Review by Knicky L. Abbott
Author name: Naomi Novik
Book Title: Uprooted
“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 10 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 10 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.
Publication date: 1st March, 2016
Available formats: Paperback, Hardcover, Audiobook and Kindle
Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Uprooted-Novel-Naomi-Novik/dp/0804179050/
I’ve been meaning to write this review since summer 2021, when I first read this book, and I’m afraid I’ve waited too late. But I can’t shake the fact that I must sing the praises of the most wonderful fantasy story I’ve read since my childhood days, no matter how much time has passed since reading it. Perfectly named, and filled with characters I will never forget, Uprooted is the story of a natural village witch, Agnieszka, sacrificed to a beautiful but cold wizard, Sarkan the Dragon, and used for her magic to keep the malevolent, corrupted darkness of the Woods from consuming not only her village, and nearby villages, but all the world.
This book fed me for days, alternating between a languid, poetic, nature-infused read and an exciting, page-turning, moreish binge. No matter where I took my breaks, I couldn’t shake its satisfying hold on my imagination, called and called again by the small adventures and sweeping epic in which Agnieszka found herself entangled, from living with and learning from Sarkan, to the historical intrigue of a taken Queen, lost all these years to the Wood, and the political strongarm of her prince-son demanding that they find his mother. When I read the last line on the last page, I mourned for days the absence of the characters I had come to adore.
It is those characters, their chemistry and their finer details, that is the backbone of this book. I particularly enjoyed the character of Kasia, Agnieszka’s dearest friend, who was not at all who or how I thought she would be at the end of their journey; Her character so quietly strong, resolute and masterful, echoed the skill of novelist Novik in a manner that felt perfectly true to form. Yet it was the character of and behind the Wood itself, that left its mark on my mind as simply fantastic, and one of the most originally-rendered antagonists I have read in a fantasy story to date.
The feeling of time and things in this story are unmatched in their fantastical elements, unmatched and utterly delightful, leaving me greedy and deeply enthralled. It didn’t just feel set in the village of Dvernik in the kingdom of Polnya, it felt set in the very heart of me, and there is nothing more I love than a good story that makes me feel like I’ve come home to myself. A beautiful tale written in beautiful prose, Uprooted will remain a favourite of mine close to forever, and I cannot wait to get into other books of similar ilk to feed the near-hunger it left behind.