Title : Uprooted
Author : Naomi Novik
Published : May 19th, 2015
AN INCREDIBLE TALE, DARK AND MAGICAL AT THE SAME TIME
“I grabbed back at him just as incautiously with my hand and my magic both, even as he pressed magic on me from his side as well. His breath huffed out sharply, and our workings caught on one another.”
Starting on a book that’s already such a huge success is always a big risk. You go into the story with expectations, wanting to be as captivated as everyone else, but also ready to be disappointed, because how could it possible live up to the hype ? Almost like you want to be disappointed (“Well, I don’t see what the big deal is”).
This is not the case for Uprooted. It turned out to be even better than my expectations.
It’s a new book, but you read it almost like a very old story, passed on from generations to generations, because there are so many fairytale elements in it : there’s Bluebeard and his “wives”, the rumours, the mystery, the horrors whispered to scare the children ; the Dragon, keeping girls hidden away in a tower ; the scary, forbidden Wood, where no one comes back the same ; the strangeness of fairies that you find in basically every fey story and which can be applied to both the Wood-queen and the wizards (especially the Dragon, when we first get to know him) ; there’s even a little Beauty and the Beast moment when Agnieszka escapes and the Dragon rescues her from the wolves. And, on top of that, tons of elements of folklore to give this book the extra touch to make it truly special.
This story is just a perfect reflection of Agnieszka’s journey throughout the book : innocent, humble and honest. A story without flashiness that just needs to be told. She’s almost like a forest herself, both fierce and calm, but with secrets hidden deep inside, that even she is unaware of. I absolutely love her progression throughout the book, how learning magic and facing horrors hasn’t left her dead inside, how she’s still so attached to that human part of her, how easily she lets herself cry and how she’s not sorry about it, while other authors would try to avoid the tears when writing their strong female characters.
Her relationship with Kasia was so touching (I’m actually surprised the author didn’t go on the all-female love-story road, because that would have been so easy to build), and the link between Agnieszka and the Dragon was beautifully done. I love the way they completed each other without fitting exactly right either. It felt more like choice on their part, and not like Destiny or Fate playing and dictating from above.
I can’t quite find the words to express how much I’ve loved this book (how much I’m still loving this book, right at this moment), nothing I say will be enough praise. About halfway through the book, I was thinking how ironic it was that I complain so much about book series and then find myself completely hooked to a book that’s actually a stand-alone. I wanted this book to be turned into a series but, in the end, one can be enough when it’s done well. And this one reaches and goes beyond the mark.