Author: Naomi Novik
Every ten years the Dragon takes a girl from the valley to live in his tower in exchange for keeping the people safe from the Wood and its creatures. Agnieszka and the rest of of those under the Dragon’s protection are convinced that the lovely and dauntless Kasia will be chosen, but the powerful wizard surprises them all when he takes Agnieszka instead. Taken from her home and forced to serve the malcontent Dragon, Agnieszka discovers a power inside her she never knew existed. But the Wood the Dragon has work so hard to keep at bay is devising a plan to devour the land and the people with it and Agnieszka will have to use everything she’s learned to help stop it.
“It felt like someone had hit me with a stick across my shoulders: the Wood had felt my working. I was sure of it. The Wood was looking for me now. It was looking, and soon it would find me.”
Naomi Novik’s Uprooted is a rich fantasy novel full of breath-taking magic and a cunning foe that will send chills down your spine. Agnieszka’s character development throughout the novel is by far the most rewarding aspect of this story. Agnieszka has grown up believing that one day she’ll have to give up her dear friend Kasia and though she loves her, there’s this small part of her that recognizes her own shortcomings compare to her friend. For all the bravery that Agnieszka admires in Kasia, she herself has it in droves and she learns to appreciate those unusual things about herself that she once saw as flaws. Agnieszka and Kasia’s relationship is based on a selfless devotion to one another and though both have moments where they have envied the other, their love and faithfulness to each other never wavers.
The Dragon is a powerful wizard who is unwelcoming and impatient with Agnieszka, especially when he begins to teach her magic and he realizes she is more prone to failure than success. As an immortal being, the years have stripped away parts of his humanity and the isolation he endures living in his tower sometimes makes him insensitive to the woes of ordinary mortals. It isn’t that he doesn’t care, but that he has seen how temporary human life is and this can sometimes be misconstrued as indifference. Agnieszka is untried and inexperienced, and her talent for performing magic in an unconventional way has his rigid self rattled. Only when he sees her loyalty to Kasia, does his view of her alter, reminding him of his own humanity.
Uprooted is equal parts beautiful and terrifying. The magic woven throughout the novel is spellbinding and I found myself devouring the second half much quicker than the first as the battle against the Wood gained momentum. The Wood breeds evil creatures from massive wolves to spindly walkers known to steal away villagers. But the Wood itself is also alive, a corrupt and crafty entity capable of taking hold and never letting go of those who come too close. Its malevolent workings is reminiscent of demonic possession, as it speaks through its host and feeds on the weaknesses of others.