Tuesday, April 19, 2016

uprooted: stardust reviews

Uprooted by Naomi Novik



“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.

full review under the cut!

This book is truly a wonder. It is everything that I want in a fantasy and more. A great setting, a sympathetic protagonist, amazing and tangible magic, a truly weird and twisted force of "evil," a cute and snarky male to lighten things up, girl power friendship, and growth. Uprooted has all of these things and more, and packs such a powerful punch into not a huge amount of pages. I found myself wanting more from this story and this world, even though the end was great and hugely satisfying. I just wanted to read more about it.

So basically this is the story of Agnieszka (which is pronounced ag-NYESH-kah as per the author's note. helpful facts so you will not have to struggle through the pronunciation and then think of her in your head as Aggie, like I did). She lives in a valley near a wood, and she has a simple existence. She is tall and clumsy and can never keep herself clean. She has a knack for foraging and has one friend, a best friend, named Kasia. She has a deep-rooted love for the valley home that she knows, even though, on the edge of it, there is a forest that is imbibed with evil, called simply The Wood. There is a sorcerer that lives in the valley, in a high tower, who keeps the evil of The Wood at bay, and all he asks in return is, every ten years, that the villagers who dwell in the valley give up one of their daughters. She goes and lives with him, and when the ten years are up, she returns home with a satchel of silver, and moves on from the valley to another life. His name is The Dragon. 

Agnieszka lives in a choosing year, and everyone knows that The Dragon will pick Kasia for his girl. She is the brightest and the best at everything, the prettiest, the most talented, and therefore everyone has stayed away from her for her whole life. Everyone except Agnieszka. However, when the Dragon comes to choose a girl, it is not Kasia that he chooses. He chooses Agnieszka, not because he wants to, but because he has to. Indeed, she is a witch, and he is honor-bound to train her in the magical arts. 

So Agnieszka goes to his tower home, and he attempts to teach her the ways of magic. But she is not a good student, and only excels in homespun magic, tied to the valley, something that he does not know, but begins to understand. Their relationship grows and their magic intertwines, and then Kasia gets taken into the woods, and Agnieszka will do anything to save her. 

What proceeds from that point is a magical ride of a story, with Agnieszka growing and changing, finding herself in magic and strength that she did not know she possessed. I loved the portrayal of magic in this novel, as something that, once discovered, could be felt and molded in impossible ways. I really felt like I could mutter one of these spells and a dress would come leaping off the page. The magic is amazing, especially when the Dragon, or Sarkan, and Agnieszka preform spells together. 

This book also contained much political intrigue, which sometimes got to be a bit too much for me, and is probably the only reason that this has four instead of five stars. Prince Marek (prince but not crown prince of the country where the story takes place) was kind of an asshole, but I found myself on the fence about him, even until the very end. There was a definite spot in the middle where I lagged in my reading, because of Prince Marek and his political panderings. They were interesting, just in a different way than the rest of the plot was. 

The truly interesting part of this novel, however, is the Wood. It is a combative force in this novel, to be sure. It is grotesque and often evil in its pursuits, but it is so much more than just an "antagonist" label. I don't want to give too much away, but the last 100 pages had me totally on the edge of my seat as the origin and story of the Wood was revealed. I especially loved the resolution for what Agnieszka was doing after the main conflict of the story, I just felt like it was so perfect for her character. Definitely one of the coolest "villains" that I have encountered in fantasy.

I loved the world, I felt like there was so much there, and this story was just scratching the surface of the stories that could be told about it. I would definitely read books about the lives of the other sorcerers that we meet, about the valley and its history, about the other regions of the country. And, the stories in this book are influenced by Polish stories, which just makes it even cooler. 

The romance, while present, was not especially important to the plot. The Dragon and Agnieszka have a bond that is a DEFINITE slow burn, and I liked how it wasn't the main focus of the story, even though I liked them together. I loved the banter and the snarkiness and how they were always exasperated with each other, it just made it so fun. The relationship that I liked the most, though, was Kasia and Agnieszka. They had each other's backs no matter what, and were just the most awesome girl squad of two, fighting their way to the top. I loved how they were loyal to each other no matter what, and that a lifetime of friendship could not be shaken by the Dragon, the Wood, the prince, the king, or even near-death. 

this book is so special, you guys. I am in love. It's part fairy-tale, part high fantasy romp, part something else altogether, and if you love fantastical things, I would recommend it to you. 



  1. I'm so glad that you liked this book! I just bought it the other day, and I've heard nothing but positive things.


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