by Naomi Novik
Amazon / Goodreads
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.
Review:It's amazing how immersive a perfectly balanced, exciting new fantasy can be. And it's wonderful when you can find a book like that. Uprooted was that book for me, and it was an absolute delight - not because it was always happy, or particularly funny (although it can be, with a wry humor), but because the characters had real depth and growth, the world-building was visceral and descriptive, as were the magic elements which were described in a visual way that I found very appealing. I also felt even more caught up in the world because it was so unclear from the beginning what kind of story this was going to be. The plot summary just barely touches on the real and complex plot, and that element of mystery to what you are in for when you first start this book, helped draw me completely into the narrative.
Agnieszka was an extremely well written and vivid heroine. She's strong, but a bit of a klutz and of course very uncomfortable in the surroundings she finds herself in with the Dragon. But gradually her personality makes an impression on the Dragon's taciturnity and it was beautiful to see how much she grows throughout the course of the story. This aspect was a major reason why I loved the book so much - it's truly a wondrous and inspiring coming of age tale for Agnieszka. And she feels so different from the heroines I've been reading about lately. She feels like an old soul, and I really identified with that. Agnieszka also has a strong friendship with Kasia, but it is a realistic one, as some issues they have with each other is explored, but it only served to strengthen their friendship and it also made them completely believable as characters.
The story has many exciting plot twists and some nail-biting action scenes that made it intensely readable. The action does not just take place at the Dragon's castle, so that there is a very solid sense of the whole world of the novel by the end of the story. And I loved that at the different stages of the story the author introduces new characters who are just as strong and memorable as the ones we have grown to love from the beginning.
The romance is not a strong part of the plot - and seeing as the beginning has some similarities to Beauty and the Beast, I found that surprising. But the romance aspect is there in the background, and is a wonderful part of the story because it is not the major focus. I was much more intrigued by the world-building and the trials Agnieszka had to face, so it felt very fitting that the story revolved around that. Although I did really love the Dragon, and wouldn't have minded knowing more about him!
I think this was literally a perfect book. It's hard to find any fault with such flawless storytelling and characters. It's one of my new absolute favorites, and while I feel like the story ended in a way that felt complete and satisfactory, there is a part of me that wishes there was more to read, because living in the world of this book was amazing!