Uprooted by Naomi Novik

uprooted-cover

Goodreads

You guys. I have NO WORDS for how awesome this book is. Uprooted sees Novik move away from the Napoleonic-Era-With-Dragons world of her Temeraire novels to create a new world which draws on eastern european fairy tales for inspiration.

OK I just went on Novik’s site and Uprooted has apparently been optioned?! I’ll just be here flailing about in joy and terror. I actually think Uprooted would be great subject matter for a graphic novel more than a film but I will live in hope that the films 1) happen and 2) are a fitting tribute to the books.

ANYWAY Uprooted opens with the following situation:

‘Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.’

Already you might have ideas about the overall shape of the story, but you are probably WRONG. For starters, the dragon is a man, a sorcerer who takes a girl from the village every ten years in exchange for using his magic to protect the villagers from the magical, corrupt Wood nearby. Novik continues to do this, laying out the plot threads in a way that evokes traditional tropes and narratives of fantasy books and fairy tales, lulling the reader into believing that they know what is going to happen, and then allowing the narrative to evolve and deepen. I am a big fan of trope-twisting so Novik’s decision to keep us guessing about the overall shape of the plot through invoking and then messing with tropes is perfect for me.

Agnieszka’s character development is great, with a balance of her retaining and re-evaluating her core characteristics and growing in self-confidence and maturity. I enjoyed that Novik let all the characters make mistakes and left some situations morally grey, bringing a dramatic realism to the fairy story setting.

I loved that the importance of female best friends is stressed throughout the book, and I loved that Novik shines a light on both the strength and beauty of Agneiszka and Kasia’s friendship, and the human jealousy that creeps in. I am slightly less sure about how I feel about the relationship between Agnieszka and the Dragon, so I will leave you to make up your own minds.

I have to give this book an INTENSE CREEPINESS WARNING, because the monsters in it are seriously something. It reminded me a little of Beyond the Deepwoods, which has some imaginative forest creepiness, but really the corrupted Wood it is all it’s own thing, and a compelling one at that. Agnieszka has to face some EXTREMELY DARK TIMES so be warned, but rest assured that the ending itself is not too grim. 🙂

Highly recommend, at least a 9/10. I just went on Goodreads and this book seems to get polarised responses so…there’s that to consider. I’m knocking a point off because as I said above, I have mixed feelings about Agnieszka’s interactions with the Dragon.

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