Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Read May 3- May 10
I got exactly what I wanted when it came to this book. It’s probably my favorite read of the year so far, and that includes Leviathan Wakes (which is a close, close close second)
I picked this book up because it’s written by Naomi Novik, who is the author of one of my favorite series, The Temeraire series, which if you haven’t read it and like fantasy and historical fiction, go read it. I heard she was writing this novel years ago – it’s been on goodreads now for a couple years with a ‘expected publication’ date. And as soon as it came out in paperback, I nabbed me a copy.
Going into the book, I had heard mixed reviews. Some loved it, some didn’t. Some had goofy reasons for not liking it, which I’ll get to in a second. But what I was expecting was an enchanting, likely dark-ish fairy tale. And that’s exactly what I got. Ms Novik again proves that she can write basically anything you want to throw at her. I already knew that ‘combat’ ‘historical setting’ and ‘humor’ were in her repertoire, but after reading this I know that ‘enchanting’, ‘dark’ and even ‘hot’ can go in there too. Seriously, I love this woman’s writing.
The book follows a young woman, Agniezska (pronounced Ag-nyesh-ka) as her town prepares for the coming of the Dragon. The Dragon is a wizard who lives in a tower and protects the town from the dark woods that run along side it and a few other towns. In return, the Dragon takes one young lady from a town every ten years and has her serve him in his castle – cooking, cleaning, singing, yada yada. And it the beginning of the book, Agniezska is certain that her best friend is the one to be chosen… but she isn’t.
The book unfolds after, guess what, our own main character is chosen instead. And honestly, me saying anything further about the plot will be a major spoiler, so that’s all you get to know.
What I really loved about this book is that Novik definitely succeeded in making it feel like a modern fairy tale. The writing was enchanting, the creatures, the plot, the characters, they all screamed ‘fairy tale’, but at the same time, this story was a lot more serious than that. It had whimsical elements to it, but mixed in a good bit of violence, danger, adventure, and had me fanning my face a couple times due to uh… steam.
And this brings me to a point I mentioned earlier. A few people I noticed didn’t care for this book because the small romantic subplot didn’t have a priority in the story. Well. This story is not a romance. It’s a fantasy. It was not marketed as a romance. If you check its goodreads page, ‘romance’ isn’t anywhere in the list of genres. But at the same time, what little scenes Novik does put in are nice and steamy and satisfying. There’s really no romance focused on, but it develops on its own, if that makes sense. No emphasis, but it’s there and I loved it. So again, I feel like a lot of people were going into this expecting the main character to be swept off her feet and twirled away, and when it didn’t happen, they were disappointed. That said, after reading this book I’ve totally sailed off in a new ship.
What this book did emphasize was the woods. The dark woods that the Dragon protects the towns from. Let’s just say, those woods terrify me and the writing did a very good job and conveying just how much power it has. It’s unsettling, it’s unnerving, it makes for excellent reading. The character development too was nice to read through – the main character originally is a bit… bumbly, unsure of herself. I loved reading as she blossoms into someone that she respects.
I will add a disclaimer though. This book is nearly 500 pages long. It took me a bit over 100 before my mentality switched from ‘This is a book I’m reading’ to ‘NEED TO FINISH IT NOW GIVE ME MORE WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE ARE NO SEQUELS’. Once you hit that place, you’ll know, and you won’t want to stop. Seriously, I’d love a sequel.
So overall, I LOVED this book. I loved how it felt like I was reading a for-adults story from my childhood. I don’t know how to better explain that. Fairy tales just have this… feeling about them, y’know? This book had that and I adored it.
Rating: 5/5 stars