As I was growing up, fairy tales made up a big part of my childhood, as I’m sure it did for many people. I was a big Disney fan and one of my all time favorite princess movies was Beauty and the Beast.
To this day it continues to be one of my favorites and if I heard it playing on TV I’d definitely sit down and just watch. And that’s probably why Uprooted by Naomi Novik was a success for me.
Uprooted takes place in a world where magic and magical creatures are the norm. We are immediately introduced to someone called ‘the Dragon’ who isn’t really a fire breathing creature but instead is an immortal man said to take a young woman every 10 years to his tower from a village called Dvernik.
We learn about a nearly perfect seventeen year old named Kasia who is the likeliest candidate to be taken by the Dragon once October rolls around because out of all the girls in the village, Kasia is special. And we learn of our narrator, Agnieszka who is Kasia’s complete opposite but also her best friend. A tomboy who doesn’t mind getting dirty and who prefers to hunt rather than to wear skirts and keep her hair in neat braids.
Then October comes and all the village girls who are seventeen are prettied up and presented to the Dragon.
A Fairytale Retelling
In the first couple hundred pages, Uprooted has a very familiar fairy tale woven into the story. Because I don’t think this is a spoiler (but it could be though it’s a very obvious one), I’ll immediately mention who the Dragon chooses when he goes down to Dvernik. Instead of taking Kasia, he ends up taking Agnieska to the surprise of everyone in the village.
And this is where the fairytale begins.
We have a girl, Agnieska, who is taken ‘prisoner’ by a lonesome ‘creature’ who lives in a tower. Immediately she’s taken from her family without even allowing for a goodbye. Once she’s at the tower, she is immediately directed to the kitchen, where she finds that her new duties consist of making breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While she isn’t an avid reader like Belle, Agnieska does read for fun (when not outside) and initially takes up this hobby to pass the time.
And of course, a few more events happen later on in the book that tie in strongly to Beauty and the Beast. However, after 80-100 pages, the similarities end and everything is fantasy/magic.
An Intangible Antagonist: the Woods
While this is my first time reading Uprooted, it’s not the first time I’ve heard the story. Recommended to me by my brother, I already knew what was going to happen in the first 80 pages and one thing that I found rather strange was our antagonist.
Agnieska mentions the Wood in the first few pages, says that the Dragon protects her village from this evil. With a title like this, I would imagine that ‘the Wood’ was just a forest that behaves like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. It pulls you in with sweet murmurs and then devours you when you least expect it to.
In a way, this is how the Wood works but in a more alarming way. The Wood is a forest, physically, however, it’s much more. It spreads through living creatures and when contaminated, people call it Corruption. Initially it was said that once someone was corrupted (and didn’t get medical care immediately), the person would die.
However, with Agnieska in the picture, things seem to be shifting.
In the first few pages we’re introduced to our main cast. We have the Dragon, Agnieska, and Kasia. We instantly learn that Agnieska and Kasia are best friends, regardless of how different they are. Agnieska places Kasia on a pedestal, saying Kasia is brave while she’s a coward, how Kasia is a pillar, and just how special Kasia is. We do get these comparisons more as the book progresses and while I initially thought Kasia wouldn’t become a major character, in a way she is.
Because Agnieska looks up to Kasia so much, it pushes her to do both brave and stupid things. One of the braver actions is embracing the magic within her in order to save Kasia from Corruption, while the stupider ones almost get her killed.
However, it’s not this relationship that really gets me, but the bond that starts to form between Agnieska and the Dragon.
When they initially meet, the Dragon seems to detest Agnieska and her sloppy tendencies. Just by making food, her clothes get dirty, her hair comes loose, and the ends of her dress get shredded. The reason being that the Dragon is all about organization, cleanliness, and perfection. As the story progresses, we see that Agnieska starts to understand his anal retentive personality and a bridge of understanding is built.
And I just have to say that the clash is beautiful. I love characters that are opposite as I firmly believe that opposites attract. While at first their clashing is very argumentative, it later becomes more of an art as Agnieska tries to explain her way of working magic to the Dragon. Of course all fails as the Dragon is very meticulous and Agneiska abstract.
I have just crossed the 100 page mark today, which is pretty good in terms of pace. So far I’m really enjoying the story, however, I do have some questions.
SPOILERS: Does Kasia end up being saved? What is the point of the book? Is it to save Kasia from Corruption, to get rid of the Wood, or something else entirely? If it’s to get rid of the Wood, how will that be accomplished if it’s been in place for thousands of years? Is Kasia’s predicament something that will come back to haunt our protagonist?
As a whole, while I am enjoying the story, I do feel like Agnieska is too powerful or possibly extremely lucky, having escaped death twice. She has ‘defeated’ the Wood once already with Kasia’s predicament and I hope that things don’t go well for her. Since she’s only just accepted being a witch, I would like for her to struggle more and if that means she takes a few wins in the beginning and some major losses later, I’m all up for that
I know, I sound so evil, kekeke
I’m also wondering how long this will be since there’s no real plot yet. I’m not sure where the story is going so should I expect that all ten years will be presented in X-many books or will there be a single major plot?
But yes, that’s all for now 🙂
If you’ve checked out his book already, are any of my questions answered? Is there a point to the book and will I be finding out soon? Did you like or dislike the book? Why? Have you reviewed it? If so feel free to leave me a link and I’ll definitely check it out!
What do you think about the relationship between the Dragon and Agnieska? I admit it made me laugh a few times with how frustrated and serious the Dragon was