Short works

Books : reviews

Naomi Novik.
Pan. 2015

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 2 September 2017

A dark enchantment blights the land

Agnieszka loves her village, set deep in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest’s dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. A young village woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all she values behind.

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she’s everything Agnieszka is not – beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, its not Kasia he takes.

The wizard known as Dragon takes a village maiden every ten years, to serve him in his castle, while he keeps all the villages in the valley safe from the darkness of The Wood. This year, to everyone’s surprise, he chooses the awkward Agnieszka. What she didn’t know is that she has magic. And her magic may be the key to unlocking the secret of The Wood. If anyone will take her seriously.

This is a great fantasy novel. Agnieszka has to learn she has magic, then learn how to use it, then learn what it needs to be used on. This sounds standard enough stuff, especially with the evil in the dark forest, and the Dragon wizard, and the king’s son, and the missing queen, and, and… Yet the plot keeps branching off in surprising directions, growing in unexpected ways, and these standard fantasy tropes are made to bear unexpected fruit.

And the plot really races along. At one point I was musing that there had already been enough material and plot twists for one or even two volumes of the typical “fat book” fantasy trilogy, but I was barely half way through! This does not compromise the richness of the plot: Uprooted is an exciting and satisfying read.