I like words

Uprooted: Review

I had this pegged as a four star when I began. I was enjoying the read, the story intrigued me and pulled me along, and had I not been forced to pause nearly halfway through—pesky surgeries—I’m certain the irresistible urge to read “just one more chapter” would have no doubt had it finished within the day. 

Still, four stars circled my head, as even though I was enjoying, it wasn’t sinking those dark hooks into my gut…

Or so I thought. 

As soon as I could pick it up again, I discovered that much the way the Wood creeps inside without you knowing, Uprooted had set its tiny seeds in me to grow from the first pages. In the most fantastic, original, magnificent way…

Well I’d like to pause there to mention how much I love the book’s blurb. The Dragon takes a girl from the village every ten years, you say? They all believe it will be Kasia this time, do they? How intriguing that he does not choose Kasia…and that’s it! We must read, read, read to discover anything more about this incredibly smart and original tale. So, as I loved letting each page reveal aspects of this dark, thrilling, twisty, magical fairy tale, I’ll give you the chance to stop here, take my advice and go into the journey blind.

Read on, if you are simply too curious to turn aside, but I have given sufficient spoiler warning!

As I was saying; in the most fantastic, original, magnificent way… Agnieszka wrapped her magic around me and held fast through the entire second half. My nerves raced, my eyes widened in the attempt to take in as many words at once as possible. I held my breath and chewed my lips to pieces[, feeling much like our complicated duo when they are unable to read Luthe’s Summoning fast enough

I feel the need to break my thoughts into organized groups, lest they run amok in this review and tumble from a clear and logical path (very Sarkan-ish of me, je sais). So, I think, I can give you my four main praises of what makes Uprooted a work of art.

The Wood

In Uprooted, I found the breathing, beating heart of a dark forest I so longed to see more of in Crimson Bound. From the inhabitants—creatures twisted by the darkness spreading from the center of the wood—to the heart trees, to the very air inside, Naomi Novik gave life to a frighteningly menacing presence.

“…at first it seemed only an old, old forest. The trees were great pillars in a dark endless hall, well apart from one another, their twisting gnarled roots blanketed in dark green moss, small feathery ferns curled up close for the night…But there was something watching. I felt it more and more with every step the deeper I went into the Wood, a weight laid heavily across my shoulders like an iron yoke…There was something worse here…something alive, and I was trapped inside an airless room with it, pressed into a small corner. There was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage.” 

The Magic

Nieshka's—I do hope she will not mind me using her pet name—magic is raw, and it is wild. It is the untamed flow of a deep forest; every root, branch, vine, leaf, and splashing stream finding their own natural ways without an oppressive hand to force a sensible path for them.

And Sarkan’s magic, along with most other wizards’, is not. He desires order and beauty in all things. Straight, clean lines with organized precision marking the way forward.[What an absolute delight it was to watch Agnieszka frustrate him to no end, wreaking havoc on his orderly existence with the mere way her appearance could never stay tamed. And the way their magics came together in an entirely new, intimate creation in order to perform great illusions and carry out spells not successfully performed in decades was fascinating.

While the book was crawling with wonderful examples, it was the overall deep magic of the Wood that had me most entranced. Planting seeds in ways that led me down the same confusing path as the characters, I could neither guess the next move, the outcome or the reasons behind the animosity of the forest’s will. Yet, I could feel the wrongnessalong with them, knowing something was coming, but being powerless. 

*so many chills*

I said already that my lips are well-bitten, right?

I also simply must mention the bestiary. What a terrifying notion[, a book that can create horrible beasts simply by being read.

The Romance
(I feel I’m letting their relationship down, to call it a mere romance…admiring, grudging, prickly, stubborn, deep, and bonded affection?)

Truly, the grudging companionship of these two had me laughing. I felt the relationship grow[, with every failed attempt to teach her to follow magic’s rules, and his every irritated response at how she found her own way, unbeknownst to him or any others (usually making a mess of his work stations and library in the process). And it never changed, to my lasting delight.

“He was staring down at the dough trying to keep his scowl, and flushed at the same time with the high transcendent light that he brought to his elaborate workings: delighted and also annoyed, trying not to be.” 

Oh, how I love this prickly, walled-off Dragon. His indignation, his irritation, his exasperation, his—often times rude—commentary…and all the while Agnieszka is simply resigned to take him just as he is, shrugging him off as her uncontained nature refuses to be ironed out. Also, the devilish pleasure she gets in irking him so:

“My little room upstairs, a cheerful rummaging through the laboratory and the library, tormenting Sarkan like an untidy ghost who left his books out of place and threw his great doors open…” 

The Writing

When Nieshka was in the Wood, I was there with her. [When her magic intertwined with Sarkan’s to create illusions of rosebushes and bees, I saw them creeping in along the edges of my vision. The corrupted, evil creations of the Wood stood before me and I battled them alongside Marek and Solya and Kasia, my heart racing. (hide spoiler)] Each powerful scene, whether it be a great calling of magic or a blood-soaked wreckage at the center of battle, held me entranced. The clever, descriptive, beautiful way in which  writes is without a doubt a cornerstone of the magical enticement of Uprooted.

“I’d never known it before, but a crowd so large had a steady running noise to it like a river, a murmuring that rose and ebbed without turning into separate voices.”

[“My heel came down jarring against the stone, a blow that rang through me and back out on a wave of magic. All around us the castle shuddered like a sleeping giant, a tremor that made the hanging jewels on the lamp above our heads chime softly against one another, and brought books thumping down off the shelves…I stood panting with my hands clenched at my sides, still ringing from head-to-foot, and said, “Is that magic enough to put me on the list? Or do you want to see more?”

“I wanted to touch him, wanted the brilliant crisp bite of his magic in my hands”

“But wanting cruelty felt like another wrong answer in an endless chain.”

“There was an invitation in it, too, and maybe one day I would want to accept; one day when I was tired and ready to dream a long dream of my own. But for now it was only a door standing open on a hill in the distance, a friend waving to me from afar, and the grove’s deep sense of peace.”

Five glowing stars for the roots I didn’t even realize Uprooted set down deep within me until I turned the last page and felt them tugging, longing to have more.

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Virginia DeFeoComment