Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release Date: May 19th 2015
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.
Uprooted is a hugely imaginative, engrossing and vivid fantasy novel, inspired by folk and fairy tales by Naomi Novik, the author of the Temeraire series. It is perfect reading for fans of Robin Hobb and Trudi Canavan.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
In her village, every ten years, the Dragon takes a girl from their family. When she returns she is changed; she never stays in their valley alongside the Woods for long, instead she leaves and never returns. Agnieszka is born in the year when the Dragon will take another girl but she’s never worried that she will be picked. Instead her best friend Kasia is the one who everyone believes will be chosen; she is gorgeous, strong, graceful, and her whole life she has been trained to serve the Dragon.
Then, when he arrives in the village, he picks Agnieszka. With barely a change to catch her breath let alone say goodbye to her family and her friends she is whisked away to the Dragons tower and left there. Scared and alone Agnieszka takes comfort in the notes previous girls have left her to navigate life with the Dragon, but the way he treats her is very different. Instead he starts teaching her magic, magic Agnieszka didn’t even realise she had but magic which leaves her drained and exhausted with the smallest incantation.
Agnieszka doesn’t want to learn magic, all she wants to do is survive the ten years alongside the Dragon and return home. She doesn’t tolerate his lessons but that all changes when Kasia is taken by the Walkers. Living alongside the Woods has always been a danger for people in Agnieszka’s village. If they wander too close they can find themselves losing their minds, changed forever and corrupted by a dark force. Agnieszka knows it is unlikely Kasia is still alive and uncorrupted but she refuses to leave her friend to die in the Woods.
However saving Kasia will have dramatic effects on the lives of everyone in her small village and their kingdom. Now that one person has been saved the Prince believes his mother, who went into the Woods twenty years ago, can be saved as well.
Agnieszka never believed she would be taken by the Dragon. she’s always wandering into the woods and always getting her clothes filthy despite all efforts otherwise, but she loves Kasia so she will make an effort to be presentable when the Dragon comes. When Agnieszka is picked by the Dragon instead she doesn’t expect it, she never prepared for it and finds herself in a completely foreign situation.
She doesn’t want to master the magic she has, until her friends life is in danger. Agnieszka has a new form of magic the Dragon cannot understand, but she soon throws herself into it determined to find any way to help her friend.
The relationship between Kasia and Agnieszka was one of the best friendships I’ve read. Despite believing at first Kasia would be chosen by the Dragon Agnieszka does not love her any less like the rest of the village, she doesn’t keep her distance instead she loves her more. However when Agnieszka is chosen it throws both girls off. Neither were expecting it and it changes the course of both their lives leaving them with unexplored emotions of resentment, anger and fear.
The Dragon has locked himself away from the village he is a Lord over. He holds himself away and the only time he really interacts with the people is when he takes one of their daughters. Despite his distance the Dragon cares about magic; he sees it as an art and a gift and he is incredibly frustrated by Agnieszka’s disregard for his lessons, her weariness over the smallest enchantments, and later his inability to understand how her magic works. The Dragon has dedicated his life to controlling the Woods, believing one day it will take over the whole valley with no one to push it back.
The dynamic between Agnieszka and Dragon was interesting to read. Neither of them really tolerates the other at first but as Agnieszka learns more about her magic, and actually takes his lessons seriously, the Dragon starts to understand her a little better, if not fully able to understand her magic. Agnieszka resents him for taking girls every ten years and as she grows more confident she isn’t shy about telling him that. The two work well together combining their strength and their magic to save Kasia, create illusions, and fight back against the Woods.
The other characters were just as well written. Prince Marek, who would normally be the hero of this fairytale, was instead more of a spoilt child. He believed his mother could be saved and was willing to do anything to get his way and get a troupe into the Woods to save her. The Falcon, another magician though not as powerful as the Dragon, he tries to become a friend to Agnieszka but is always loyal to the Prince before anyone else. All of these characters and more played a large role in this book and in the fight against the Woods.
The Woods are more of a character than a setting. It has been part of the kingdom and the valley Agnieszka lives in for far longer than the humans have been but it has turned dark. Now anyone who enters the Woods leaves corrupted, with no way to save them. Even the smallest brush of pollen from one of the trees in the Woods can turn someone, and that is saying nothing of the horrors and the creatures that come out of it. There is something more to the Woods than the trees and the beats; it is not an incorporeal being but instead there is someone dark and malicious behind its actions. It’s an amazing villain and an amazing setting for this story; so richly described and the history was wonderfully built on as well. The more the characters discover of the Woods the more we in turn understand its full potential and power.
Uprooted was on my to-read list and my bookshelves for so long before I finally picked it up, and now all I’m wondering is why I left it for so long. A story that has been inspired by folklore and fairytales Uprooted was bound to be a favourite of mine. With a rich story, amazing characters and a brilliant setting I only wish I’d read Uprooted sooner.
What did you think of Uprooted? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.