I've been wanting to read Naomi Novik's Uprooted since I first saw it in Chapters. A friend bought it earlier this summer and gave it to me after reading it. He's been bugging me to read it ever since. I finally made time to start it yesterday (just after I spoke with him as a matter of fact). And I have to say, the endorsement on the back of it from NPR was correct - I didn't want to put it down once I had started!
Uprooted is about Agnieszka, a girl who lives in one of the villages in the valley. The valley is surrounded by the malevolent Wood, which is kept at bay by their wizard, the Dragon. Every ten years he chooses a girl from the valley who will serve him without question for the next ten years. Agnieszka (and everyone else) knows he will choose her best friend, Kasia. But when the time comes, he doesn't choose Kasia. He chooses Agnieszka instead! And so she is whisked away to his tower without even a moment to say goodbye to her family.
That is, in a nutshell, what the synopsis on the back of the book says. And it is what happens at the very beginning of the book. But honestly, Uprooted is so much more than this synopsis! Agnieszka is a witch, unknown to everyone else in her village. The Dragon ended up choosing her because he recognized her gift and had to train her. But she will not be trained easily. All the regular wizarding spells aren't working for her. But she discovers the text from a legendary witch of folktales and is able to use those spells just fine. Unfortunately, the Dragon didn't think that actually WAS a spell book because nothing in it worked for him! So Agnieszka has to fumble along and find her own way with the grudging help of the Dragon.
And then things totally change! Uprooted becomes this political story, where Agnieszka goes to the capital needing men to help her and the Dragon deal with the Wood. The two of them managed to save her friend from the Wood, which is completely unheard of. While doing so, they found a way to harm the Wood, and figured that they could deal it a death blow with some help. The Dragon remains in the valley, sending Agnieszka to go to the king for help. But Agnieszka is very much a fish out of water. Because she is a witch, she is automatically admitted to the court. But she has no head or patience for the games of the court. And ends up on the run, framed for kidnapping and murder by the freaking Wood!
That sounds so ridiculous as I reread it, but it's honestly the truth. And it was incredibly well done.
So after dealing with THAT, Agnieszka and the Dragon go to confront the Wood one final time. They don't really have a plan, but they'll try to stop it or die while trying. And that ended with a rather epic confrontation with the Wood, which in turn ended in a very interesting resolution. I'm trying to avoid major spoilers here, but the conclusion was quite satisfying.
I also loved the characters. I think some of the political stuff in the capital wasn't as good simply because Sarkin (the Dragon) wasn't there. I thought he was hilarious, especially the way he always interacted with Agnieszka. (He was routinely calling her an idiot, but as the book went further along it got really funny because he would basically be saying "You idiot, I don't know how you're doing this but whatever, I'm not going to ask for an explanation because you don't really know what you're going but it's working somehow.") He got annoyed by her pretty much no matter what she did because her magic (and really Agnieszka herself) defied the way he thought the world (and magic) should function. And their banter really, really worked.
Agnieszka herself was someone I was able to relate to. I found this to be especially true in the political segment in the middle of the book. I'm not someone who is big on decorum and stupid political games behind peoples backs. And she really isn't either. She always means well, even if she's going to take a rambly path getting where she's going. And don't expect her to get somewhere clean!
All in all, I thought Uprooted was a fantastic read. It was definitely the best fantasy book I've read in a long while (the best one this year so far for sure). I'm looking forward to reading more from Novik in the future!!! :)
*As of September 24/15, I am not taking any more requests from authors to read their books. I currently have too many books to read. I'll update this if/when that changes.*
I currently have 164 fiction books just sitting in my room to read (although that doesn't stop me from randomly picking books up at work or buying them on Kindle!). I've been keeping track of them on a paper list for years. This blog shares what I read as I attempt to get "the List" down to a more manageable number.
If you'd like to know what books are on the List, check out my Goodreads shelf devoted to them - it's my physical list digitized! I've also got a shelf for every book I've reviewed here on this blog.
Not everything I review here is actually on the List. Some books come from the library, some books are nonfiction (which are not included on the List), some books are on my Kindle (which have never been included on the List), and some books are given to me by friends and family.
Note: as of April 12/14, I am not going to add the *spoiler* warning I used to when I'm giving away details of books. I want to talk about the books I've read in whatever detail I'd like. So if you haven't read a book I'm reviewing, you might not want to read the review.