Genre: Fantasy, Fairy tale, Young Adult
For fans of: John Connolly, Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones, Beauty and the Beast
[…] it had the feeling of truth, of something that I’d always known and just hadn’t ever put into words, or of explaining clearly and plainly something I’d never understood.
Before I start, can we take one moment to appreciate the beauty of this gorgeous cover? It reminds me of Edward Scissorhands although I can’t pinpoint why!
I fell completely in love with dark fairy tales the moment my secondary school teacher introduced me to John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things and have been voraciously searching for an equally consuming fantasy novel since. With Naomi Novik’s Uprooted I think that search has finally ended.
A Magical Take on Man vs. Nature
A fairy tale with a difference, Uprooted is a wonderfully imaginative and dark take on a traditional genre. Featuring magic, wars and a smattering of romance, this book has something for everyone. Set in a fairy tale world where magic is both feared and revered, Uprooted follows the story of 17 year old Agnieszka
(don’t ask me to pronounce it) who lives in one of the small villages surrounding the dreaded Wood. The only thing standing between the villages and the Wood’s evil influence is the protection of a mysterious, cold magician named the Dragon, but this comes at a price. In order to appease him the villagers must hand over one young woman every 10 years to reside in his castle – and once they’ve been taken they don’t return as the same person.
Expecting her best friend, the beautiful and talented Kasia, to be chosen this time round, Nieszka is taken completely unawares when the Dragon instead chooses her to reluctantly take back to his castle. Once there, Nieszka not only has to reconcile herself to her new life with the stoic and temperamental Dragon but also has to deal with her own path of self-discovery and take on responsibilities that affect not only her future but also that of an entire nation.
[…] as though I were hearing a gifted storyteller tell a different version of a tale than the one I loved, and he had overcome my instinctive annoyance at hearing it told differently.
Uprooted is so wonderfully imaginative and elaborate that it’s difficult to believe it was thought up by just one person. Entire worlds, political hierarchies and histories have been fleshed out in order to create this original, intricate novel but what really stands out for me is Novik’s attention to detail and beautiful writing style.
This becomes especially evident when she depicts scenes involving magic or incantations, which she uses as a kind of metaphor for storytelling. There’s a particularly memorable passage in which Nieszka tries to produce an important spell and (in much more beautiful language than I’m using here) the only way she can describe it is to compare the process to building a sandcastle or following a trail in the woods. Somehow it just clicks and seems completely natural to the reader. These magic-infused scenes are where Novik’s descriptive style of writing really comes into its own.
But I didn’t care. I knew myself for the first time in a week, standing on earth instead of polished marble.
Novik also sets up this incredible juxtaposition between man and nature, with the living Wood constantly trying to imprison more humans and take their land for its own. However, the division between man and nature is blurred during the course of the novel and Novik’s language evolves alongside this to reflect their changing relationship.
Uprooted is a beautifully written book with a brilliantly exciting and original story to tell. If you’re a fan of dark fairytale fantasy I can’t recommend this novel enough. It’s such a refreshing read and so different from any novels I’ve read before – I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying it! And with the recent announcement that Uprooted is going to be adapted into a film (produced by Ellen DeGeneres no less), now seems like the perfect time to give it a read!
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me to review by Macmillan. All opinions expressed here are my own.