Book Review: Uprooted

Synopsis according to Goodreads:
"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."

Uprooted is a fantasy novel done in the best possible way. It's about best friendship, self discovery, good and evil (love and hate), court and country, magic, courage and community. I started it expecting it to be interesting, I ended it drooling with joy. Not only is it well-written (and written with the underlying assumption that your audience is intelligent, thank you Naomi Novik), it's well-paced, filled with tension and mystery, and has fleshed-out, complicated characters. 

I love how the romance was handled (NOT the dominant theme of the book, and with an assumption that the characters weren't innocent idiots). I love how the friendship aspects were handled (the best friend was not incidental, or just a plot device for the MC; she's a fully realized character even though the narrative is through Agnieszka). I love how no force was good or bad, but everyone was comprised of ambitions and fears and pain and hope. I loved how magic works in this book, the subtle tones of Polish and Czech mythology and country-life culture throughout the story, and the way Naomi Novik uses language.

Can you tell I loved this book? I love it. It makes me want to read everything Naomi Novik has ever written (the only other book of hers I've read thus far is His Majesty's Dragon). I highly recommend it for fans of fantasy stories, especially ones that are written well and with a 'crossover' appeal in both YA and adult genres. Also for fans of stories of friendship, mythology, community, female protagonists, prickly characters and hope. 

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