I’ve had Uprooted by Naomi Novik on my list of books to read since it came out last year. It was a Hugo award finalist and won the Nebula award outright this year, so I had high hopes. When I turned around last week and found myself without a single fantasy or science fiction book on my nightstand, I did a quick library search and requested the first book on my TBR list I found on the shelf. I started Uprooted that night and had to use all of my willpower to put myself in bed at a reasonable time. (Ok, maybe not reasonable. But 1:30 is better than staying up all night reading, which is what I really wanted to do.)
Every ten years, a seventeen-year-old girl from the village’s nearest the Wood is chosen to serve the Dragon. The Dragon is a wizard charged with protecting the villages from the Wood’s malevolent powers, and while one girl is a high price, it is one the villagers are willing to pay. Agnieszka will be seventeen at the next choosing, but she isn’t too concerned. The Dragon always picks the most graceful and beautiful girl, and Agnieska is neither of those things. Except when something goes awry at the choosing ceremony, she finds herself serving the Dragon after all, and any number of surprises await. Not a surprise to anyone who has ever read a book about a kid from a small town getting involved in the business of a great magician: Agnieszka develops talents she didn’t know she had.
This is a book of old magic, which is my favorite kind. (Can you have a favorite kind of magic? I say yes.) Anyone lost in the Wood comes out tainted or insane. Animals and plants in the wood are as dangerous as the mysterious walkers that tend the Wood’s heart trees–grown up around the bodies of those unfortunate enough to wander too far. The magic is both ancient and fluid, part folklore and part academics. There is intuition and scholarship, tradition and innovation. Although the story is more plot-driven than character-focused, there are some spot-on scenes between Agnieszka and her family, friends, and new master.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, although it did take me a few chapters to sink into the world. It’s not a particularly difficult one, but it’s partly based on Scandinavian folklore so the names kept tripping me up. As I mentioned when I put this book on my list of best books I’ve read recently, there is one scene that would make me uncomfortable giving this book to my nieces or nephews to read. If you’re worried about it, there’s plenty of warning leading up to it. If you’re not worried about it, I hope you’ll enjoy this one as much as I did.
Have you read Uprooted or any other books by Naomi Novik? This was my first, but it won’t be my last!