“Uprooted” by Naomi Novik

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People who don’t judge books by their covers are idiots. The boyfriend and I were in Dymocks the other day and I saw Uprooted. Just look at its adorable cover. I thought it looked magical and fairytale-esque and immediately picked it up. I showed the boyfriend, he read the blurb, and then proceeded to the counter to buy it. And I am so glad that he did.

Uprooted reads a little like a fairytale, but a grown-up, gritty version. I suppose, more like Grimm than Disney. The plot goes like this: there’s a village that’s situated on the outskirts of The Wood, a dark, magical place where horrible things grow and out of which horrible things come. Like walkers, who snatch people, and spores that grow in the blood and turn people into smiling homicidal maniacs. But this particular village is protected by an ambivalent wizard called the Dragon. He’s not exactly kindly, nor evil. But, as a kind of payment for his services to the village, the Dragon chooses one young woman to be his (non-sexual, this is stressed throughout the story) companion for a decade. And the story develops from there.

Uprooted is one of those stories where the plot feels so natural that it doesn’t feel like a plot. It just ambles along, building on all of the events that come before. I can’t say that there’s no plot, because there definitely is, but it feels…like an extension of each of the characters, including The Wood’s character. The plot is effortless, which is something not many authors can pull off. Especially with a story as convoluted and exciting as this one.

I love each and every one of the characters. Even the evil ones. No one is a stereotype. Every single character is a shining individual with clear goals and loves and desires and fatal flaws. You can understand what drives every member of Uprooted‘s cast. When you can empathise with the thing that created The Wood in the first place, you know you’re reading a book where the author truly understood their characters. It’s one of the marks of an incredible author. Like understanding Valentine’s motives in The Mortal Instruments. When villains are evil for the sake of being evil, the author has not done their job properly.

Even though Uprooted does feel a little like a fairytale, there is zero romance in this book. No princes rescuing princesses, no whirlwind romances that end in marriage. There’s love, but the love that’s emphasised is the love of friends and family. There is a smidge of sex (that is unbelievably hot, just by the way) but it is more of a way to express the growing fondness between two characters, rather than an overwhelming attraction. It’s nice.

The magic system is marvellous. It’s language based, in that if you mispronounce a word you can change how it works. Plus, there is a bit of a debate throughout the book on the best way to perform magic. The Dragon uses one kind of magic that’s more scholarly and rule-based, and his apprentice has an affinity for a more natural kind of magic, where rules aren’t as important as intent. I thought it was wonderful to include this in the story. It adds a little credence to the magical elements. If there are “academic” discussions about the magic used in a universe, then it brings a sort of banality to the fantastic that helps add to the believability of it. So unbelievably awesome.

Because I finished Uprooted just before a marathon day of moving and a night of next-to-no sleep, I think I’ve forgotten most of the points I wanted to make. Or melded all of my points together. And because Lady Midnight is burning a hole in my bedside table, just begging to be read, this review is going to be shorter than usual.
Essentially, if you love fairytales that are a little more gruesome and gritty than your usual Disney tales (I do, in fact, love Disney. but I love my darker stories too!), you will love this book.

★★★★★

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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3 Responses to “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik

  1. Brilliant review! You’ve made me want to run out and buy this IMMEDIATELY.

  2. Pingback: The Alphabet Book Tag | My Infernal Imagination

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