Monday, May 11, 2015

Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Monday, May 11, 2015 with 3 comments
Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Series: stand-alone
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Source: received from publisher via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Naomi Novik, author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Temeraire novels, introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.

“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 book felt like coming home. It was reminiscent of the folk and fairy tales I loved as a child and was just as expertly woven. I could find no flaw in this story, nothing I wish had been done differently. It was absolute perfection for my fairy-tale-loving heart...a balm to my soul.

Agnieszka is my version of the perfect heroine: absolutely normal. She is every girl who thinks herself not good enough and is the complete opposite of her beautiful, perfect best friend. Which is why she is absolutely positive the Dragon will never choose her...but that's because she's yet to discover just how special she truly is. Despite that, I appreciated how true to herself Agnieszka remained. In the face of adversity and an ever-changing world, she never lost sight of herself and proved to be the most ardent and loyalest of friends.

There were moments in story where a lesser person might have given in to temptation or chosen the easier path, but not Agnieszka. She would sacrifice everything she was for the sake of her dearest friend Kasia. And despite whatever darker thoughts and resentments they might be harboring toward one another because of their predicaments prior to and after the choosing ceremony, they still endeavored to be there for each other, to be as close as sisters. Their love for each other was undeniable.

The pacing and world-building in this story were exceptional. Every time I was gearing up for things to settle down, to be able to catch my breath for a moment before the next crisis had to be averted, I had to remind myself that this was not that kind of story. There were chapter breaks, sure, but there weren't really any good stopping points, not with everything that was happening in the story. I found it ridiculously difficult to put this book was just utterly brilliant and completely unpredictable. And usually with fantasy worlds such as this, I tend to gloss over all of the finer details in favor of the action and dialogue, but Novik's descriptions of the Wood and all of its inhabitants are not to be missed. She managed to make it sound captivating and beautiful and completely creepy all at the same time. I will never look at the forest the same again.

The Dragon is not a dragon but a wizard, and thusly, magic is central to the story. The Wood itself is a little magical, frighteningly so, and as it turns out, so is Agnieszka. But the way in which she wields magic is so different from the Dragon's by-the-book methods that he is constantly infuriated and very often frustrated with Agnieszka's lack of progress with his teachings. I loved that Agnieszka found her own path to accessing magic and that it aggravated the Dragon to no end.

Their relationship started off with them despising each other but it evolved into one of burning passion, especially after they began working magic together. But the romance was also very much secondary to the rest of the story. I think that if Agnieszka had learned magic from the Dragon in the way that he had intended, she would have been yet another student he'd send off at the end of ten years, never to be heard from again. But once Agnieszka finally embraced the magic within and found a path that worked for her, she began pushing the Dragon's limits...and also his patience. She challenged him at every opportunity and proved that she was a far-worthier pupil than he'd originally given her credit for. For comparison's sake, I envisioned the Dragon as Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock but in wizard form: that super intelligent and everyone is beneath me type of character.

Though Agnieszka is but a young woman of seventeen when she is chosen as the Dragon's new apprentice, this book was more adult in nature. The responsibilities and sacrifices that Agnieszka faces are definitely not usual for a girl of seventeen, but this is a fantasy story. So, it's kind of somewhere between young adult and adult, but not new adult either. I know that's very vague and I'm sorry for that. Honestly, the best comparison I can make in terms of story, writing, creepy factor, forest imagery, etc., is the recently released Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge. They both have a very similar vibe, with young characters who have very difficult paths ahead of them. The same might even be said for Hodge's debut, so if you enjoyed either or both of those novels, I'd heartily recommend Uprooted to you, as well.

Seriously, though, if you have any interest in folk lore, fairy tales, or fantasy, on any level, you should put this book on your TBR. But don't just let it stay there. Also, I wouldn't read it near a copse of trees, either. I did and I felt like I was being watched the entire time. There is just something so pervasive and magical about Naomi Novik's writing...I felt it all around me. And as chilling as that could be at times, I can't wait to read it again.

GIF it to me straight:
Creepy forest is creepy.

About the author:

An avid reader of fantasy literature since age six, when she first made her way through The Lord of the Rings, Naomi Novik is also a history buff with a particular interest in the Napoleonic era and a fondness for the work of Patrick O’Brian and Jane Austen. She studied English literature at Brown University, and did graduate work in computer science at Columbia University before leaving to participate in the design and development of the computer game Neverwinter Nights: Shadow of Undrentide. Over the course of a brief winter sojourn spent working on the game in Edmonton, Canada (accompanied by a truly alarming coat that now lives brooding in the depths of her closet), she realized she preferred writing to programming, and on returning to New York, decided to try her hand at novels.

Naomi lives in New York City with her husband and six computers.

Find Naomi:

Website | Twitter | FacebookGoodreads | Tumblr | Pinterest


  1. So happy to hear this! I've been so excited for this one but I've kind of avoided reading any reviews because I was afraid of being put off from Uprooted. I love creepy forests! I love fairy tales! I CAN'T WAIT. Especially to read about a more ordinary heroine.

  2. Oh how I wish I were into these type of books more. It sounds perfect!

  3. I read this too and it was SO SO great and I don't normally like fantasy like this.


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