By Jessica Wright
Award winning author Naomi Novik is no stranger to the literary fantasy world. A first generation American, Novik is the author of the popular Temeraire series that includes the novels His Majesty’s Dragon and the New York Times bestseller Empire of Ivory. She will be concluding the Temeraire series next year with its ninth and final novel and her latest stand-alone novel, Uprooted, was released in May 2015. Uprooted transports the reader into a world full of magic and darkness while exploring the complexities of young adulthood and human relationships.
Immediately upon starting the novel, the reader is introduced to the daunting figure known as the Dragon. The Dragon, a mysterious and powerful wizard, protects the village of Dvernik and the surrounding villages in the valley from the treat of the Wood and its evil influence as it tries to overrun the country. However, as we learn from Agnieszka, the novel’s protagonist and a young woman with the inability to stay clean, the old saying holds true and nothing comes without a cost. The Dragon’s cost: every ten years he takes a beautiful young woman, age seventeen and born between one October and the next, and locks them away in his tower. Ten years later he simply lets the girls go, but they are changed. Most return to their village for a short period of time and then choose to move away, unable to return to their previous lives. Left defenseless against the Wood though, the villagers begrudgingly accept these terms in exchange for their safety. While readers are set up to believe Agnieszka’s best friend, the highly desirable and elegant Kasia, will be taken away next, something happens which leads to the Dragon selecting Agnieszka herself, despite her being a clumsy disaster.
The old saying holds true and nothing comes without a cost.
As the novel unfolds, the reader experiences this magical world through Agnieszka as she learns she discovers her innate magical abilities and struggles to develop them. Forced to play by the Dragon’s rules she must live isolated within his tower as the threat of the Wood looms over the country and escalating events destroy the world as she knows it. At war with the Wood, Agnieszka must overcome her fears and challenge herself to stay strong to protect those she loves. Kasia becomes a major player in the devastating war against the Wood and its evils, and the reader watches as the relationship between Agnieszka and the Dragon develops in unexpected ways.
In addition to being filled with magic and adventures, which make this novel hard to put down, Novik’s characters are what make Uprooted truly remarkable. The majority of characters undergo significant amounts of growth while Agnieszka and Kasia show how two young women with completely opposite personalities and strengths persevere against overwhelming odds and come out on top. Young women everywhere, despite not living in worlds full of magic, can learn from the determination and courage these two characters display throughout the novel and can apply such lessons to their own lives. Furthermore, Novik’s characters demonstrate how believing in yourself can help you achieve greatness and transform you into someone truly remarkable.