Uprooted by Naomi Novik – Book Review
As part of ‘Fairy Tale February’ I had to read Uprooted as it is a very well known Beauty and the Beast retelling that has been on my TBR forever. There are plenty of readers who didn’t realise that it is a retelling as there is so much more to the story. It definitely has its own identity so it is great whether you are a fan of retellings, fairy tales or fantasy in general. Uprooted has won numerous awards and was a Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel in 2016.
Author: Naomi Novik
Published: 19th May 2015
Publisher: Harper Collins
Synopsis: GoodReads link
Agnieszka is your ordinary girl from the valley. No-one in the small village of Dvernik expects her to be chosen to serve the wizard in the tower, especially next to her beautiful best friend Kasia. No-one knows what the Dragon does with the girls he selects but after ten years of service none of the girls return home for long.
The pace of Uprooted was perfect for me. I found it very gripping and it was easy to read. The action and twists are spread apart so well. If I didn’t know how many pages were left I would have thought that I was reaching the end of the book numerous times because the tension was built to that level. I think inferior authors could easily take one aspect of the novel and that be their entire story. Naomi Novik gives you so much more. Her prose is beautiful and her style has a very definite flavour that I was still craving after I had finished the book.
I adore the world building in Uprooted. Every element has been clearly thought out with a strong sense of atmosphere and vivid settings. My personal favourites are Sarkan’s tower and the wood.
Sarkan’s tower definitely provides a strong Beauty and the Beast element to the story. Here we see Agnieszka locked in a traditional tower, where she learns more about her fate. Plus it has a library, so all bookworms can rejoice. The tower has a lot of elements to it with there being a distinct purpose for its current existence but also myths and legends are part of its history. Without going into any details, there are a few surprises along the way.
There have been so many fairy tales with a dark wood as a theme. This is by far the best that I have ever read. The wood is basically another character in the story and is written with as much depth. It is very much a living entity and I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect set in the wood. It has darkness, light, legends, history, unique creatures and builds a lot of tension.
Naomi Novik’s mother being Polish has clearly influenced her writing. There are many references to Polish culture and Agnieszka’s name is from a Polish tale. It gives the work a sense of authenticity as well as a uniqueness that you rarely find in fairy tale retellings. This is not a book that you have read before even though there are many familiar elements.
As with every other aspect of Uprooted the characters are written extremely well. Sarkan, better known to those in the valley as “The Dragon”, is a wonderful ‘Beast’ character. He is powerful, meticulous, grumpy and has a lot more going on under his skin than people realise. My favourite aspect of his character is that although he develops, as all good characters do, he doesn’t fundamentally change as a person. As a reader we begin to understand what makes him tick and accept him for who he is.
Agnieszka is a great protagonist. She is written as a ‘plain Jane’ but obviously there is a lot more to her. Agnieszka is fundamentally kind and honest though not weak. She isn’t afraid of the truth and would rather face a problem head on than try to hide away. I really enjoy how her relationship with the dragon develops. I would love to say more but I don’t want to spoil anything. Look out for the rose bush as that is one of my favourite aspects.
“He loved his magic, and he would have shared that love with me.”
There are plenty of supporting characters including Kasia, Prince Marek and Solya. They are all very interesting, especially when you look at character motivation and influences.
By now I am sure you have figured out that I loved this book. It was an extremely enjoyable read. There is so much more to Uprooted than your normal fairy tale retelling and although its foundations stem from Beauty and the Beast it stands up on its own. I am now addicted to Naomi Novik’s writing style. I’m currently reading her other fairy tale retelling Spinning Silver. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy, fairy tale retellings or Beauty and the Beast.
Have you read any of Naomi Novik’s books? I would love to hear your thoughts below. If you are a Beauty and the Beast fan looking for other retellings then check out my post here for some other suggestions.