Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted 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, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost 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 no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.

Wow.

Uprooted is a brilliant, haunting, lyrical, frightening, complex and stunning fairytale.

It’s a story of someone finding her place in the world, in terms of magic, personality, life, heart and home. It’s a story of a fight against evil and the complex, shifting shades of grey that haunt every moral decision. It’s a love story and a story about change.

Agnieszka is a wonderful narrator, uncertain and afraid, angry and passionate, charming and honest. Her voice is clear throughout the book and even when we only see what she does, the plot is still very clear, and the other characters drawn with enough lines to make them complex and understandable, even as we see them through her eyes. And Sarkan, I love. You never find out too much about him; it’s just drabs, snippets, and he always seems impenetrable and aloof, even when he’s helping or annoyed or there. He’s beautifully written and is a wonderfully solid presence. Kasia is the only one who is less well-rounded of the major characters; she seems uncertain, unable to fight for herself, and we rarely see what she thinks. I would have liked her to be a little stronger, a little more of a presence; but then she could have overshadowed the major characters, so I can appreciate why she is drawn with subtler strokes.

The plot is enchanting; dancing from moment to moment, easily transferring between places. I admit I found the middle frustrating, the Court scenes; I nearly stopped reading! It felt like a return to the fantasy tropes, the little woodsy girl trapsing around the court, being made fun of, and eventually she’ll find her place or grow up or…I don’t know, I just raged silently against it. I wanted to return to the interesting part of the story! But I did keep reading, and the story caught me again. It’s got war, love, hatred, evil…it’s exciting and thrilling, had me turning pages and not wanting to stop. And then end is lovely. A really rounded, fitting one.

Love, love, love. A hard copy is on my wishlist and it’ll stay on the bookshelves as a read and re-read; it’s something that I will be happy to go back to, pick up and dip into, read through without wanting to stop. It’s brilliant writing and a beautiful story.

 

NB. It was only when I reached the end of this, and had a look at the other books that the author has written, that I realised she isn’t unknown to me; she wrote the Temeraire series, which I have read and liked. So unfortunately, I can’t count this towards my Discoverability Challenge tally!