Published in 2015 by Del Rey editions, Uprooted is Naomi Novik’s first standalone novel. The novel tells the story of young Agnieszka, who loves her home valley of Dvernik, its forest, and its shining rivers. However, the corrupted Wood stands on the border of her village, and its shadows seem to keep moving forward, destroying everything on its way with its maleficent powers.
« Our dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside the valley. »
This sentence is the first one of the novel, introducing from the beginning the second main character : the Dragon. The Dragon is the wizard on whom the valley counts to keep the Wood at bay. Nonetheless, the price he asks for in exchange is not insignificant. Indeed, he requires that a girl is handed to him every ten years to serve him for a decade. This fate almost as awful as being captured by the Wood is to be renewed at the start of the story, and Agnieszka is certain that her closest friend will be chosen. Kasia is the prettiest, and smartest girl of the valley and she has been raised for the sole purpose of being a good servant for the Dragon. Everyone in the valley seems to be sure about what is to happen, meaning the Dragon taking Kasia. Although, when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he chooses.
This novel is a story full of magic, power in all its meanings, friendship and true-self. It is also a story about nature, and its rage; and about why, when and how it could rebel. The Wood indeed is so present in the novel it could almost be considered a character. The Wood acts, speaks and is spoken about a lot. Presented as the true enemy since the incipit, and throughout the novel, the Wood is the number one target of all the inhabitants in the valley. The rhythm, the rising actions and the climaxes of the novel all contribute to lead the reader to wonder one thing: who is the true enemy? Talking about the rhythm of the novel… it followed quite an odd scheme. For instance, it takes a while to fully be captivated by the story. However, once the clock is ticking, we would expect for it to never stop. Consequently, Naomi Novik’s way of writing made this clock work according to her will, transporting us through different rhythms and time spaces. If I were to cite the climaxes in the novel, I could quote at least three, which made the reading experience truly unique, since usually once the climax has been reached, we know we can cease holding our breaths and continue reading with one goal: know the end.
In Uprooted, the first climax came so early in the story that I did not know what to expect. Each climax was separated by extremely long rising actions, and the author really refrained from revealing the final answers. Indeed, I had to wait until the very last chapters of the novel to get the denouement, which made me wonder multiple times: does what I am reading truly have an ending?
Therefore Novik’s writing made me continue. Her words were so carefully chosen that some paragraphs could be compared to narrative poetry. The way she described magic and power was truly lyrical. Her perception of fantasy seems to be very poetic and epic.
In all aspects, Uprooted was a great novel. It described a world full of magic in which a girl managed to handle a large amount of power by only being true to herself. It was a magical and lyrical reading experience, and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for fantasy.
I listened a lot to Uprooted on Scribd and Katy Sobey — the storyteller — managed to keep the same narrating tone all along the novel, making the listening experience very calm and soothing. However, I think she could have made this story more alive. She did not do justice to the climaxes nor to the denouement. Listening to Uprooted was then very practical but the storyteller’s monotone voice throughout the story kind of spoiler the epic dimension of the novel