Uprooted was one of the books selected for my book club read for January, and is a book I had heard great things about that had an intriguing premise. It is the latest book from Naomi Novik, author of the ‘Temeraire’ series.
‘Our dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.’
Uprooted is a fantasy novel in which a young woman named Agnieszka is awaiting the day her friend will be taken from her. She lives in a peaceful village in the shadow of a mysterious – and dangerous – enchanted forest which relies on the protection of a wizard known as ‘the Dragon’. However, this protection comes at a cost for the villagers, as the Dragon chooses a young woman from the village to live with him, and serve him for ten years – a girl of seventeen, born between one October and the next. Agnieszka is one of these girls available to be chosen, but she never anticipated being taken, not in comparison to her close friend, Kasia. Kasia is a girl who has everything the Dragon would look for and is both beautiful and smart. But when the fateful day arrives, it is someone else who catches the attention of the ageless wizard and Agnieszka finds that it is herself who is the chosen one…
‘He wasn’t a person, he was a lord and a wizard, a strange creature on another plane entirely, as far removed as storms and pestilence.’
Agnieszka’s journey from this point takes her to a strange new world and opens her eyes to the true extent of the horrors of the surrounding land, particularly the Woods which are filled with mystery and danger. The Woods are literally alive with trees and monsters capable of causing death and brutality and as we see Agnieszka journeying through the woods we see the horrors it can inflict. The writing is very descriptive and whilst this felt a little long in parts it helped to build up a vivid image of this creepy, magical world. I was interested to read in the acknowledgments that Agnieszka’s name comes from a fairy tale Novik loved as a child and in Uprooted she has created a dark fairy tale world filled with magic and danger and a few surprises along the way. And as Agnieszka faces new challenges and discoveries we also see how her relationship with the Dragon develops. From the start I was intrigued about the Dragon and what happened to the girls who spent a decade in his company. So as the story is told through Agnieszka’s eyes it was interesting to find out more about this mysterious character, and how she adapts to her new, extraordinary life.
“Twisted into nightmares, beasts to hunt their own kind. That’s all the Wood left of that people. There’s something worse than monsters in that place: something that makes monsters”
Uprooted is an enjoyable fantasy story which kept my interest throughout with its intriguing characters and elements of dark magic and fairy tales.