“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 when the dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
Uprooted is a standalone, fantasy novel that has been on my radar for a long time. I love fairytales of all sorts so this book’s summary seemed right up my alley, especially I was in the mood for what I thought might be a little light-hearted romance. That it is not; but nevertheless I enjoyed it tremendously. It was beautifully told and the story really resonated with me, probably because of how unflinchingly honest it was about human nature and relationships.
I didn’t fall in love with this book all at once. It took me a little while to really get into the story, especially as the protagonist Agnieszka at first felt like a Mary Sue. But we soon find what makes her special and her follies are given somewhat of an explanation and, thus, turn into her personal strengths.
I really enjoyed how the story was told. The novel is written entirely from the perspective of Agnieszka, as if she’s telling this story to us directly, with hints of something like foreshadowing which is never too heavy handed but is a subtle reminder of no matter how dark things become that she’s made it out. My only critique in terms of style is that at times the story seemed to drag and force you to put aside your questions to be stumbling around in the moment with Agnieszka.
Why You Should Read It
- Strong Female Friendship. Agnieszka’s main driving force throughout the novel is protecting her best friend Kasia. Much of their lives are defined by the knowledge that either of them might be whisked away by the Dragon, although everyone believes it will be Kasia who everyone sees as special. After Agnieszka is chosen, we get to see the aftermath and how they grow closer after the Wood tries to tear them apart.
- A Beautiful Mad World. If you’re someone who loves vivid and fantastic world-building and imagery, then I think you will enjoy this book. As I was reading I felt I could see the world unfolding in my mind’s eye like a cinematic experience. The world is essentially a character in the story, magnificent and terrifying. It reminds me of nothing else I’ve read in recent years. Or ever.
- Horror & Suspense. Although it is at times a slow-burner, this is the most suspenseful novel I’ve read in a long time. There are moments where I felt like I was reading a psychological thriller. The antagonist is the Wood, which is ever creeping up upon the villages and has the power to corrupt people’s minds and bodies. The country is low on wizards so it is near impossible to tell if someone has been corrupted until they have snapped and are causing pain and suffering in their neighbors and loved ones.
My biggest criticism of the book after having now read the whole thing is that it feels a bit disjointed. I was terrified of the antagonistic force throughout the entire novel, which caused a lot of suspense. But finding out the “why” of it all didn’t do much to satisfy me, maybe because of how out of nowhere it came after the rest of the novel with no real hints. I also felt there was a lack of justice that was just devastating because of how much pain and sorrow the Wood had caused.
I do like where how the novel ends with Agnieszka and the Dragon, as it feels very believable and realistic. But also hopeful.
Have you read Uprooted? What did you think?