Sunday, March 18, 2018

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Release date: May 2016
Publisher: Pan
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Gift

Description: Agnieszka loves her village, set deep in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest's dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. One young village woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all they value behind.

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she's everything Agnieszka is not - beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it's not Kasia he takes.

My thoughts: This book has been on my wishlist for a while, and I'm so pleased to say that it lived up to my expectations. The opening couple of chapters set the scene: Agnieszka growing up in her quiet little village, spending time with her best friend who live a couple of hours cart-ride away in the same valley. Their friendship is only tainted by the knowledge that when they're seventeen, the magician who protects the valley from the magical, mysterious Wood will pick a girl from their year-group to come and help him in his tower. Since he chooses the girl who has something special about her, everyone knows it will be Kasia.

It's one of those books where I can't say much about the actual plot for risk of spoiling things. It was very satisfying to experience each twist and turn and added layer as they came along, with no idea of where the story was heading. I love that it incorporates so many aspects of fairytales: a 'dragon', a scary forrest, a girl trapped in a tower, a missing royal, magic, castles, saving something/someone, the importance of friendship, and of course, how we change as we get older. Each time I came across another little nod to the traditional stories, it made me smile.

The writing itself is beautiful too. Agnieszka is telling it in first person, and it reminded me of Robin McKinley's Sunshine. Her voice is very compelling, and I was drawn completely in to the story from the very beginning. I also thought that, like a classic fairytale, it could be simplified to tell to a younger child. I know I'll reread this book again, and I hope that one day I'll be able to share it with my children, too.

Uprooted might be a brand new fairytale, but it has everything you'd expect from a classic. Beautiful storytelling, full of twists, and I could hardly put it down. Overall I'm giving it 9 stars.