April 14, 2016
Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
It has taken me awhile to review this one. I guess I needed to let it settle into my thoughts a bit. I actually finished reading it around the end of March, I'll say the 29th, for the sake of my Goodreads list.
4 stars: Multi-layered and utterly absorbing, though it contains some mature content.
Agnieszka lives in a valley, next to the Wood. Despite their proximity to the evils and corruption of the Wood, her life is mostly a happy one. She knows that when she turns 17, she--along with the other girls her age from the valley--will stand in a line, waiting for the Dragon to choose one of them. No, not an actual dragon--a wizard, and the girl who is chosen doesn't get eaten, she just must go back with him to his tower to serve him for 10 years. So far, none of the girls who have been chosen have come back to live in the valley. He protects the villagers from the Wood; otherwise, they would never give up their daughters so.
Agnieszka isn't worried for herself, though. The Dragon always chooses the smartest, the brightest, the most beautiful and accomplished of the girls--which would be her best friend Kasia. Then the day of choosing comes, and to everyone's shock and dismay (including her own), he chooses Agnieszka. She can't fathom why. She hasn't spent her whole life preparing to be brave and useful. This is a catastrophe!
Slowly, Agnieszka discovers not only why she was chosen, but how her gifts can save life for all whom she loves in the valley...if the corruption doesn't get her first.
* * * * * *
It's an original fantasy, with a world that seemed fairly simple on the surface, but had greater depth than I expected. The Wood was frightening--anything that went in, came out corrupted--people, animals, berries. A corrupted person, for example, may look normal, but as you were talking to them about normal things you might suddenly grab a knife and cut off your own hand. Yikes. Or they looked like they were full of demons raging to get out from under their skin and you had to somehow restrain them long enough to put them out of their misery--otherwise, the corruption would spread. Or they never came out of the woods at all.
Agnieszka herself was a complex character. Insecure in some ways, but very strong in others. Once she got a few things figured out, she definitely wasn't afraid to stand up for herself. She and the Dragon were well-matched, yet very different. Some of the themes were corruption (obviously), rootedness, the power of Truth, the power of lies, love, betrayal, healing, and bravery. I'm sure there were others.
This is one I wish my book club would read, so I would have some people to discuss it with. So if you read it, let's talk! It's a bit awkward to recommend it to people I know, however, due to its content. So, let's chat about that for a bit.
Content: There's one near-rape (Agnieszka defends herself admirably), a near-miss sex scene, plus another sex scene. They are easy to skip--you can see them coming, but still. [sigh] Why?
Also, many of the descriptions of corrupted people and animals are quite disturbing.There's an awful bloodbath of a battle towards the end. Literally blood running like a stream. Yuck. Other assorted violence relating to the corruption from the Wood.
Okay, I think that about covers it. So, as you can see, not just one you can casually hand off to a friend or acquaintance.
Have you read this one? What did you think?