Review | Uprooted by Naomi Novik

A truly grown-up fairy tale.  4 stars.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

The blurb: 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. 

My take:

Of all the fantasy stories I’ve read this year, Uprooted stands out thanks to its depth, which is fitting for a story obsessed with figurative and literal roots.

For all of you who shy away from fantasy thinking it all too far-fetched or frivolous, I suggest you give Uprooted a try. This is a grown-up fairy tale which is mercifully free from characters who spend their time navel-gazing, complaining to their friends about their problems and going through developmental angst. The characters in Uprooted all have bigger things to worry about besides themselves and deal with their issues by taking action.

As you read, you get the impression that Novak had been thinking about this book for years before sitting down to write it. There wasn’t a glimmer of superficiality anywhere: not in plot (which was always planned about 5 moves ahead of where we were, providing some excellent surprises), character or setting. The narrative is underpinned by the author’s knowledge of Polish and Russian folklore which gives it a timeless quality. Also, Novak deserves praise for keeping things clear: although there’s a lot happening simultaneously on several levels, I never felt lost or left behind.

Even more praise should be heaped on Novak for her female characters, particularly Agnieszka and Kasia. We get to watch our heroines develop from young girls who seem to have no choice in determining how their lives are going to pan out, to powerful women who get to decide their own fates.

Overall: if you’re looking for a truly grown-up, complex fairy tale, I recommend you check out Uprooted.

Claire Huston / Art and Soul


30 thoughts on “Review | Uprooted by Naomi Novik

  1. I also really enjoyed this book and feel like it would make a great movie as well! The only qualm I had with the book was that I felt like the romance was a little gratuitous and unnecessary, what did you think?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad to hear the high praise you’ve given it. I mentioned before that I love Novik’s other series which sounds completely different from this, except for the fantasy aspect. In any case, I can’t wait to get my hands on it!
    Thanks for sharing your reviews! Always wonderful 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this book too! And I agree, I think it’s the kind of fantasy that will appeal even to people who are hesitant to read fantasy. I also love to see a stand-alone fantasy doing so well. It seems like so many nooks only gain momentum once the third book in the series comes out, but this one has been raking in awards and readers. That said, Novik is hardly a debut or unknown author so it’s not sitting in a vacuum, but still, it’s nice to read a great fantasy story that is complete in one book, and to see it do so well.

    Liked by 1 person

      • True, duologies are kind of rare as well, I think I’ve only read two of them but I enjoyed them both (actually, one of them was part of a longer series, but the main story was resolved in a duology and the others were just later spin-offs in the same universe so I think it still counts). Would gladly read more good duologies and stand-alones though!

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  5. Sounds like my type of book, thanks for sharing this review, it has convinced me to grab a copy, soon and add it my TBR list! This could go down well with some chocolate! I’m adding this, not just to my TBR list, but to list of my excuses of being a fat pig and obsessively eating chocolate! Seriously, though, I’ve never read a fairy-tale version of anything, so this sounds like something new and intriguing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I honestly believe that there are few books which don’t go well with chocolate (or cookies… or cake) 🙂
      Uprooted is great and doesn’t have any of the issues you often find in fairy tale retellings aimed at the young adult market… and when I say “issues”, I mean “annoying heroines obsessed with things which don’t matter and who do ridiculously stupid things to advance the plot”. Not that it’s a bugbear of mine 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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