Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Every 10 years in the month of October, one young lady turning seventeen is taken by the Dragon, a very powerful and immortal wizard. This year, the village of Dvernik knows who’s going to be taken. Everyone knows the Dragon picks the special ones.
Kasia is special. She’s clever, brave, knows how to cook, has been brought up to serve, and all-in-all, she’s the perfect candidate for the Dragon. She’s everything that Agnieszka isn’t. Agnieszka is a tomboy, loves to hunt, and always comes back with dirt and tears in her clothes.
Then October comes and all the village girls who are seventeen are prettied up and presented to the Dragon and it isn’t Kasia who is taken but Agnieszka.
First off, I’d like to start off by saying that I greatly enjoyed this story. I did write a first impression, where I wrote down some of the things I liked, where I thought the story was going, and some random things I noticed. Some things I may mention again, while others I may not so definitely check that out for a complete view of my thoughts for this book 🙂
I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes a magic, fantasy, and fairy tale retellings. While Uprooted isn’t a complete fairy tale retelling, it does have elements from Beauty and the Beast such as having the Dragon (the Beast) taking a young girl Agnieszka prisoner (Belle). Having the Dragon be an isolated individual in his tower (enchanted castle) and overall having him come off as a prick (remember those scenes where all the Beast did was roar and tried to knock down Belle’s door?)
While I can safely say that the story diverges greatly from the fairytale, it does take about 80-100 pages to do so. The last similarity being when Agnieszka is attacked by wolves and the Dragon gets an injury to the arm.
It’s a simple enough read that anyone around the age of twelve can read it and understand the vocabulary, however, content-wise, it is better suited for an older audience. At my library the book was listed in the adult/young adult section because of sexual content (there’s this very intense kiss and one awkward sex scene) and violence (many people die). If any of these two things turn you off, then I probably wouldn’t read this book. Another possible turn off is the interaction between Agnieszka who is seventeen and the Dragon who is centuries old.
Fast paced and filled with action, the book makes sense about 90% of the time. And the other 10%? It actually happens near the end where certain things need to be tied together and explained in order to finish the book off. Since the book is already fast-paced to begin with, this little (or major) scene feels almost rushed. And for that reason I do recommend slowing down in those moments and possibly rereading (I know I did).
In terms of characters, our narrator and main protagonist gets most of the light. While I initially thought she was pretty overpowered, that thought soon vanished as I saw that not everything went her way. After being taken by the Dragon, Agnieszka tries to figure out why it was her and not Kasia. Afterall, there’s nothing special about Agnieszka. Of course, as we soon find out, Agnieszka is anything but not special
A witchling! That’s why the Dragon took her. As part of his job, the Dragon must take in anyone who shows even a potential of magic and Agnieszka unknowlingly possessed power. As the Dragon begins to train her, he realizes that her power is very different from his own (and any that he knows of). She’s very chaotic, abstract, and her magic is just beautiful. She enhances the powers of others and even the stoic and anal retentive Dragon can’t help but be attracted to her more passionate magic.
Of course, it’s not only her magic that’s impressive. Agnieszka as a person is also very fulfilling. While she does have her moments or childishness, it’s also that characteristic that makes her lovable. Her love and devotion to her family, her village, and Kasia always push her to finding new ways to overcome difficulties. An example of this is [SPOILER] when Kasia is taken into the woods and Agnieszka saves her. Instead of sentencing her to death, Agnieszka pours over spellbooks in hopes of finding a way to save her beloved friend. Having nearly exhausted her options, Agnieszka turns to more impossible ways of saving Kasia only to find them not to be impossible. END SPOILER
My rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Parting thoughts: I would have loved to have given Uprooted a 5 out of 5, however, that little 10% of confusion really ruined it for me. I loved that the book was a stand alone. It could have easily been a duology or even a series, however, it all stayed in just the one book. If anything, I do wish it had been given just a few more pages for that 10% I’m talking about. What’s another 100 pages in this 400 page book?