Magic can make or break a story, and Uprooted is no exception. The latest novel from author of the Temeraire series, Naomi Novik, certainly hasn’t shied away from sorcery.
It is set in a village on the outskirts of a forest, known as the Wood. The land is guarded by a wizard, the Dragon, but the price he demands for his protection is large: a girl every ten years. Uprooted follows Agnieszka as she prepares for her beautiful friend Casia to be taken, but things go awry when the wizard doesn’t pick her.
Novik’s story is engaging from the start. It doesn’t throw you in at the deep. Instead, the context and plot gradually unfold before you as you move from chapter to chapter. You’re never left with that infuriating incomprehension that’s so characteristic of modern sci-fi stories, and in a world of ever more convoluted plot twists and cliffhangers, it’s a breath of fresh air.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t leave you wanting more; it has that rare allure that makes a book hard to put down.
What is most charming about Novik’s story is its sensitive approach to relationships. Novik’s depiction of human emotion and the power of friendship is a grounding in reality, and it serves to build upon the believability of the story; it would’ve been easy for Uprooted to lose any grasp on reality among wizards and chimeras, but our heroine’s constant, unwavering devotion to Casia and the Dragon really draws you in.
It’s quite hard to fault Uprooted. Sure, Agnieszka is naive and unassuming, but she was never written to be perfect. This naivety is simply another of her flaws, and that’s not a bad thing – it’s a testament to her character.