Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jenny Reviews: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

The Vitals

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Release Date: 21 May 2015
Page Count: 438
Genre: Fantasy
Target Audience: Young Adult
Series: No
Source and Format: Lauren B. :: Hardcover
Goodreads | Amazon

Summary (From Goodreads)
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, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood's powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost 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 no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.

Notes on Uprooted
I loved, loved, loved this book. It is, to me, fantasy at its finest. It has one of the best first lines of any book I have read - "Our Dragon doesn't eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley." You're intrigued now, aren't you? It only gets better from there. 

This book is, at its core, a book about community. Agnieszka's village is in close proximity to the Wood, a malevolent forest that tries to kill anyone it can. The Wood is sentient; it is actively trying to do the villagers and, as we find out later, the whole kingdom harm. Terrible things live in the Wood that come out on occasion and snatch unsuspecting villagers. The Wood sends harmful seeds and winds to infect the village's crops and livestock. It is a dangerous place to live, which only serves to strengthen the ties of the community. The one thing helping to keep the Wood at bay, besides the villagers sheer stubbornness, is the Dragon. He is a wizard, sent by the king, to help to combat the Wood. His purpose is to keep the Wood from claiming more ground, a task he has been at for a long time. The measure of his success is the fact the Wood has not been able to move further, though it has not been forced to retreat, either. 

My favorite part of the book is the relationship that Agnieszka and Kasia have. They are best friends who have grown up together knowing Kasia would be chosen by the Dragon because she is beautiful and brave and smart; you know, all the classic heroine attributes. They refuse to stop being best friends even though they will not see each other for 10 long years, after which most girls the Dragon takes are so changed they cannot stay in the village for long and move away. Their bond is one of the main driving forces of the book. Real, solid friendships like these two share are so rare in books these days, which is terribly unfortunate. Part of what makes books like The Lord of the Rings so wonderful is the friendships the characters forge. Novik does an excellent job of giving her girls the type of bond that is so crucial to quest-type narratives. Having been blessed in my own friendships I love being able to read about healthy friendships that are not romantic. Too often (it seems to me, anyway) characters cannot be just friends, they have to be something more. Or if they are just friends then that relationship is not a central part of the book, but rather an after thought. That is not the case in Uprooted and it is the better for it.

What does the Dragon do with the girls? Why does he need them? Why is the Wood so bent on destruction? You will have to read to find out. You will not be sorry that you did.

(Side note: This is the UK cover. It is more beautiful than the American edition and Lauren was awesome and ordered this one for me.)

Memorable Quotes
“I don't want more sense!" I said loudly, beating against the silence of the room. "Not if sense means I'll stop loving anyone. What is there besides people that's worth holding on to?”

“But she hadn't been able to take root. She'd remembered the wrong things, and forgotten too much. She'd remembered how to kill and how to hate, and she'd forgotten how to grow.”

They all had stories. They had mothers or fathers, sisters or lovers. They weren't alone in the world, mattering to no one but themselves. It seemed utterly wrong to treat them like pennies in a purse. I felt the soldiers understood perfectly well that we were making sums out of them-- this many safe to spend, this number too high, as if each one wasn't a whole man.”

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