Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This was the pick for my local book club in Colorado Springs for November, and I had a copy waiting on my shelf, signed by the author at a Comic-Con Denver event I attended so it was perfect timing.

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

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.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“Ludmila and the Enchanter, only in the song, the brave countess disguised herself as an old peasant woman and cooked and cleaned for the wizard who had stolen her husband’s heart, until she found it in his house locked inside a box, and she stole it back and saved him.” – This quote reminds me of Howl’s Moving Castle, so I adore the idea they are remotely connected at all.

“You intolerable lunatic,” he snarled at me, and then he caught my face between his hands and kissed me.” – I don’t really do romance, but the odd paring of these two, and the hilarious things that are said make it entertaining.

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This was such a good book, but I am saddened it was a stand-alone. I was really hoping for more stories from these characters, mainly because I love the “odd couple” dynamic of Agnieszka and The Dragon. The idea that this man continues to pluck girls from the village to live in his tower was so interesting, and I will say the final reveal of the reasoning behind that choice made me both happy and sad. I enjoyed that our heroine was not anything special to most people. Clumsy, often dirty, not outstandingly pretty, but she was who she was. Throughout the book, we get a great message of realizing that just because something has always been done one way, doesn’t mean it needs to continue being done that way. Nieszka’s magic is born of her own heart and spirit and is different but in many situations, it’s exactly what was needed. There is a romance subplot, and at least one semi-steamy scene, as a heads up for those who may want to know for their younger readers, but overall, it’s much more a slow build of a friendship to a romance, and a heavy fantasy book about good magic overcoming bad magic, and the actions of greedy people and the importance of taking care of nature. It’s a beautifully written book, and it flows well after the first few chapters. Once I got halfway, it was quick and engrossing to read. Recommend this one for sure, and wish there was a sequel.

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