Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Book - Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted is one of those books which you will find literally impossible to put down. It transports you into a fairy tale kingdom full of wizards and magic, with a vivid, filmic quality. The story is told from the perspective of Agnieszka, who lives in a small village, in a quiet valley near the Wood. But this is not just any wood, it is a deadly, corrupted place, seething with an evil power that strikes out at those living nearby, corrupting them in horrific ways. The valley is protected by a lone wizard, the Dragon, who demands that he must be allowed to take one young woman to serve him in his tower every ten years.   

As the choosing day approaches, Agnieszka is afraid. Everyone knows that the Dragon always takes the brightest, the most intelligent, the most beautiful girls, and her friend Kasia is sure to be taken. Agnieszka is secretly glad that she is the clumsy one, the one who always manages to tear her clothes and get into trouble. But the Dragon doesn’t do what everyone expects, and that’s only the beginning. Agnieszka and Kasia soon find themselves fighting in a war against corruption, facing up to their fears and venturing deep into the heart of the Wood.

Novik was inspired by a Polish fairy tale, adapting and expanding the original story to become something far more complex. It’s fast-paced and full of plot twists and surprises, but it also has well-developed characters. Agnieszka is an ignorant village girl, but her foraging skills, initiative and courage are soon put to the test, while the Dragon himself appears to be mysterious and other-worldly, with a lifetime’s worth of secrets to hide.

The novel reminded me of Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy, and I think I would have preferred a slightly lengthier story, perhaps split into more than one volume and developed a little more. The narrative draws you along so quickly that it feels as if the ending comes far too soon.

That said, this was the perfect book to banish those January blues, and I loved the concept behind the plot, that truth can reveal people’s darkest thoughts and help them re-build their relationships, extracting the good from the bad. It also makes you think about how you treat others, especially those who seem different, and to stop and consider the motivations behind evil acts.

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