I’m a latecomer to Naomi Novik though she’s been recommended to me many times, Uprooted being the second of her books I’ve read. However, the limit has been time, not inclination, because she is a strong storyteller with the ability to make her worlds come alive.
Uprooted only strengthened this impression as it dragged me into a world where ignorance lead to assumption, and assumption caused conflicts between Agnieszka and Sarkan (the Dragon) from the start. You are pulled into a story founded in Eastern European mythos with Baba Jaga’s nature magic thrown up against a firmly grounded tradition of logic and procedure.
This is not quite a young adult novel as I’d expected, nor is it offered as such, but it has the elements of coming into your own and learning who you are. Nieszka makes all sorts of assumptions based on who she believes herself to be and what everyone has always assumed to be true about the Dragon. It’s only when loyalty makes her have to act that she learns everything she’d believed is false and her life is turned on its head.
This is a powerful story about two people who are powerful in and of themselves in very different ways. There is danger, loss, adventure, and sacrifice blended through the book. Even the quiet moments are ripe with expectation. There is one explicit sex scene and several explicit (and epic) battles, but nothing is tossed in there for effect. Every moment builds into the story to make the tension twist a little higher and the losses burn a little hotter.
I avoid spoilers in my reviews so I will say only that the end could have been very different and still satisfied. As it is, the ending was perfect in my eyes, adding yet another layer to the book that at the same time blended with a question flowing throughout.
This is a solid novel, an enjoyable read, and something to make you think about what drives all sides of a conflict. No simple black and white answers here even when the path is clear to what is necessary. And just as the answers are not simple, neither are the responses required. Sarkan and Agnieszka have real costs to the choices they make. The correct, true, and right path doesn’t offer an easy peace or sense of righteousness, which makes the story much deeper and more enjoyable.
P.S. I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.