and in a believable manner, as it was their relationship. I loved seeing them come to terms with their feelings and what it means for them to be together, especially for the Dragon. The last page of the book was simply perfection. I read it twice just to enjoy it one more time.
Another thing I loved about Uprooted was the relationship between Agnieszka and Kasia. They love each other and are as close as friends can be. They are soul sisters, but at the same time, deep down, they feel towards each other envy and other feelings they are afraid and ashamed to experience, but in here, they are forced to confront those feelings and move forward, forgiving each other in spite of them. I loved how their love was so pure and sincere that they were able to accept the other despite the changes their new lives brought them.
The rest of the cast is complex and multidimensional and they made you wonder who is good and who is bad, because sometimes the line between good and bad can be so blurry it’s easy to cross it without noticing it.
The world Novik created is imaginative, vivid, dark, and creepy as hell. The story is engaging and creative with a very dark fairy taleish feel. Novik’s writing is fluid and beautifully captivating. Uprooted is one of those books you want to devour, but at the same time you read it slowly because you don’t want it to end. I want to cuddle with this book and have babies with it, it was that good!
I haven’t heard anything about Uprooted being part of a series, but I really hope it is. I would love to visit these characters and this world again.
Uprooted was my first book by Naomi Novik, but I can guarantee you it won’t be my last. I highly recommend it.
My Verdict: 5 Paws
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