“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
I’ve been seeing the cover for Uprooted since it came out, and I knew that it would be something I’d really enjoy, from the cover and synopsis. I then proceeded to forget about it and never actually pick it up until Naz recommended it to me as an audiobook. If you ever need recs, he’s got some great ones. I’d never read any of Naomi Novik’s books, though I’d always heard good things about her Temeraire series.
Anyway, back to the book. This book surprised me, and kept me absolutely hooked to every minute of the almost 18 hour audiobook. Narrator Julia Emelin was absolutely fantastic. Her Russian-accented English was absolutely perfect for Uprooted, given the story’s roots in Polish and Eastern European fairytales.
I loved this story’s focus on friendship – between Kasia and Agnieszka, between Kasia and the children, and between Agnieszka and the Dragon. I could see the relationship between Agnieszka and the Dragon steadily building throughout the book, until ultimately, I knew that their relationship had to continue. I loved that the Dragon steadily began to accept Agnieszka and her magic, even though it changed so much of what he knew about magic.
The Wood really surprised me, and kept me fascinated throughout the novel. We learned information about it the way a tree grows – small branches of information shooting out, but needing to wait to learn more details until it was time for the leaves to grow in. It clearly terrified those who lived nearby it, and yet they would never leave.
“Those the walkers carried into the Wood were less lucky. We didn’t know what happened to them, but they came back out sometimes, corrupted in the worst way: smiling and cheerful, unharmed. They seemed almost themselves to anyone who didn’t know them well, and you might spend half a day talking with one of them and never realize anything was wrong, until you found yourself taking up a knife and cutting off your own hand, putting out your own eyes, your own tongue, while they kept talking all the while, smiling, horrible. And then they would take the knife and go inside your house, to your children, while you lay outside blind and choking and helpless even to scream. If someone we loved was taken by the walkers, the only thing we knew to hope for them was death, and it could only be a hope.”
I absolutely loved this novel. I’ll be buying myself a physical copy as well, and I’ve recommended it to so many people already. I’d recommend this book to people who love high fantasy, Russian or Eastern European fairytales and culture, or Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier.
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