I’ve recently been in a reading slump and after more than a month, I thought that perhaps I needed a genre change. I picked out two fantasy books and the next thing I knew, I couldn’t stop reading Uprooted!
Uprooted is about a girl named Agnieszka who lives in a small village surrounded by the Woods, a terrible living plague that often sends creatures of nightmares to spread its contamination. The Wood’s objective? To swallow the whole kingdom in darkness. The only thing that keeps Agnieszka’s village safe is the Dragon, a powerful wizard that lives isolated in a tower nearby and who, every ten years, takes a girl of seventeen to live with him in his tower.
This year Agnieszka turns seventeen but nobody is worried about her being taken. After all, the Dragon only takes those who are gifted and her best friend Kasia is the most beautiful and talented girl of the valley. So it’s only natural that the order of things becomes a mess when the Dragon (reluctantly) takes her and reveals that she is a witch. Suddenly all those moments of her playing near the woods and coming out unscathed start to make sense. As she becomes his unwilling apprentice, the Wood begins to strike, choosing her loved ones to finally press forward and swallow the whole kingdom
The first time I read this book was closer to its publication date (2015) and I remember LOVING it. I had to buy it in hardcover and it’s just been sitting on my shelf for the past five years. At my job, when people would ask me for fantasy recommendations, I would immediately point to Uprooted and Spinning Silver, however, recently I came to realize that as much as I loved Uprooted, I didn’t remember much of the story. Since Spinning Silver was more recent (2018) and I’d only recently read it (2019), I had no problem talking about that one. But Uprooted? Nothing. And thus I decided to reread it and I’m glad I still enjoyed it!
I do have to say that the writing and mentality of Agnieszka feels very juvenile compared to Spinning Silver’s Myriem but it also makes sense. Agnieszka had a different upbringing full of love and the only “troubles” she had to deal with were keeping safe from the Wood (which she was rather good at) and accepting the fact her best friend Kasia would forever leave when she turned seventeen. As an older reader reading YA, I was initially put off but I also think that this is something I really liked about her character. Even though she wasn’t as perfect as she believed Kasia to be, she had this inner strength and confidence to always search for a third choice and to never give up. When everyone would tell her things were futile, no matter how much each failure hurt her, she always kept trying to save the people around her. It feels like this trait is often only found in younger characters and served as a reminder that things are not always black and white, we just have to be flexible enough to find the grey areas
I found that I still loved the Dragon/Sarkan but I also began to realize WHY a lot of people dropped the story because of him. He really was a beast at the start! In hindsight, I also think that as we are now isolating ourselves (though temporarily) we can begin to understand why Sarkan is the way he is. While we keep struggling to keep ourselves home, he was able to successfully cut himself off from humanity for hundreds of years. I don’t even know how I’ve survived the last month and a half, and don’t even get me thinking about my (surely deteriorated) shabby communication skills. However, aside from his lack of communication skills, I still enjoyed his sharp tongue and the amount of work he put into always protecting strangers. Yes, a lot of this came from a sense of duty but I also think he genuinely cared for the people in the valley. After all, he didn’t have to take those girls but he did
I was really sad that so many tragedies befell this kingdom (even though it was a sucky kingdom, but I guess that’s what happens in “greater” societies) and yet also mesmerized by how clever the Wood was in planting all of these plots. I did think that Agnieszka was overpowered, especially since she’d only started using magic, but I also understand that her magic was different. Actually, it’s more like SHE was different to everyone else and it’s this empathy that she had (that was reflected in her magic) that was the key to “defeating” the Wood
I remember being extremely sad at the end of Uprooted the first time I read it. I really loved the dynamic between Sarkan and Agnieszka, especially after they became more comfortable with each other. I really wanted them to interact more but with the Wood going wild and trying to kill everyone, there wasn’t much time to do so. I know this is a standalone but if Naomi ever wanted to do a sequel, I would totally be on board. I’d love to see how the two interact after this, if they end up living together or if they just make time for each other, what Sarkan has been up to, and just give me some fluff, I’M BEGGING YOU. But if the story had to follow someone else, I’m actually super curious as to how Prince (now King I suppose) Stashek will rule after everything he’s experienced and lost. I also want to know how Kasia is living her days and how Agnieszka takes on the role of mentor, which was implied would be something she’d do in the future. Perhaps a new adventure will come one day
Also, if anyone is interested, Naomi Novik has been SUPER active on her Instagram, hosting Q&As about her books and writing in general. Here’s a link to her 29.4.2020 live Q&A about Uprooted!
Warning: This book features a lot of death, mentions rape, and has a sex scene