13 Feb Uprooted
By: Naomi Novik
Drawing from her Polish roots, Novik has created a superb coming-of-age fantasy, what could almost be an origin story for the Baba Yaga of Slavic folklore, while also incorporating elements of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. It’s about Agnieszka, a young woman who is taken as a servant to a reclusive wizard, called the Dragon, who protects the villages in her valley from the Wood, a mysterious, corrupting menace that lurks on the outskirts of their kingdom. This forced servitude is something that happens to a young woman every 10 years, and though she hadn’t expected to be picked, she finds out he picked her because she has magical powers of her own, which he begins to train her to use.
I was drawn into the story initially by an interest in Agnieszka and the Dragon’s personality conflicts, both strong-willed and very different in their approach to magic. But it wasn’t long before the action picked up, and I was fully absorbed, wondering what the Wood would challenge them with next and how Agnieszka would handle it in her own unique way. Except for a few chapters of palace intrigue midway through the book, the action hardly lets up. And within this forward momentum is a strong emotional narrative. Because the Wood can corrupt and magic can be used to show truth, Agnieszka is forced to deal with her own relationships, with hidden jealousies and desires. I think an attentive reader would find some of their own inner truth reflected back to them as they relate to the characters.
With imaginative descriptions of magic, an understanding of the human heart, and a strong plot, Novik has written an excellent novel for fantasy lovers, but one I would also recommend to those who like action, suspense, and a little romance.
Review By: Alison Frolik