by Naomi Novik
Published on May 19th, 2015
by Del Rey
Genres: Young Adult
Narrator: Julia Emelin
Length: 17 hours 43 minutes
Source: Purchased for Audible
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“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.
If you have been wondering about Uprooted, I’m here to put your questions to rest. Let’s see how I can explain it to you in an accurate way: there is magic, an original story, wondrous lyrical writing, a fantastic world building, and great characters. I’m so glad that I saw so many great reviews in Goodreads or I wouldn’t have even notice this book and what a loss that would be!
Uprooted is a story about magic, a girl, a dragon and a wood (forest). The Dragon is a wizard that protects the villages close to the evil Wood. Once every ten years he goes into the village and chooses a young woman that must serve him. Everyone believes that the Dragon will choose the beautiful Kasia and thus she’s raised with that purpose in mind, but on the day of the choosing, it’s Agnieszka who goes into the tower with him. No one knows what happens to the girls in those ten years, only that at the end, they end up wealthy and they leave for the city.
Agnieszka is a hot mess. She’s always dirty and doesn’t seem to be able to do anything right. At the beginning, she’s timid, terrified of the Dragon, unsure of herself and her new role. She has been uprooted from all she’d known before. Agnieszka grows a lot as a character. She discovers that her Dragon doesn’t bite. She discovers power in knowledge and in magic. She discovers that there are different ways to achieve a goal. She has an instinctual understanding of the Wood and how magic works. She’s good and wants to love and be loved and do what’s right. Such a complex, strong character. I love Agnieszka.
“His name tasted of fire and wings, of curling smoke, of subtlety and strength and the rasping whisper of scales. He eyed me and said stiffly, “Don’t land yourself into a boiling-pot, and as difficult as you may find it, try and present a respectable appearance.”
The Dragon is a great wizard and he tries to pick a girl every ten years to help them better themselves, teach them a bit of magic and keep him in comfort. He’s not what you would call a ‘people person’ and is feared and respected by the same measure. Eventually, he comes to care for Agnieszka. He’s brave, smart, ruthless, fair and just. This is not a book with a great, hot romance, but there is romance. I was perfectly content with this aspect because Uprooted is not a love story.
“I shut my eyes and felt out the shape of his magic: as full of thorns as his illusion, prickly and guarded. I started to murmur my own spell, but I found myself thinking not of roses but of water, and thirsty ground; building underneath his magic instead of trying to overlay it. I heard him draw a sharp breath, and the sharp edifice of his spell began grudgingly to let mine in. The rose between us put out long roots all over the table, and new branches began to grow.”
The writing is beautiful. Honestly, I’m not sure how to describe it better, but I hope the quotes that I included help you form your own opinion about it. Oh the word building! Magic becomes a living thing, with feelings and a will of its own. The Wood is the villain and it’s a living entity that changes the lives of all that come in contact with it. It shapes the lives of the villagers, it threatens, is lures, it terrifies, it thinks, it pulses, it takes revenge. Although the plot might be described as a Beauty and the Beast retelling – which is my favorite fairytale – to me it is a lot more than that. As I said, the book is not about the romance, but we do have a ‘beastly’ main character.
“Those the walkers carried into the Wood were less lucky. We didn’t know what happened to them, but they came back out sometimes, corrupted in the worst way: smiling and cheerful, unharmed. They seemed almost themselves to anyone who didn’t know them well, and you might spend half a day talking with one of them and never realize anything was wrong, until you found yourself taking up a knife and cutting off your own hand, putting out your own eyes, your own tongue, while they kept talking all the while, smiling, horrible. And then they would take the knife and go inside your house, to your children, while you lay outside blind and choking and helpless even to scream.”
Overall, Uprooted is an outstanding addition to the YA fantasy world. It’s my first book by Novik and I hope it will not be the last. An entirely original novel, with an amazing cast of characters, an intricate plot, and world building. Stunning.
The audiobook was looonnngg, but fascinating. It’s my first book narrated by Julia Emelin and she was the perfect actress for the part. She was born in Russia and thus all the Russian names sounded amazing. The voices were distinctive from each other and her voice projected pain, wonder, sorrow, happiness, so well. A really good book to listen to 🙂