Uprooted by Naomi Novik
GENRE: FANTASY | PAGES: 448
My rating: ★★★★★
Uprooted was the perfect blend of fantasy and fairy tale. I loved it. The story begins with the brief history of the routine taking of a girl by the Dragon. Agnieszka eventually meets him, and under the flimsy rumours of all the village and all the taken girls before her, believes she should fear for her life and her virtue.
Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.
Instead, what awaits her is magic. She possesses it and so does the Dragon, and as she settles into her role as an apprentice, she learns that the real danger is the Wood—a living breathing entity which threatens her life and the lives of everyone in her village. The Dragon is a protector but so focused on the task he’s been given, he has, in his immortal existence, become cold and distant. Little by little, Agnieszka breaks down the Dragon’s walls and learns to embrace her power instead of fearing it.
The story has been likened to a loose retelling of Beauty and The Beast, and I can see the resemblance there in the most basic of elements—it was this that initially appealed to me—but this book goes above and beyond the fairy tale.
The magic in this book is beautiful. The element of it is brought to life with wondrous detail, steeped in the essence of the entire novel: nature. Nature and magic are fully intertwined; even spells are demonstrated as the growth of nature—an intricate blossoming of a flower or a ferocious eruption of moss and decay—the description is vivid and imaginative.
Agnieszka begins her journey as a fearful, cautious girl, reluctant to step into the spotlight. When she embraces who she truly is, she shows great strength—a wilful, stubborn bravery, and a tender understanding toward the often arrogant Dragon.
Her relationship with him is believable, realistically and beautifully written, evolving first into mutual respect and trust, struggling with their own misgivings before fully embracing and accepting their inevitable love.
This is one of the best books I’ve read this year and my only disappointment is that it is not part of a series—I would gladly jump back into this fascinating, beautiful world.