Review | Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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’m so glad that I waited until the hype (mostly) died down to read this – now I can safely say that Uprooted was certainly brilliant and captivating, though not the “absolute perfection” that almost everyone seemed to call it following its release.

Uprooted excelled in a few main areas for me: the magic system; the main character, Agnieszka; and the fact that the ship was secondary to the actual action (though I did eventually warm up to it).

I’ll admit that I didn’t initially read the synopsis so I was surprised to find that The Dragon is a wizard rather than a fire-breathing lizard. The Dragon is in charge of protecting the small villages from The Wood: a literal forest that is sentient, filled with evil and will possess anyone who ventures too close. The imminent threat of annihilation by such a being made for a creepy villain unlike one I had ever seen before.

The magic system was both learned and intuitive – something that the former student in me certainly appreciated. The Dragon is very much a scholar who learns incantations and spells the exact way that his old tomes have instructed. Agnieszka, however, is unable to learn in the same way and only finds success once she abandons The Dragon’s lesson plan and approaches magic with intuition instead of memorization.

Agnieszka, herself, is easily one of my new favourite heroines. She’s filled with self-doubt, especially when compared to her gorgeous, practically perfect best friend, Kasia. Despite this, Agnieszka is incredibly fierce and loyal to her friend and frequently risks her own life for Kasia’s sake. Their friendship was absolutely beautiful and the fact that it was more central to the story than the romance gave it major points in my book.

The one aspect where Uprooted was found lacking was in its pace: at 400+ pages, Uprooted is a long read. The beginning was quite slow, with little dialogue and a lot of description. I wasn’t fully captivated until about halfway through the story, where I devoured the remainder of Uprooted in one sitting.

Overall, Uprooted was a well-crafted, dark story that went in a completely different direction than I had expected. I can’t wait to read what Novik writes next.

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