The novel I most recently could not put down was Uprooted. Unless I have the opportunity to buy a signed copy, I tend to get my novels from the library, as I seldom reread books.
I finished my library copy, and then I bought this book.
I wish I could write the way Naomi Novik does. I have enjoyed all her Temeraire novels, but I really wanted to study Uprooted, see what Novik does to make it work so well. A little deconstruction, if you please. I have only barely started that work, but I’m looking forward to it.
This post does have a few gold stars about some of the awesomeness I found in the book. If you’re worried about spoilers, go read the book first!
We can start with the protagonist, Agnieszka. I found her completely believable as a peasant girl. She starts out in awe of people who might consider themselves her betters. Still, she has a wonderfully strong sense of self, an unwavering conviction about what’s right.
The novel’s stakes are big, and ones I applaud, having to do with love of family, friends, and home. Sure, there’s an ancient evil in the land that must be dealt with, but you learn about it through the eyes and ears of characters you care about.
Then the world-building is wonderful. You get totally immersed in this eastern European, medieval fantasy world, but Novik takes her time getting you there. First you care about Agnieszka, then you care about her family. You care about the Dragon, for Pete’s sake. There’s romantic tension between Agnieszka and the Dragon, and despite their different statuses, you have a feeling that deep down, they’re equals. That thread takes a while to reveal itself, however. In the meantime, you learn that the Dragon has lived long enough to know more about the Wood (the location of the aforementioned ancient evil) than anyone else, but not as much as he needs to know in order to take care of the problem. Which is where Agnieszka comes in. I expected her to be crucial to fixing things; the book seemed to promise that much early on. I don’t want to say too much about how things work out.
One thing I especially appreciated was that when Agnieszka does an amazing job dealing with a problem (like the abduction of her bestie, Kasia), it usually brings on more difficulties. This is not because she does anything stupid; she usually just has to deal with a horrendous event in a short time with little help. However, aforementioned difficulties sure keep the plot clicking along. Masterful!
Love, love, love this book.