Uprooted by Naomi Novik
|Uprooted by Naomi Novik|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: In Uprooted, Naomi Novik creates a dark fairy tale with strong characters, a plot that grips, and magic so real you could almost do the spells yourself. An enchanting, spellbinding tale, prepare to be swept away into the world of Agnieszka, the Dragon, and Kasia. Just make sure to steer clear of the Wood...|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: May 2015|
Many years ago, in a village deep in Eastern Europe, the locals live a life of relative peace and happiness - knowing to always avoid the wood that borders their land, and safe in the knowledge that they are guarded by a powerful wizard - the Dragon. Aware that he is the one thing keeping them safe from the dangers of the wood, the villagers take part in a ritual called 'The Choosing' every ten years - when a young girl is sent to serve the wizard for a decade. Agnieszka is of age for the choosing, but nobody fears that she will be picked - her best friend Kasia is pretty and graceful, and sure to catch the eye of the immortal Dragon. However, Agnieszka is not aware of the talents she holds that may attract the wizard - talents that the safety of the entire kingdom may come to depend on for their survival...
Fairy tales have been told to children for centuries - folk tales that have been elaborated, expanded and often, nowadays, neutered, in order to tell of morals and to make sure young children steer clear of big bad wolves, witches in gingerbread houses, and to long for princes to take them from their quiet and humble lives. In toning the stories down and making them more suitable for children, the darkness of these stories has been rather lost. Never forget that in early versions Little Red Riding Hood unknowingly tucked into her dead grandmother, before climbing into bed with the wolf and being eaten, and in Cinderella a heavenly dove flies down and pecks out the stepsisters eyes...
Many in recent years have been taking the Fairy Tale back to its darker roots - Angela Carter wrote some marvellously dark versions, and Emily Carroll's Into the Woods is probably the best recent example - chilling, enchanting tales that unnerve and disturb.
Uprooted is slightly lighter in terms of tone - but this is certainly a book for adults, late teens at a push. Agnieszka is a very real character - thoughtful, heroic, yet messy, prone to fits of temper, and unable to ignore the growing desires inside of her. Likewise, despite the magic that surrounds this book, and the supernatural threats that are forever encroaching on our heroes, this world feels relatively gritty and real. Characters die unexpectedly, soldiers and horses are killed in terrible, haunting ways, and characters who you may have felt some sense of affinity for make dreadful decisions to save their own skin.
All the characters are fully fleshed out, but none more so than Agnieszka and the Dragon - and as the book goes on the scenes between them sparkle and shine with tension and energy - making them a treat to read, and also made me feel a sense of longing when these two were separated.
It's fantastic to see a lead in a fairy tale who, whilst kept in a tower by a powerful wizard, has no issue leaving the tower to protect the ones she loves - and equally it is clear that the Dragon, despite his disparaging tone and misanthropic nature, clearly cares deeply about the kingdom he has chosen to protect - and, as the book goes on, comes to care deeply for Agnieszka.
A twisting, turning and constantly enchanting tale that will leave you both breathless and spell bound, Uprooted is an astounding success. I only hope that it will be the first part of a series - this world has me completely under its sway, and I long to know more about these fantastic characters.
Huge thanks to the publishers for the copy.
For more dark folk tales, Angela Carter was an astonishing writer, and one who is very sadly missed by those who love her wonderfully deep, dark, and funny tales. Burning Your Boats is a collection of her short tales - curl up by the fire with a glass of something dark and red for these.
You can read more book reviews or buy Uprooted by Naomi Novik at Amazon.com.
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