Take advantage of extra daylight hours to read longer
Title: Uprooted by Naomi Novik 4.5 stars****
Publisher: Del Rey. 449 pp
Genre: YA, Science fantasy, fantasy
Naomi Novik is an award winning author of the acclaimed series His Majesty’s Dragons (think Napoleonic wars with an air force of dragons). She has an English Literature degree from Brown University as well as a Computer Science degree from Columbia. I find her to be a master storyteller, creating original tales with beautiful, atmospheric, evocative writing. I have read all her books, awaiting them eagerly. (I’m still waiting for Peter Jackson to film Temeraire!) I loved that Rachel Hartman (Shadow Scale) rated it 5 stars in her ARC.
The heroine/ narrator is Agniezska, a peasant girl from the small Eastern European village of Dvernik. This town is at the edge of the Woods, where evil lurks, and is only kept at bay by a Wizard. Her best friend was always the expected sacrifice: every ten years he selects a girl of 17 who will stay with him for 10 years. But this time, it is obvious to the Dragon (as the Wiz is known, also Sarkan) that Agnes (as I thought her, Nieshka is also used) has magic and must be trained. Only it’s magic he doesn’t understand. I loved that her magic was so different from his, and not learned in a book. That while she is young (he’s a youthful 150), she is capable and adaptable. Agniezska struggles to learn and can’t find her answers in his masculine magic. But she understands friendship and loyalty and right/good and finds answers within herself.
She may become the most powerful witch in history. And that promise requires another book!
This is an intricate, layered story of friendship, politics, romance and magic. It is much more like the original Grimm’s fairy tales and less like the sanitized Disney versions. It has a strong female lead and original storyline suitable for older teens. I enjoyed the story where the right thing was done, for the right reasons. It also has quite a strong environmental message. I thought it ironic that Agnes’s father was a woodcutter especially as we untangle the Woods’ story. She saves the people by saving the Wood, which provides life/fruit/biodiversity. Novik based some of the story on Polish fairytale of the witch Baba Yaga, itself worth a read.
While this is a stand alone novel, complete in itself, the ending felt rushed and left me hopeful that she would revisit these characters. The epilogue isn’t enough. The world building and character development begs another tale.
This fascinating story is part fantasy, part fairytale and all magic.
Uprooted has been already film optioned by Warner Bros.
Appropriate for older teens, with complex plot, characters and evil.
For YA tales: Robin McKinley, Kristin Cashore, Diana Wynne Jones,
For adult fairytale twists: Gregory Maguire, Neil Gaiman
For Wood tales: Mythago Wood series by Robert Holdstock
Opening line: Our dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes…
No one went into the Wood and came out again, at least not whole and themselves.
Don’t waste my time you outrageous idiot.
You’re proving to be a remarkable paragon of incompetence.
He looked grander than the King’s ballroom, and perfectly improbable.
Read as an ARC from Netgalley
The Rochester Library has both hardcover and Ebook copies.