Uprooted by Naomi Novik ★★★★
Trigger warning for attempted sexual assault
If I can restrain my rage about the romance subplot, Uprooted was a very good book.
Agnieszka lives in a valley bordered by an evil woods with strange powers. The valley is protected from the woods by a wizard known as the Dragon, but every ten years he takes a girl into his tower. This year, Agnieszka is picked.
The wood is growing in power, threatening to overrun the entire valley if not the entire kingdom. Agnieszka will need to draw on her new found magic powers to protect her home and the people she loves.
Before I start ranting on the romance, everything else in this book is really good. This story grabbed me from the first page, sucking me in and not letting me go. It’s has an enchanting beauty and is wonderfully written. The darkness of the woods, the magic… they are all so amazing.
Novik drew on the Polish fairy tales of her childhood to create Uprooted, and in doing so she also created a fantastic world. Everything is so well realized and tangible, particularly the creepiness of the wood!
Agnieszka had magical powers of her own, which was wonderful. She was brave and smart, an excellent heroine. I particularly loved her friendship with Kasia. It’s so rare to see relationships between female characters, and I was delighted by the focus this one got. Seriously, this sort of depth and attention is normally reserved only for love interests. Which brings me to that other thing…
So, yes. The Dragon who kidnaps girls and forces them to work in his tower for ten years is the love interest. Did I mention that he’s a hundred and fifty and she’s seventeen? Oh, and that he’s sort of like her mentor and she his apprentice? It’s just plain creepy that’s what it is. I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening, particularly that sex scene.
Oh, and that attempted rape scene I mentioned up top? The Dragon was pretty darn victim blame-y about that. Urgh, he’s the sort of age old supernatural love interest YA books seem obsessed with. You know, the sort who hurls insults at the protagonist before forcefully kissing her.
Anyway, if you can erase that particularly noxious romance from your mind, Uprooted is quite a good book.