Two weeks ago I went on YA reading rampage. Well, not really. But I did finish three books in a span of three days, and one of those books was Uprooted by Naomi Novik (the others were the first two books of The Remnant Chronicles series). The blurb for Uprooted promised to be an intriguing, if not dark, retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It’s only until recently that I’ve become a fan of BATB, as a kid I never really liked it because it was my older sister’s favorite Disney movie and as rascally younger siblings do, I didn’t want to like everything that my sister liked. Of course now when she asks if we should watch Beauty and the Beast, I’m always game!
But back to the book, while this is modeled generally off of the framework of BATB, it’s not really a retelling. It’s more just inspired by BATB – sure we have a “beast” character, a Belle, and even a sort of Gaston, but the stakes are much higher here than in Belle’s little village and the curse in this story is a dark and dangerous woods that is a legitimate threat to life in the entire kingdom.
“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.
As far as main characters go, I really adored Agnieszka. She was spunky and honest, brave but in a realistic way. I’m not a big fan of leads being surprised that they have some hidden strength that no one else has – girls that are “just normal” but find out that they’re in fact princesses, have epic ninja skills, or are secretly another being entirely – but when we find out that Agnieszka is unique in her own right, it’s so well written that we don’t feel that this makes Agnieszka no longer relatable. She doesn’t become this awesome, cool heroine who is impossible to emulate because you don’t have a similarly tragic past that’s murky with mystery and deadly family secrets (I’m looking at you dystopian fiction). She’s still this normal girl, who is struggling with a life and future that she never anticipated – i.e. spending ten years with the “Dragon”, a mysterious and grumpy/rude but generally helpful wizard.
This story was packed with so much great stuff, I honestly don’t know where to begin, and really party of me just wants you to stop right now and pick up a copy yourself. So if you haven’t read it, I recommend you stop here. If you have then continue –
So I loved the idea and the character of the ‘Dragon’, but I wish that there was more development where he was concerned. I don’t know, I felt it was like a gun on the mantelpiece – there is so much more potential for story here! I am demanding a sequel Naomi!
The whole premise of having a forest that is pretty much alive with deadly forces is so enchanting, and I loved how the author doesn’t leave flagrant plot holes and does not overwhelm you with useless information. I do wish that there was more interaction between the Dragon and Agnieszka – their relationship goes from 0 to 60 in a matter of a few scenes, and I honestly don’t think she was prepared to get into bed with the Dragon when she did. In fact I wish she hadn’t – partly because I would’ve recommended this book to younger readers (like my younger sister) if this scene hadn’t been included. I love Agnieszka’s relationship with Kasia, but I also feel that there is so much more that could be done/said with both of their characters.
I get that this is one of those do you or don’t you book reviews – but the reality is is that I loved this book, but on the other hand I can understand people who are not as enamored with it as I am. For instance, I love lyrical and descriptive writing – my imagination can fill in the scenes with all the suspense and drama required – but some people prefer it to be written out for them and there’s nothing wrong with that. I do sincerely hope that Naomi writes a sequel, as the book really just scratched the surface of iceberg of potential this world she wrote has.
Pick up your kindle copy of Uprooted here!
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Del Rey, Ballantine Books, Random House