Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Del Rey. 438 Pages. Ebook.
(I'd just like to say that while this cover is lovely and all, I much prefer this one. How gorgeous is that!?)
After reading the synopsis for Uprooted, I was already hooked. Then I saw the many rave reviews, and I knew that I had to read it - and soon.
Now, I'll be honest: I don't think I really fell in love with this book right off the bat, and I certainly found areas that I wasn't overly fond of, such as some of the history. Despite this, I did still love this book quite a lot. To put it in a more simplistic manner: with most things that we love in life, there are aspects of that said thing - or people - that we don't particular like. But that doesn't mean we don't love them, right? You love your friend, sibling, or significant other, but that doesn't mean that you love it when they suddenly stop responding to your messages or leave the dishes in sink (seriously, the dishwasher is right there)! That's how I felt about Uprooted. I loved it, but not always.
Uprooted begins with a small village near the forest and a young woman named Agniezska. Near the village is the forest, which is corrupted with the Wood that threatens to take over the land and people it lies near. In order to prevent this from happening, the mysterious Dragon works hard to stop it. However, he requires one new young woman to live with him in his tower every ten years in exchange for his help. No one knows what happens to these girls in the tower, only that they come back and eventually move away. The next choosing is coming up, and Agnieszka believes that she is safe, as she, and everyone else in her village, assumes that the dragon will a more beautiful, more graceful girl. As we can expect, Agniezska is wrong.
The first thing that I would like to say about this book is that despite my initial hesitancy that it would fall into worn-out tropes and storylines, it was an entirely fresh and unexpected delight! The pacing was a bit slow in the beginning, but it was drawn out in a way that somehow made it impossible to put down, because it always felt like something important or exciting was going to be happening soon. Though it started out with a rather narrow story with not much room to grow, Uprooted slowly grew into an all-out fantasy heaven with countless conflicts, magical elements, intricate worlds and systems, and well-developed characters.
Agniezska is a delightfully refreshing character. She's incredibly clumsy and doesn't do well with being told what to do; she's headstrong, but also somewhat meek when it comes to things she doesn't know well. The initial Agniezska that we meet in the very beginning seems very fleshed out and well-rounded - it feels as if we already know her and her personality. It doesn't seem as though there is much more we can learn about Agniezska's character, but Novik quickly shuts that down as the story continues and we begin to learn more and see many more sides to Agniezska.
Also: The Dragon is not a real dragon. I can't tell you how incredibly disappoint I was that this was the truth. I expected a dragon. He's just a man. Oh well. Despite that, I still loved his character. He never really strays to far from his cold, rather off-putting demeanor, and I really, really appreciated that. There are too many books where the intitally cold and rude character suddenly 180s and becomes a friendly, humourous person. The Dragon is deeply layered, and as the story progresses we are able to unfold his life, his story, and how he gotten to the place he is today. We learn of his motivations and fears, while also watching him change in very subtle but important ways. I won't say much more regarding the Dragon, as I don't want to give away any spoilers.
Personally, I consider the Wood a character in itself, as it drastically influenced the novel and really seemed to have a mind of its own. I loved the eerily creepy Wood, which is an entire forest that's alive with evil and corruption, ready to take anyone that comes its way and claim them as their own, corrupting them to where they are no long really human at all. And really, that's what this book is all about: fighting back against the Wood and preventing it from taking over the land and villages outside of it.
Novik's writing is simply stunning. She does not merely borrow words and turn them into a story. Rather, Novik molds, creates, and blends her words to create a beautiful, fluid story that draws you in and keeps you hooked. This is not to say that Novik does not incorporate humour and other elements of writing into her book, but instead combines them all in a wonderfully exciting and engaging manner. Novik also lets the content of her novel take her wherever it needs to be, and I enjoy that she didn't cover up anything regarding sexual content or violence.
Overall, I am giving Uprooted a four star out of five rating, as it is a carefully and perfectly crafted novel, full of engaging characters and imaginative ideas, but it didn't quite have that 'wow' factor that I was looking for. I would recommend Uprooted for fans of fantasy, young adult/adult fiction, exciting new magical ideas and systems, and for those who enjoy a little darkness with their reading.
If you enjoy Uprooted, you might also like:
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
Hidden Huntress by Danielle Jensen
The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas
Azurite by Megan Dent Nagle