Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Annomander Matt

Drinks Elfbark tea with FitzChivalry
I really liked the book. As the first standalone I'd read since... Gosh I can't even remember a true standalone, since even the Dan Brown books and Clive Cussler novels I read in high school and college used the same characters...

Anyway, I was impressed with how she wove such an interesting and compelling tale into such a short book. The characters were well fleshed out, and the ending was quite satisfying. The relationship between the two did seem a little quick to me, but I chalked it up to being magically influenced based on how compatible they were. Overall, I would recommend it to anyone, but especially those needing a break from the 2000 page and more epic fantasy series (like me).
In fact if anyone has any recommendations of similar self contained fantasy stories I'd love some suggestions :-D

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Jon Snow

No Power in the Verse can stop me
Staff member

I love this book. I love it's characters, the world, the story itself and the writing style. Novik just won me over completely.
Is this in the Temeraire series?

I really felt that series went down the poop after book 4


Journeyed there and back again
Finished this 10 minutes ago. I stayed late up last night, and then continued reading right after I woke up. The characters were good but what won me over was the whole Wood mystery. 8/10 for me.


Hung out on a briar with Honorable Jorg
Enjoyed it, change of pace from my usual reads. It's a bit wispy and perhaps a bit too embroiled in sentimental reflection - but the world was really cool and some of the messages I took from the book were quite profound and meaningful.
8/10 for me

Jon Snow

No Power in the Verse can stop me
Staff member
I liked it well enough to give it a 7.

I felt there were a few problems. The story moved too quickly for me. She learnt her magic at such a rapid pace and solved the Wood problem just as quickly.

I couldn't really imagine the battle scenes except the part with the magic arrows.

I did put this book down to read The Aeronauts Windlass but picked it back up after that.

I felt ALL the characters were stiff and all just angry people.

However, the story is interesting, I thought the love was believable. I understand why he didn't want to put roots down and why he didn't want to be with Ag. However old he is 150 whatever, he would have entrenched a certain life style and it would be very hard to break that mould.

I haven't read a stand alone in a while, and it is great to be able to put a book down and not worry about the next one. Would be a 8-9 I think if it was 150-200 pages longer to flesh out a few more parts.


In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
I thought the characters were a bit of fresh air personally.
Anyway, I don't think D&D correlation stands. D&D has nothing to do with this book, so any correlation you draw is purely coincidental. You might as well find parallels between Uprooted and Pulp Fiction. It's not connected.
Agnieska's character, as well as others, draw from Polish and Russian, or maybe I should even say Slavic tradition, because Novik is Polish/American. And even more imprtantly she herself said that she drew heavily on the fairy tales her mother told her when she was a little girl.
Agnieska is basically a second incarnation of Baba Yaga without the nasty side. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baba_Yaga
Baba Yaga is even mentioned in the book as someone who lived in the Wood, and who managed to control it. She's a supernatural being, a sort of a proto-witch. An archetype of magical female force.
All Slavic people know of her. Heck, when I was a little girl, my parents and grandparents would scare the shit out me with Baba Yaga known as Baba Roga in Bosnia.


Journeyed there and back again
I thought this was a decent book. After I read the first chapter I was honestly determined to hate it. Or maybe it was the first couple of chapters. Well anyway's I thought it was a boring, boring start but it found a rhythm quickly enough around page 30 or so when the protagonist nearly kills someone. I liked the way magic worked. Also I thought it was conceptually interesting with the woods and the heart trees. It had some clever plot twists but in a lot of ways it was typical of mainstream fantasy. Even though I didn't enjoy the book thoroughly I thought the second climax made it all worth it. It really did have a fantastic climax. The last chapter was boring.


Journeyed there and back again
Concluded this last night, and am satisfied and content, with a small grin on my face.

There’s always been something tremendously appealing to me about Eastern European folklore. Perhaps it’s simply an assumed air of the exotic, or the fact that I’d encountered very little of it in my youth outside a few passing horror quips of Baba Jaga flying around in her cauldron looking for children to devour. Thus, it was with glee that I picked up Uprooted, and despite having heard mixed praise for it, I went in with little of what to expect.

Pleasantly, it didn’t take long for the novel to engage me. A peasant girl, Agnieszka, has spent her youthful days terrified (and secretly grateful) that her beautiful friend Kasia, and not her, will be selected for a decade of service to the Dragon, a powerful and cold-hearted sorcerer who watches over the village of Dvernik where the girls live and the surrounding lands and takes a girl from one of the villages each decade to serve him. Almost immediately I was intrigued by this high and detached authority figure – his purpose and rationale for taking a girl from her family and simple village life an enigma; his duty seemingly to ward off the malevolence of the Wood that slowly encroaches upon the countryside beyond Dvernik and is spoken of in hushed consternation.

The Wood itself was a magnificent antagonist, replete with the tenebrous, gnawing sentience that is primordial, ancient, and resonates on a deep level with all of man’s most inherent, nameless fears. This elemental foe was quite refreshing for all of the gnarled, twisted and corrupted tendrils it spread across the land and how it was able to wield and pervert the noble, heroic, and most human of intentions to its own nefarious machinations. The matriarch archetype and the very old-world version of ‘the witch’ were utilised expertly throughout, and I appreciated the sense of awe and superstition pervading such characters from the farmers and the gentry of the capital; even the allied soldiers kept their distance – this all-encompassing anxiety from ‘normal’ people toward the sorcerers and witches was wonderful and gave an air of authenticity and verisimilitude to the power and influence of these spell-casters and helped convey their aloofness and the disconnect they seem to have from normal human interaction.

The tale proved something of a bildungsroman (to my sensibilities, at least), but didn’t suffer for it or lag in plodding find-my-way digressions too much. There were a few twists that I’d anticipated, but this foreshadowing didn’t detract from my enjoyment, and I think the first person perspective for the narrative made it a more personable tale and that much easier to delve into and empathise with Agnieszka.

There’s a clear, personal relationship between the author and these Polish/East-European folk tales, her bio and dedications within the book notwithstanding, and I really appreciated the complexity of how these influences have been shaped and cultivated to flesh out this wonderful tale. There are very familiar elements here, but utilised in a way that is both respectful to the progenitor cultures and is satisfying for how traditional and straight-forward it feels – no easy task given the post-modern critical analysis many readers approach a work with.

All in all, the simplicity of the story is a key asset, and the real charm comes from how the fundamental elements speak together, capturing both the imagination and the sense of wonder inherent to children that can be buried as an adult – and Uprooted does a wonderful job of unearthing and exhuming this vital sense of the animate and extraordinary. That said, at face value Uprooted seems a fitting bedtime story, but the details contained therein branch the divide between child and adult and probably aren’t suitable to anyone younger than a YA/teenage audience.

Novik has crafted a seemingly simple, timeless fairy-tale, and spectacularly adds enough of the darkness and moral ambiguity to render Uprooted very much in the vein of traditional fables – a far cry from a molly-coddled and fanciful escapism of a Disney film. The scale was another thing I must remark upon, as many fantasy tales take on such an epic quality and speak volumes of nation-states and widespread esoterica concerning an infinitely expansive setting, yet Uprooted was satisfied with a mere two kingdoms and a smattering of small villages divided by mountains, farmland, or the dominating presence of the Wood.

I was more than satisfied with the quaint, bucolic temperament of the small villages, though also enjoyed the entertaining and probably fairly accurate contrast with ‘court politics’ and hoi polloi mannerisms of the ‘elite’ of the capital. The endearing simplicity and rustic good of Agnieszka’s village of Dvernik, and some of the others she visits, is almost dream-like; a love letter to a way of life so far removed from the contemporary suburbanite’s reality, something stirring and vivid to the naïve, the romantic, and those with an affinity for the less tamed and more natural parts of our world. Indeed, I almost felt a little sad at the delineation of the humble peasant-farmer world, for surely it is fading from our world every day and these tales capture, in a way, both the difficulty and the simpler joys to be found in such a traditional way of life.

The language was colourful and descriptive, neither complicated nor grandiloquent, and this made the utilisation of what I presumed to be Polish words as the language of magic in the book both a novel and welcome feature. The spell-casting and magic system was deftly devised and explored in potency and limitations, and the emphasis on polysyllabic construction (or truncation) as the core of the spells was a novelty that I quite enjoyed.

Whatever elements I seek on a sub-conscious level in my literature, Uprooted ticked off many of them. There was a strong focus on the characters, though from a first-person perspective there’s only so much you can learn of the supporting cast beyond Agnieszka. Agnieszka herself is plucky and courageous, but she has her moments of self-doubt and clumsiness, and her lack of guile and devotion to her erstwhile life and village is tempered with a growing sense of responsibility, and the dichotomy between approaching a larger world while retaining the cherished roots of her homeland and her connection to it was moving and felt very real.

This fear is never really overstated by Novik, but it’s a palpable one – a young woman torn from her simple village life, all her expectations and comforting idyllic musings replaced with uncertainty, trepidation, and a growing threat. The elemental quality of this work, on a very fundamental and primal level, made for engrossing reading and is something I enjoyed far more than I expected to for what I otherwise took to be a fairly straight-forward fantasy tale.

Action scenes were spaced evenly throughout culminating in a tense and climactic decider, and the inclusion of levity, even at the obstinate and obdurate nature of both Agnieszka and the hard cynicism and caustic irritation of The Dragon made for a hilarious ‘odd-couple’ dynamic early on in the work.

I enjoyed Uprooted for all of the above and more, and much of the quality stems from the underlying sincerity of the author and the demonstrable aptitude and sensibilities to captivate the imagination and conjure many of the traditional tropes and archetypes without feeling stale or well-worn; the synergy of familiar comforts and the excitement and novelty of new ways of using them, perhaps. Novik eschews any pretension or post-modern wank, and instead offers a timeless and well-crafted fairy-tale that is a delight for the imagination, a journey through territory new and old, and at a deeper level, an opportunity to explore a fantasy world with a fresh set of eyes.