Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted Book review

A dark, Beauty and the Beast-esque magical tale

I had no idea what I was getting into with this book.

Having been gifted Uprooted by a fellow bookworm (who also hadn’t read the book, but was accidentally sent two copies), I didn’t have any expectations when I first cracked the spine.

Following my experience with The Lido by Libby Page (reviewed in our last issue), I was intrigued by the prospect of another fictional novel to snuggle up to with my camomile tea.

Camomile tea was not strong enough.

My second night of reading, I was onto the gin and tonic.

Uprooted was nowhere near as heartwarming and cosy as The Lido.

Instead, I was gripped by the haunting hopelessness of Naomi Novik’s spellbinding novel.

If, like me, you grew up a classic millennial, ever-nostalgic for the long-lost nineties, but equally as existentially bereft as Gen Z, get yourself a copy of Uprooted, pour yourself a strong G&T, and brace yourself.

One of the most fascinating (even unintentionally educational) aspects of the world Naomi Novik created was the choice to lean into Eastern European mythology and magic, of which I know worryingly little (apologies to my Polish ancestors).

That being said, not every Uprooted reader shares my viewpoint – some have vented their frustrations about the “unpronounceable” magical spells and names of characters.

Personally, I like a novel that educates while entertaining, and don’t find it takes me out of the story, but I appreciate it’s not to everyone’s taste.

Naomi Novik has an enviable skill in setting the scene of her fictional, magical world – from the first half of the book, I could damn-near smell the tower in which Agniezska was held hostage.

A brief synopsis to whet your appetite: in a small village, every ten years, one teenage girl is taken by The Dragon – a mystical being – who puts the girls to work as his maid, while he hides away in his library, always reading (same).

But it’s not as Disney-fied as that.

I was taken aback by the trials and tribulations of Agniezska throughout the novel.

This poor girl goes though a lot.

Like many teenage girls, Agniezska doesn’t realise her potential – her own brand of magic – which would eventually end up taking her to places she couldn’t have imagined.

To be honest, at the start of this book, neither did I.

You won’t find yourself fawning over any characters, like you would a typical ‘fairy tale’.

Instead, you’ll relish the real-ness of them. Warts and all.

And, through Naomi Novik’s decision to write in the first person, you wil become them.

The only thing that knocks a star off my rating? The breakneck change of pace with the second half of the book.

At just a turn of a page, I was thrust into politics, wars, and corruption, and seemed to lose just a little of the magic and mystery.

So while I thoroughly recommend Uprooted, you may have to sit up a little straighter and pay attention for the second half of the book – it’s a touch more technical.

Another word of warning, dear reader: despite being released in 2015, with such promise of a series, this is (at the time of writing) the only book in this series.

So if, like me, you’re hooked and craving your next hit of Novik, you might have a while to wait.

★★★★☆

Who should read it: Fans of The Lord of the Rings, Disney, and magic.

How long to read: 448 pages – around 8-9 hours.

One word: Bewitching.

Price: £9.99 (RRP)

Where to buy: October Books (via Bookshop.org)

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