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).