Being born and raised in Macedonia, I grew up with the Slavic fairy tales. I still remember my grandma telling me stories about Baba Yaga (Babaroga). When I found out about Uprooted by Naomi Novik, it intrigued me instantly.
Uprooted tells a story about Agnieszka. She lives in a quiet village that she loves. Surrounding the village is an enchanted forest, and the Wood has taken many people’s lives. The villagers go in and don’t come back. The village relies on the wizard, called Dragon, to protect them from the dark magic coming from the woods.
However, this help comes with a price. A young woman must serve him for ten years, leaving everything behind and never leaving the tower. Agnieszka fears that her best friend Kasia will be picked for the next choosing. Kasia is everything Agnieszka isn’t – graceful, beautiful and brave. And yet, when the Dragon comes, it isn’t Kasia that he takes.
The beginning of Uprooted is fantastic. I was immediately sucked into the story and I was loving the pace. Naomi Novik’s storytelling ability is honestly breathtaking, and it is consistent throughout the book. However, as soon as the Dragon makes his pick of the young girl and they head to the tower, the pace slows down. And for me, the rest of the journey kept going downhill.
“But there’s no kindness in offering false hope.”
I loved Agnieszka, and her side of the story. It felt familiar in the way that I’ve heard similar stories before in my childhood. And that familiarity kept warming my heart until the very end.
And I felt the same for the Dragon.
I loved the name, especially because the usual Slavic fairy tales have a dragon in the tower that is guarding the princess. I see what you did there, Naomi. The story about a wizard who doesn’t age and looks after the village is incredible. And that he takes a woman every ten years adds to the suspense, and of how the villagers have mixed feelings about him. Feelings of gratitude, fear and anger, all combined.
“The Dragon wasn’t like any man of our village. He should have been old and stooped and grey; he had been living in his tower a hundred years, but he was tall, straight, beardless, his skin taut.”
The idea started well, but it was executed poorly. I have mixed feelings about the Woods. I liked the suspense and danger, but I think many scenes were way too long and unnecessary. That made the Woods a little bit boring for me. I really loved the parts about the magic, as well as the mentions of Baba Yaga. As for the romance, I am not too sure about that either. I just wasn’t as bothered or invested as I would usually be in another book.
Uprooted isn’t a favorite book of mine, but I did enjoy parts of it. It is very magical and the writing is beautiful. The pace was somewhat slow for me, but I know many people enjoy that. I recommend it to anyone that likes fairy tales and fantasy. I will definitely be reading more from Naomi Novik in the future.