by Naomi Novik.
Uprooted is the story of Agnieszka, a seemingly normal girl from a village in a seemingly quiet valley. Except the valley is the frontline in the battle between the evil that lurks in the Wood and the mysterious wizard known only as the Dragon, who keeps the Wood at bay. Every 10 years, a village girl is conscripted to serve him in his tower. Everyone expects that this year it will be the beautiful Kasia, Agnieszka’s best friend. It doesn’t play out that way, of course. Nor does anything else. The wizard and his tower are not as terrifying as they seems, the Wood’s evil is not as simple as it appears, and Agnieszka herself is not as normal as she thought. What follows is one part fantasy-adventure quest, one part coming of age story, and one part romance.
And all parts awesome! Can I get an amen for standalone fantasy that is done this well? It’s one book (not a series), is beautifully written, and managed to surprise me several times while still ending perfectly. Agnieszka as a narrator and a character is compelling and personable. The portrayal of the wizard is spot-on: we feel Agnieszka’s initial terror while suspecting (rightly) that it will not last. The change and development in their relationship was wonderful to read. Some of the minor characters were a bit less fleshed out, but still served their purpose admirably. I loved that this felt like a Russian fairytale in many ways, but was a completely new story. I could’ve used a bit more backstory on Baba Juga and the queen, but overall it was a thoroughly good read. I enjoyed Novik’s Temeraire series well enough, but this book I loved.
Highly recommended for fans of fantasy with elements of YA and romance!