3 1/2 out of 5 stars for Uprooted by Naomi Novik
As everyone knows, I loves me a reimagined fairy tale, and that’s just what Naomi Novik has given us with Uprooted. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I loved this particular fairy tale but there was enough to like about it that I have gone on to buy her second book set in her magical world, Spinning Silver. The protagonist of Uprooted is a village girl named Agnieszka, who grows up on the outskirts of a deadly magical wood and the tower of the realm’s protector, a wizard everyone calls “The Dragon.”
Per the book description:
“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.
I didn’t love this book, mainly because it would bog down in repetitive descriptions of Agnieszka’s torn and messy clothes and her country bumpkin upbringing. She didn’t really solidify as a coherent character for me until well past the half-way mark of the narrative. What saved this book for me? Well, the story kept giving me surprises just when it was feeling a bit predictable. The author then managed to pull out a hat trick for a very satisfying ending. I don’t want to spoil it for you.
As Uprooted was the first book set in this world, I think the author struggled a bit in the beginning with character development but I have high hopes that the next book. I would recommend Uprooted for a late teen to older reader as it does contain a few sexual situations.
It is back-to-school week here in my hometown and that means more time for my personal pursuits. Happy pumpkin spice to you all!