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.
I heard so much about Uprooted, saw it everywhere on social media and got intrigued, but in the second wave of posts was discouraged by many people who felt disappointed and let down by it. But the cover kept appearing here and there, and I still did not know what it actually was about.
After reading the synopsis I was back on board, it just sounded great except for the fact that there are no real dragons. As we all know, every story is better with a dragon in it, so that was indeed a disappointment. Then I proceeded to read the first chapters as samples online and was strangely intrigued.
The story was simply nothing like I had expected, and with every page I grew more excited, giddy and ready to start laughing hysterically because it had been such a long time since a book genuinely surprised me. Me, the smug reader who thinks she has seen it all and therefore can judge a book by reading all kinds of reviews, outdone by a book. It was ridiculous but such a glorious feeling.
After that it would have been unbearable to not know where this story would go, so I finally ordered it and dived right in. Despite my excitement, I was not ready to fully commit to liking it yet. Too many people had found flaws, so I tried really hard to find them and see whether I would agree.
I did not.
The Polish/Slavic influence was definitely not my cup of tea, but it is undeniably unique and you get used to it. The system around the magic seemed random at first, but it got clearer the more you read about it and in the end became one of my favourite fictional magic concepts. And the dragon? Turned out to be quite a dragon, even though he is not a reptile. I just could not put it down and continuously checked how many pages there were left because so much is happening!
Several times I thought, right, this is where it comes to the ending, only to realise I was not even halfway through. At the same time, nothing felt rushed and made perfect sense, expanding this little world and its conflicts while Agnieszka, the protagonist, grows into her new role and life with the dragon.
I could go into so much more detail, but everything would feel like a spoiler. You get a dark, twisted, living wood with a back story. You get character development. Castle life. Village life. Magic, of course. The issue of different learning types, which I definitely did not expect but thought was so important. There is also romance, but in a compromised and perfect way. Also, sarcastic and brooding heroes. Yas for this. But most of all, female strength, friendship and badass-ery. So yeah, I have wholeheartedly been corrupted by this book, so much that I am making it my favourite read of the year!
Uprooted | Naomi Novik | Paperback: 438 pages | Published 2016 by Pan Macmillan
My rating: ★★★★★