Published by Del Rey on May 2015
Genres: Fairytale Retelling, Fantasy
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“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
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, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling 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 Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
– I loved this exciting fairytale, with witches, wizards and strange beings in the Wood. Fantastic!
The whole of Agnieszka’s village is sure that her best friend Kasia will be chosen and taken away by the Dragon in this year’s festival. But everyone is shocked when Agneiszka herself is chosen. The Dragon doesn’t want to hurt her or force himself on her, but to train her in magic. He’s continually frustrated when she cannot grasp the concepts he is teaching, but she must learn to trust her own instincts and find her own way to the magic if they are to turn back the evil enchanted Wood threatening to take over their valley.
A rather dark, but beautifully told story, Uprooted is an amalgamation of a number of eastern European fairytales. I recognised Baba Yaga, but the other influences were harder to identify. It didn’t matter though, because this is an amazing story in its own right. At times it is quite violent and occasionally terrifying – this is no children’s story.
Uprooted has a protagonist with perhaps the most difficult-to-spell name I’ve ever encountered – Agneiszka! Thankfully its told in first person so we don’t see her name much except in conversation, and it’s usually shortened to Nieshka.
Nieshka has trouble learning the Dragon’s strict methods of magic, but finds that she is gifted at a more natural, musical kind of magic that can weave in with another’s and make the whole spell stronger – a concept that I just loved. Agneiszka is a fantastic lead, often baffled or in despair, but she picks up and uses whatever she can improvise with to get out of many a sticky problem. Her relationship with Kasia is just gorgeous as well – the two of them sticking together through thick and thin, no matter what the Wood can throw at them next.
The imagery of the spells and also the descriptions of the Wood and the valley are just amazing. The concept of the Wood being the main villain is awesome and the pacing is relentless – I found it very hard to put down at times, especially towards the end.
I wasn’t so sold on the romantic aspects. I actually thought the story could have gone on just fine without it, although the romantic parts were sweet, and well written. I just felt it was a bit unnecessary for the story.
The ending was just perfect and this story works really well as a stand alone, although I’d be happy to hear more about the wizards and their back stories – Alosha and Sarkan, perhaps.
Uprooted was certainly one of my favourite reads of this year so far – a dark and magical fairytale told in a Grimm style. I loved every bit of it!