Book Review: Uprooted – Naomi Novik

Uprooted-Book-Review-Naomi-Novik

Title: Uprooted (2015)
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher: Pan MacMillan
Genre: Fantasy
Extent: 438 pages
Release Date: May 21, 2015
Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads Description

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.

Review

My first thought when it comes to Uprooted is: finally, a fantasy standalone! It seems like most of the fantasy releases recently have all been part of some series — if not a trilogy, then it’s a tetralogy, a pentalogy, or something else with even more books. I enjoy long series as much as the next person, but sometimes I just want something that finishes when I close the back cover, you know? Uprooted, thankfully, delivers not only that but also a thrilling novel with an awesomely creepy villain.

This book is the story of 17-year-old Agnieszka, who grew up in a small village protected by the Dragon, a (human) wizard who takes one girl every ten years to his tower home. Agnieszka has always grown up believing that it is her best friend Kasia who will be picked, but when the time comes, it is her the Dragon brings with him. It sounds like Beauty and the Beast, I know, but I promise you: that’s only the beginning. There’s magic, there’s wizards and witches… and there’s the Wood.

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.

The Wood is probably one of my favourite things about Uprooted. It’s a forest full of trees that corrupts anyone who enters it with evil. Some never come back, and those who did are never the same ever since: they might look the same, sound the same, but the core of the human is gone, replaced by malevolence. There’s a real element of human versus nature here — the Wood is presented as impossible to defeat: over the decades, its territory has only expanded, and our protagonists are in a race against time. It’s creepy and threatening, and I freakin’ loved it.

Novik’s writing vibed really well with me from the very first page. Uprooted reads to me like a fairy tale, one inspired by Eastern European cultures and influences (specifically Polish). The magic is not terribly unique — wizards and witches perform spells by way of chants, humming, incantations, etc. — but I love how its power also depends on the performer’s personality, tone and attitude. It’s a fantasy with a very vivid setting, one written more for an adult audience.

And then finally the magic flowed, but not the same way as when the Dragon’s spell-lessons dragged it in a rush out of me. Instead it seemed to me the sound of the chanting became a stream made to carry magic along, and I was standing by the water’s edge with a pitcher that never ran dry, pouring a thin silver line into the rushing current.

The plot is where the book faltered, just a little. I loved the first half of the book, loved getting to know Agnieszka and the Dragon and the world that they live in, but the second half got a little bit muddled for me. The pacing slowed, scenes became a bit repetitive, and I got a little bit confused… although in the interest of full disclosure, it was hours past midnight when I got to it and it could’ve just been, you know, me.

Despite that, though, I enjoyed pretty much every second of this book. I liked the characters, the stolen moments of romance, the unique spin on good and evil, the imaginative setting, and what little complaint I have is likely a matter of mood and preference. If you’re looking for a gripping, standalone fantasy novel, you’ll be right at home with Uprooted. 💞

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43 thoughts on “Book Review: Uprooted – Naomi Novik

  1. A standalone fantasy, wow, I have been waiting for that, ahah. I feel like there are so many series, and I’m not sure I’m always ready for the commitment this asks for, ahah. I really like the synopsis for that one, and love the originality of it. Too bad the plot felt a bit repetitive at times, but I think I’d be willing to give that one a try anyway! 🙂 Great review! 🙂

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  2. Oh, I’m so excited to read this book! I bought it last month, but haven’t gotten to it yet because I’m trying to clear out my ARC and review requests. I’m almost done, thankfully, and what I’m also done with (for a good while) is taking review requests! lol I just want to read without pressure and Uprooted sounds like one I’d love. 🙂

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    • I know the feeling! I’m pretty good with keeping up with requests and ARCs but SO BAD at not adding books to my TBR, haha. Glad to hear that you’re almost done and I hope the process hasn’t been too painful for you. 😂

      I’ll definitely recommend Uprooted! I just loved the world-building and the whole atmosphere.

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  3. Hi! I’ve been meaning to get Uprooted for the longest time because pretty cover + intriguing plot, great review btw!!!
    I’m new to book blogging world and have posted my very first blog post btw hehe

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  4. Great review, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I really want to read this book, and your review has me even more convinced I am going to love it. The Eastern European and Polish influences sound really interesting. I’ve never read anything set or based off that part of the world.

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  5. I was blown away with the Wood and its origins. I was expecting a wizard had cursed it in the past or something along those lines, so I was definitely surprised with its sad history. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

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  6. Great review Reg! I agree with everything you said. Sometimes it is nice to find a book that is just a standalone. It’s rare in fantasy but I think Uprooted is proof it can be done and done well as well.
    The Wood was probably my favourite part of the story. In terms of a ‘villain’ of the story, if you can really call the Woods a villain in the traditional sense, it was unlike anything I’d read before and everything we learnt about it just made me love it even more. In fantasy books like this the setting is always a huge part of whether I love a story or not. I have rated books down if the world building wasn’t built on enough to make it seem real but honestly Uprooted has some of the best world-building I’ve read before.
    Also I agree that Uprooted reads like a fairytale, I think that’s another reason I loved it so much given how much I LOVE fairytale retellings! 😀

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    • I suspect that if we look wider than YA fantasy, there’ll likely be more books that are standalones – I know Brandon Sanderson has stuff like Warbreaker, Elantris, etc. and he’s a really big-name fantasy author.

      And yeah, exactly! The Wood just felt like its own character, a villain and the setting all at once. Its presence was pretty all-encompassing in the book, and that works VERY well in books like this one. Have you read Novik’s other works? ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh there’s probably more than a few, but for some reason I haven’t stumbled across very many at the moment. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right place but most of the books by favourite authors of mine, or most of the books I’m recommended are series now.
        It worked very well in Uprooted but I don’t think I’ve read any other books that d the same thing with their villain/setting. I haven’t read any of Novik’s other books but they’re on my to-read list now, and if they’re anything like Uprooted I’m bound to love them! 😀

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        • I think series build up hype more easily, especially as more books come out and more people pick up the earlier books (if they’re good). Stand-alones really only get one chance.

          I hope you do! I haven’t yet myself, but I’m also planning to. 🙂

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          • Yeah that’s a good point actually, there have been a few series I’ve only really got into with the latest book rather than the first. But I suppose with Uprooted I didn’t pick it up when it was first released but I was still hearing a lot about it, even a year after its release. 🙂

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  7. THIS WAS ONE OF MY FAVORITE READS OF 2016 I LOVE IT ALMOST AS MUCH AS MY DOG!!!
    The relationship between Agnieskia and the Dragon, the Wood (!!!), the magic, the character development, SO MANY AMAZING ELEMENTS. Plus I love that it’s a standalone. Standalones are so underrated! There’s something so peaceful and wonderful of one, single, beautifully-crafted story.
    Delightful review, Reg!

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    • Yeeees, so glad to hear that you’re enjoying it! I love that it’s a stand-alone too – about time a story finishes in just one book. The relationship between Agnieszka and Sarkan got the shippy ~feels~ out of me and I couldn’t help myself.

      Thanks, Becca! 💕

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  8. I so have to read this! I love the whole idea of the Wood. I’ve never read a book where the setting was pretty much the force of all evil and the quote you included about the people who come back from the Wood is so creepy but at the same time intriguing. Plus, the whole Beauty and the Beast-esque type quality and the magic aspect. It just seems like an all around great fantasy novel and I like the fact that it’s a stand-alone. I’m definitely going to have to pick this one up when I get the chance. Great review! 😊

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    • I highly recommend it! The Wood was one of the best villains I’ve ever seen – it’s a setting but also a character, and not everyone can pull that off.

      Hope you like it when you get the chance to check it out – stand-alones are rare in YA fantasy and I really liked this one. 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m so glad you enjoyed it Reg! I’ve have it for a while now, and kinda discouraged by the mixed review. It sounds awesome though 😀 And I agree about series, is it just me, or individual books are getting bigger and series are getting longer? xD

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    • Thank you, Tasya! Yeah, I’ve seen the mixed reviews as well and honestly can understand some of them, but to me the pros just outweighed the cons with this one. And it’s definitely not just you – books are getting so, so long now. It’s great, but it’s not good for my TBR.

      ALSO! I’ve seen that you’ve moved to WordPress now? Hope you’re liking the platform. 💕

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