REVIEW: Uprooted – Naomi Novik

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Author: Naomi Novik (website / twitter)

UK Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Buy now: ebook | paperback

This book was sent to me by my pen pal, as a ‘travelling book’ – a book to be read and sent on to someone else. I had never heard of it prior to its arrival at the bottom of a care package full of exciting edible goodies. I actually read the US version, which is why if you are shopping for this in the UK, the covers will not match.

Uprooted has its origin in Russian fairy tales, and that fairy tale magic follows through the narrative. It follows Agnieszka as she is taken from her village as a tribute to the land’s lord – once every ten years he takes a girl as an offering to live with him, and everyone presumes to sleep with him, before he returns them a decade later with a large dowry and no desire to live in the valley by the enchanted Wood any more. Agnieszka does not expect to be picked by the Dragon – she is clumsy, often grubby, tall and unkempt despite her best efforts. But she is chosen, and soon discovers that he picked her because, unlike the pretty and neat girls before her, she is a witch and needs to be trained to use her powers.

All of this is against the backdrop of the aforementioned enchanted Wood, which sends out curses and beasts to attack the villages, whispers dark thoughts, and spirits people away. People including the Queen, who disappeared inside twenty years before; and Agnieszka’s best friend, Kasia. Ignoring all advice, Agnieszka uses her new powers to retrieve Kasia, and unleashes far more than she ever anticipated.

I was quite enchanted by this book. The setting, the characters, the backstory – it was all handled with a very light touch. Nothing felt bogged down with description or overloaded with dense exposition. The plot bounded along nicely, and I had no sense of the twists and turns it was going to take. At one point, I had to check whether this was the first of a series, because I was alarmed things would not be resolved by the end of the book.

Unlike some of the author’s other works, this is a stand-alone, and it was a relief that it was. The peril in the book was too big, the stakes too high for me to have been entirely comfortable with it being a series – by which I mean, I would have got far too stressed if I had been required to wait for the resolution. I do love a series, but there is something to be said for a really good stand-alone book. Sometimes you want to know that your investment will end at the back cover.

I really enjoyed this book, and I hope the next person I pass it on to does as well.

Briefly:

  • A beautifully told fairy tale, which carefully controls its plot and peril, deftly making issues seem huge and unconquerable, whilst keeping it contained within a single volume.
  • I enjoyed that Agnieszka was a grubby, clumsy girl. Not in the way clumsy is used to make girls seem cute in books, but she is often dirty or torn or rumpled, she is a very vivid character and her presence of someone blundering and imperfect but genuinely good and capable was perfect.
  • I also enjoyed the different styles of magic and learning – The Dragon’s style which is rigid and academic, and Agnieszka’s which is instinctive and free. It differentiated their characters and defined them wonderfully.

Rating: 5/5 – This was just the perfect read for what I was after, absorbing and characterful and I was delighted with it.

4 thoughts on “REVIEW: Uprooted – Naomi Novik

  1. leftyreads says:

    Great review! I’ve seen a ton of great things about this book and it has been on my TBR for a while now. ONE DAY. I’m happy to hear that everything is handled with a light touch. Fantasy is very hit-or-miss with me because I don’t like to get bogged down by excessive prose, so I’m glad this book doesn’t seem to have this problem.

    Thanks for the review!
    – Lefty @ The Left-Handed Book Lover

    Like

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