Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Book Review)

Rating: ★★★★★

If you don’t want a man dead, don’t bludgeon him over the head repeatedly.

Naomi Novik, Uprooted

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: “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, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost 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 no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.” -Goodreads

My Review

As a precursor, this will include spoilers from the book because it is physically impossible to explain how much I adore this book without spoiling major plot events. 

I loved this book an obscene amount. It was absolutely everything I needed and so much more than I expected it to be. I adored Agnieszka’s character along with her dynamic with the Dragon; I found the story of the dark wood to be heartbreaking, captivating, and gruesome all at once; and I thought the ending was the perfect way to finish the perfect story. 

Agnieszka is most definitely one of my favorite protagonists. She is a grounded, honest person and that is displayed in every aspect of her personality and magic. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that Agnieszka’s clothes were always stained or dirty somehow, and that while most magic is very strict, hers is very flowy, using whatever words and ideas feel most comfortable to her. Agnieszka is just such a strong character in every sense of the word. She is powerful, but she is also mentally strong, able to handle all of the stress the world throws at her even as she worries about the fate of her home and her valley. I thought that Agnieszka’s relationship with the wood, especially near the end of the novel, was beautiful beyond words. The way that she decided to stay and make her home a better, safer place just made me feel incredibly hopeful and optimistic. I also really liked that as a witch, she mostly spent her time in the forest, mending the trees and fixing the damage the forest had wrought. 

Along with Agnieszka’s personality, I found her dynamic with the Dragon to be particularly fascinating. (Just for the record, he is not an actual Dragon. He is just an immortal wizard, and she is a witch.) I always found the dynamic between Agnieszka and the Dragon to be very funny because their personalities were so different. While Agnieszka was very messy and passionate, the Dragon was a lot more cerebral and neat, so I found their interactions hilarious because he just seemed so exasperated all the time. Further, as their relationship progressed, I thought the chemistry was beautifully written while still maintaining the cores of their characters. They both remained thoroughly themselves even as they grew closer to each other. Overall, I just loved the parts of the novel that focused on their interactions and relationships. 

The wood itself was a very interesting entity. It starts out at the beginning of the book as some sort of force of nature, acting mildly malignantly towards people, but not out of any particular hatred. However, as I continued to read, I began to see it as a purposefully evil entity, attempting out of hatred to destroy humanity and consume it, like some sort of hive mind. By the end, however, the forest became something utterly heartbreaking, a story of human monstrosity that reaped hate in return. I won’t go into too much detail about the story of the wood, but the way Agnieszka chose to heal the wood instead of destroying it made the story a million times better and more satisfying than it could have been. 

The ending of the book was satisfying in every way. It was extremely well-written and made me sympathize with the majority of the characters still alive by the end. I inhaled every last word in the final chapter of this book, thrilled with the character development the characters displayed and the growth and conclusion of the plot as a whole. 
I would recommend this book to just about anyone, but if you enjoy eastern European folklore, magic, and powerful witches/wizards, Uprooted is the book for you.