Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley…He protects us against the Wood and we are grateful, but not that grateful (p.6).
In Naomi Novik’s first stand-alone fantasy novel, Uprooted, Novik brings readers into an enchanted realm of magic, love, and the darkness that resides in both.
Uprooted tells the story of 17-year-old Agnieszka, her best friend Kasia, and the inscrutable Dragon’s taking of one girl from their valley every ten years. On this feast day the people of Dvernik are poised, however saddened, to bid farewell to Kasia, certain that she will be the Dragon’s choice. When things don’t go according to plan, Agnieszka and Kasia’s lives are both thrust into a turmoil of confusion and resentment that tests their spirits, their friendship, and their will to survive.
There aren’t so many villages in the valley that the chances are very low – he takes only a girl of seventeen, born between one October and the next. There were eleven girls to choose from in a year […]. Everyone says you love a Dragon-born girl differently as she gets older; you can’t help it, knowing you so easily might lose her (p.6).
Bursting with magic, mystery, and beauty, Uprooted also treats readers to female characters written with personal agency, sharp instincts, and quick thinking. Regardless of a somewhat rocky start, both Agnieszka and Kasia possess strong hearts and minds that work independently of the outside powers they encounter. They are both capable and clever, valuing the bond they share over any other.
I wasn’t old enough to be wise, so I loved her more, not less, because I knew she would be taken from me soon (p.7). On the last day, I found us a clearing in the woods where the trees still had their leaves, golden and flame-red rustling all above us with ripe chestnuts all over the ground. […]. Tomorrow was the first of October, and the great feast would be held to show honour to our patron and lord. Tomorrow, the Dragon would come (p.9).
A far cry from the purported ‘retelling’ of Beauty and The Beast, Uprooted is a story of unwelcome change, the bonds of friendship, and the complications of love and relationships; a coming of age tale in a time and place of great turmoil, while remaining true to one’s heart and the secrets therein, against a backdrop of a dark and deadly looming Wood, a Prince on a perilous mission, and a sad and empty Queen he wants desperately to reach.
I had lived through the Green Summer, when a hot wind carried pollen from the Wood […] into our fields and gardens. Anyone who ate of [our crops] grew sick with anger, struck at their families, and in the end ran into the Wood and vanished, if they weren’t tied down (p.10).
With all of the magic and enchantment a Temeraire fan might expect from Novik, and a clever and capable female protagonist, Uprooted is a charming fantasy that can be enjoyed by all kinds of readers. A fantasy in which the ‘historically accurate’ subservience of women is all but forgotten and what’s left is a juicy and fulfilling ride on the coattails of a young woman’s intuition and a journey you’ll undoubtedly want to take a second time.
Uprooted is available in both hard cover and ebook formats, online and in stores.
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