Uprooted by Naomi Novik is another one of the great fantasy novels I have read. Really, I only have one main problem with it. It was too short. In this book, we are told of the dragon, a wizard who has dedicated his life to protecting the valley and the rest of the kingdom from the corrupted wood. And while he might SEEM great, the people of the valley aren’t entirely grateful for his services. After all, he takes one of the valley’s girls every ten years and keeps them as a sort of maid. They might not have minded as much if she came back unchanged, but she comes back more of a lady of the court than the villager she once was. With pockets full of silver, they head into the capital and marry into high families or become scholars. But that’s just the beginning of the story, barely important at all.
What IS important, though, are Kasia and Agnieszka (never read this book out loud, the names will get you) who are in the age group to be a choice in this years picking. Of course, everyone in the valley knows it will be Kasia. They’ve known it since she was little, and it’s no secret that she has been “training” to go into the dragon’s service. Kasia and Agnieszka have been best friends since they were just toddlers, but their parents never had the heart to pull them away from each other even though they know it would be best for them both after she was chosen for the dragon. Agnieszka, with the ability to ruin any outfit she wears, has no doubt in her mind that the dragon will never choose her and her filthy outfits, especially when she manages to ruin everything. So it comes as the biggest shock of her life when the dragon gives her a ball of cold fire to hold and calls her his next selection. I didn’t particularly care for the author’s portrayal of the dragon as a cold, uninterested person a first, but if you are anything like me, you will appreciate his attitude in the end.
Agnieszka finds a note left in the kitchen and a book of recipes to help her cook what she is going to bring to the dragon to eat, but doesn’t find the second note until later. Without realizing it, she begins to learn magic and soon finds her only comfort in it (that others had done it and been fine) is crushed when the second note explains that he just wants his meals and not to be disturbed. This didn’t surprise me, since I had picked up she had unusual magic from the cover, but Naomi’s writings of it being difficult to learn magic and some people being better at some types of magic than others interested me and got me excited for what kind of magic she wold be best at. I definitely was not expecting her to be good at the only magic others couldn’t do: magic that isn’t strictly certain phrases but their own.. song, I guess?
My other problem with the book, not the main one but important, is that there was really no reason for Prince Marek to try to have raped her. It makes minorly important callbacks later in the story, but I honestly thought the book would’ve been better without it. There was really no point to it, and it made me not like the book as much because I thought it didn’t belong in this fantasy novel. I didn’t hate Mavek, and I had no problem with him going into the wood to try and find his mother, but I DID hate that scene. (When he forced Agnieszka and the dragon to go along with him it didn’t make sense to me until I understood what he was going to do and I was fine with it after.)
(Spetzi has placed the rest of this review behind a spoiler tag. Major plot points or a full summary may be revealed.)View Spoiler »After a gruesome battle, the queen is saved but she was only an empty shell of the aristocrat she once was. She and Kasia are taken to the capitol shortly after to be tried for corruption and were nearly burned at the stakes after their trial. Luckily, the king saved the queen (and therefore Kasia) because of his love for her that had lasted the 20 years she was trapped in the woods. Little did they know, even though the queen seemed not to have any corruption in her body, she was spreading the corrupted wood throughout the castle and therefore the whole city. She was doing so because she was or was possessed (not sure which) by the wood queen who had made the corrupt wood to spread through the valley and kill everyone living in it. Kasia and Agnieszka realize what has been happening and take the 2 royal children back to the tower so they are safe from the wood’s wrath.
The wood queen says they were going to throw them into the wood, after taking the minds of everyone in the caste including new-king-Maven, and sends an army of 6000 men to the tower in hopes of killing them all and furthering her plans. Whe it doesn’t seem to be going the her way on the mini battlefield, she travels there herself to kill he other soldiers from the yellow marshes (enemy kingdom) who had been helping the dragon and attempting to kill the others in the tower, royal children included. The dragon helps Adnieshka stab her with a sword that drinks all life, but find her in a non corrupted part of the forest alive but injured and must put her to rest with the rest of her people (they are of the forest, and turned themselves into heart trees). This leads into a beautiful epilogue of Agnieszka taking over the valley and turning the corrupt wood of despair and anger in to a somewhat-normal forest. « Hide Spoiler
Read this book if you love magic battles and want something amazing.