Sunday, June 21, 2015

Review: Uprooted

Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher: Del Rey (US) & Tor (UK)
Publication Date: May 19, 2015 (US) & May 21, 2015 (UK)

"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 its borders, full of malevolent powers, 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 saver her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose."

I know I'm a little late on the bandwagon with this, but once I got a look at that beautiful UK cover (as opposed to the definitely not-as-nice US one), I had to wait for it to arrive from the Book Depository. In the meantime, I read amazing review after amazing review about this book, and I started to worry about all that hype. But now that I've read Uprooted myself, I can safely say it is deserving of ALL THE HYPE.

First off, this book is technically adult fiction, but I think it's a really good crossover - the main character Agnieszka is seventeen, and although there are a couple sexy times (*fans self*) it still read almost like YA to me. The concept is awesome: a wizard takes a girl every ten years, and everyone is surprised when instead of taking the beautiful and brave Kasia as expected, the Dragon chooses Agnieszka. That kicks things off, but the book evolves so much beyond that. Agnieszka grows so much throughout the story, and becomes a badass witch herself along the way. The characterization in this story is incredible, from headstrong Agnieszka to the surly Dragon to the foolishly brave Prince Marek.

One of my favorite aspects of Uprooted is the Wood. A sentient, dark Wood that causes men to kill each other and trees that ensnare people to drain their life force. I got chills from how unflinchingly cruel the Wood is, and how alive it is. These are not Tolkien's trees, y'all. Gives a whole new perspective to that Taylor Swift lyric:

The best part of this book is the way it portrays relationships. While the relationship between Agnieszka and the Dragon is equal parts swoony and steamy, it wasn't the main relationship in my opinion. The friendship between Agnieszka and Kasia is by far the strongest connection in Uprooted. The two girls grew up together, always expecting Kasia to be taken by the Dragon, but when Agnieszka is chosen it throws their lives and relationship into chaos. They have to face their resentment towards each other in one scene, and it was heartbreaking to read. But ultimately, they cling to and protect each other as only best friends can, and this display of such strong female friendship truly makes the novel an even more spectacular read.

Uprooted is an epic fantasy that breathes new life into the genre, by placing female friendship and a strong, realistic female protag at the forefront of the battle against the malevolent Wood. If you enjoy epic fantasy - hell, even if you don't but want to try something new - this needs to be the next book you pick up. The fantasy books I've read lately all seem to blur together because they end up being too similar, too ordinary. But I was blown away by Uprooted, and if you give it a chance I think you will be, too.

Rating: 5 stars

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