“Uprooted” by Naomi Novik (Del Rey, 2015)


Welcome to a fairytale for the twenty-first century. Uprooted has it all: wizards and witches, good and black magic, joy and suffering, highs and lows, and a menacing dark forest, the Wood, that will have you making wide circuitous routes around trees perhaps for the rest of your life. It is Brothers Grimm meets A Wizard of Earthsea.

The Dragon is an old wizard who lives in his tower, guarding and protecting the realm from the forest. Those who stray into the forest rarely ever come out alive; those that do come out changed, twisted, evil things looking to hurt and kill. Every ten years the Dragon chooses a girl from the valley and takes her to his tower and she is not seen for a decade, and then when she returns she is different somehow and soon leaves the village she spent most of her life in to travel elsewhere. The Dragon is looking for someone special.

Agnieszka is a plain, ordinary girl who has a beautiful best friend, Kasia. They go everywhere together, but as the day of choosing approaches for their village, both girls enjoy their final times together, knowing that Kasia will be chosen. They knew from when she was very young that she would be chosen and she has prepared for it her whole life. And then the day arrives and after some contemplation, as the selected girls quiver in terror, the Dragon goes past Kasia and chooses Agnieszka.

And so begins her journey to the tower and learning about why the Dragon does what he does, and more importantly why he chose her when it was supposed to be Kasia. In time she will become a powerful witch under the tutelage of the Dragon and then play her part in protecting the valley and fighting against the Wood.

Uprooted sweeps you up from the first page and takes you away to a magical land you won’t want to leave. The characters are complex and fascinating, the world entrancing and inviting, the Wood dark and scary, and the magic simplistic yet impressive. Uprooted feels like a lengthy fairytale that Naomi Novik discovered in some long forgotten tome and then brought it to life with its themes and meanings. You’ll feel your heartstrings being pulled, while shivers of fear run up and down your spine. Uprooted is a tale to be read privately in the confines of one’s own mind, and to be read aloud to each other in a group. Like all good tales that last for eons, it is a seemingly simple story that when finished keeps unraveling its secrets within your mind.

Originally written on April 14, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

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