ARC Review: “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik

ARC Review: “Uprooted” by Naomi NovikUprooted by Naomi Novik
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Published by Del Ray on May 19th, 2015
Format: eARC
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“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 the border, full of malevolent power, 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 save her.

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

I received access to this galley for free through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Gaah, this book was so good! Is it weird that I want to read it again already? This book is just so rich in every way. I don’t even feel like I need it to be a series because as a standalone it was perrrrfect.

I really want to make a point of not going too much into detail about the plot, just because I really like the synopsis — it was enough to intrigue me, and at the same time reveals little about much of the book’s plot. Uprooted was such a compelling read that I didn’t need to know exactly where the plot was going; I trusted what Novik was doing, and it was thrilling to be surprised with so much action and unexpectedness! Besides, I have so much more to rave about…

One of the first things I noticed about Uprooted was how much it reminded me of some of my favorite books — in the best way possible! In no way did this lessen the book, and it instead serves as more of a testament to how, in my mind, it already stands among the fantasy “giants.”

The Dragon and Agnieszka loosely reminded me of Howl and Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle (the movie version by Miyazaki, actually, because I haven’t gotten around to reading the book yet!): a cold and withdrawn wizard, an unassuming yet spirited girl, and a romance that will make you feel ALL THE FEELS. I could seriously swoon over it and ramble on about it for quite a while, but I’m going to restrain myself and leave it at this.  

I was almost immediately reminded of my last favorite fantasy reads (and some of my favorite books of all time), the Grisha trilogy. Uprooted‘s the Wood reminded me of the Fold, only incredibly more insidious, intentionally evil, and, perhaps most disturbingly, awake and aware. * shivers *

“‘There’s something worse than monsters in that place: something that makes monsters.'”

“‘The power in the Wood isn’t some blind hating beast; it can think and plan, and work towards its own ends. It can see into the hearts of men, all the better to poison them.'”

What I will say about the plot, speaking in generalities, is that it was spectacularly fast-paced, and, again, rich. Not even a quarter of the way in I was amazed by the intensity of the action (but boy, if I had only known how much it would escalate!). There was no real waiting for the book to really begin, or the feeling that the action had to be carefully doled out and stretched to last the entire book. I will say though, that the climax seemed to come only slightly before the ending, and the final bit was much more of a “quiet” ending — but honestly, it was probably needed after such a non-stop pace.

The descriptions of magic in Uprooted are just gorgeous. And somehow so easy to understand as well — instead of my eyes just skipping over these parts, I just want to read them all the more closely.

“Instead it seemed to me that the sound of the chanting became a stream made to carry magic along, and I was standing by the water’s edge with a pitcher that never ran dry, pouring a thin silver line into the rushing current.”

The same could probably be said for Novik’s writing in general. It is quiet yet beautiful, and somehow manages to carry such weight in everything it says. Maybe it’s for this reason that Uprooted seems to be on the fast-track to greatness, and has been called “as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.”

“No one was enchanted beyond saving in the songs. The hero always saved them. There was no ugly moment in a dark cellar where the countess wept and cried out protest while three wizards put the count to death, and then made court politics out of it.”

My favorite character, hands down, was the Dragon. Agnieszka is a likable narrator and MC and not undistinguished herself, but the Dragon is an indelible character who drew my attention like no one else. His presence was sorely missed in the parts he wasn’t in, and I loved his cynicism, biting wit, and closely guarded vulnerability.

“He wasn’t a person, he was a lord and wizard, a strange creature on another plane entirely, as far removed as storms and pestilence.”

“‘If you don’t want a man dead, don’t bludgeon him over the head repeatedly,’ the Dragon snapped.”

“The dragon hissed with annoyance: how dare a chimera inconvenience him, coming out of season.”

“He was staring down at the dough trying to keep his scowl, and flushed at the same time with the high transcendent light that he brought to his elaborate workings: delighted and also annoyed, trying not to be.”

Uprooted is probably my favorite book of 2015 so far, and definitely one of my most favorite fantasy novels of all time. I’m also starting to think that what makes Uprooted so much like some of my other favorite fantasies is its true sense of place, even in a fictional world. This is some incredible, effortlessly nuanced and layered world-building right here, and it’s fantastic. I had that lovely, immersed-in-another-world feeling that only truly great fantasy novels can give you. I felt like I knew the kingdom of Polnya and it’s neighbors. I strongly suspect there may be a map in the finished, physical copy, but if there isn’t, SOMEONE NEEDS TO GET ON WITH MAKING IT. (Ok, maybe I should stop now, haha…)


If you treasure fantasy, look no further. Uprooted will sweep you away (or more accurately, knock you breathless).

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Comments

  • I have this on hold at the library, and cannot wait to get my hands on it! This sounds like such an amazing and well-written tale and I love the sound of the creepy, fairy-tale like atmosphere. Thanks for sharing this and for getting me excited about it! <3 Wonderful review and thanks for sharing Lina!
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    • Thank you! There’s no doubt that Naomi Novik DEFINITELY knows what she’s doing. If you’re excited then I accomplished what I set out to do, haha. I hope your hold comes in soon 😀

  • Wow, I am going to need this book. Yours is the 3rd fabulous, glowing review of it I have read today alone! And I seriously hadn’t heard of it before like, two days ago! How is this not on my radar at all?! Either way, I am definitely going to be obtaining and reading it. I mean, favorite book of the year so far? THAT is impressive!
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    • Please, get the book!! You won’t regret it. There may not have been much pre-release hype, but I knew as soon as I started reading it that this book wouldn’t stay obscure for long. 🙂 Though it’s been a pretty lean year for me reading-wise, I absolutely devoured this book and I don’t think anything would’ve changed that. * bookish sigh of contentment * I seriously do want to read it again, though I might do it at the end of summer.

  • Wow, this book is one of those fantasy giants, huh? That’s pretty high praise, along with wanting to read it again right after you finished it, too! I hadn’t even heard of this book (I DON’T KNOW HOW) before I saw your and Mel’s (The Daily Prophecy) review on it, but I’m definitely going to add it to my wishlist now. You know how much I love a good fantasy book! Oh, and have you seen the other hardback edition of the cover? IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL I COULD CRY.

    Okay, okay, so I usually shy away from romances in books because most of the time to turn out to be either really mediocre or just plain awful, but I am SO relieved that the romance in Uprooted worked out. I’m always up for getting my heart ripped to pieces. And omg, omg, omg, you compared this book to the Grisha trilogy. That’s one of my favorite fantasy series ever too! I already found the Fold terrifying and mysterious enough, but now there’s something else that’s even more sinister?! Arrghhh, there goes my self-control…

    Novik’s writing does sound gorgeous, based on the quotes you shared! An author’s writing style isn’t as important to me as other aspects of the book (like characters, plot, development, etc.), but it’s always a nice addition when the book already has such a brilliant story and cast of characters. And I don’t know why, but the Dragon kind of reminds me of the Darkling! :O

    Your love for Uprooted is so infectious, Lina! It’s been a while since I’ve read a good fantasy book (the last good one I read was The Winner’s Curse last month), so yep, it’s a given that I will be giving this one a go. I mean, it’s not like I can say no anyway after reading this fantastic review. 😉
    Megan (ง︡’-‘︠)ง recently posted…Ehhh…: The Cage, Megan ShepherdMy Profile

    • Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight also said she hadn’t heard of it before, either! Even before I got my ARC I somehow knew about, I think that’s why I requested it. I really do think that the alternate cover is really beautiful, but after reading the book I don’t think it gives me the right feel. I love how the cover I read it with has so many little things that relate to the book, and somehow it just gives me the right vibes (the earth colors, illustrations, idk?) whereas the other cover gives me adult-fiction vibes and the cooler colors kind of throw me off. (But that’s just my super deep and psychological read of it, haha.)

      The romance definitely doesn’t take center stage and I think Mel talked about how she wished it did a bit more, but I think it intertwines nicely with the actual plot. And you wouldn’t be wrong in comparing him to the Darkling 😀 They are similar in many ways (even in immortality, haha) but I think the Darkling is too jaded and hardened, whereas the Dragon is definitely guarded, but not beyond hope. They even both have 2 names!

      I really REALLY want to reread the Grisha trilogy again this summer (we’ll see if it actually happens) but I’ve been trying to remember how much the Fold was really the focus of the book and failing. All I know is that the Wood is so much creepier because, like I said, it really seems intentionally evil, whereas the Fold seemed to be more like an out-of-control creation.

      Thank you! 🙂 Haha, I’m ready to start an epidemic if it means people will read Uprooted! It’ll be harmless, really, and even good for them. 😉 Give into your good senses and make this your next fantasy read!

  • I’m reading this now, and I’m not far enough in for me to call their relationship a “romance” yet, but I definitely want to smoosh their faces together and scream, “Just kiss already!” (Okay, they already kissed at this point but that’s not what I’m looking for–you know what I’m talking about.)

    The descriptions of the Wood are so eerie and I love them! It’s one of the most unique “antagonists” (Can you even call it that?) I’ve ever encountered in a book.

    Hooray for this book turning into an instant favorite for you! At this point (I’m about halfway in), I’m not really calling it a favorite yet, but I’m enjoying what I’m reading (despite the size of this book intimating me), and I hope the climax and the end turn this into a favorite for me, too. 🙂

    Awesome review, Lina!
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    • “Just kiss already!” Hahaha, I know what you mean! Some how the first kiss really snuck up on me though, because by that point I thought it would be even more dragged out. I definitely enjoyed the romantic tension between them (and a lot does go down), though their relationship is hardly the typical romance. When you finish you’ll have to tell me wha you thought of their relationship!

      I think you really can call the Wood an antagonist, especially once you finish. I’ve compared it to the Fold if you’ve read the Grisha trilogy, but it’s really SO much creepier! I think it’ll take a while to top the Wood as an antagonist.

      Thanks, I hope it turns into one of your favorites too! But hey, either way it’s still a fantastic read. 🙂 I read it on my kindle but I saw that it was approx. 450 pages on Goodreads, it must be pretty hefty! It sure took me a surprisingly long time to read it even though I read it whenever I could!

  • […] recent YA debut Uprooted has been my favorite read of 2015 so far. You can read my whole review here, but these were my final words on the book: “If you treasure fantasy, look no further. Uprooted […]

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