In Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, a wizard called the Dragon protects a small mountain village from the evil forest called the Wood. Every ten years the dragon takes one young woman from the village as tribute. She will live in the Dragon’s castle the next ten years and when she is released, much to the horror of her village, she will leave the mountain valley that is their home and never return. This year, everyone expects the maiden to be Kasia, who is golden haired and talented in every way, but when the Dragon arrives, he chooses wild and unkempt Agnieszka instead. She is then whisked to the impenetrable tower the Dragon lives in, where she finds herself woefully unprepared to serve her volatile new master. But with the threat from the corrupted Wood spreading every year– consuming whole villages and taking stray villagers into its heart– Agnieszka learns there are worse things one can fear than the Dragon.
And that, my friends, is a poor, spoiler-free summary of the best book I’ve read all year. I devoured Uprooted from its very first page. The story is told from the point of view of Agnieszka, and follows her from life in the village, to the Dragon’s tower, to the Wood and eventually the capital city. I really don’t want to give much away about this book. because it was truly a delight to read and discover, but Uprooted was both a wonderful and enchanting read. What Novik has presented here is something truly unique and beautiful. Patrick Rothfuss says it best in his blurb for the book: “I didn’t know how much I wanted to read a book like this until it was already in my hands…”
This book gave me the biggest hangover, and made it near impossible to read the book that was next on my list, An Ember in the Ashes, which I’ve heard such amazing things about. In short, if you like fantasy, fairy tales, or just love to read well-written books with beautiful prose, strong narratives, and fully-formed female characters you should set some time aside to go read Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. I doubt you’ll regret it. Don’t believe me? Here are some reviews from some pretty well renowned publications that will prove my point: NPR, New York Times Book Review, Washington Post.