Published in May of this year and riding high on a number of Best of 2015 lists, Uprooted is the first novel of Naomi Noviks which I have read but will certainly not be the last. From the opening sentence to the last word, it is beautifully engaging and expertly written. With her previous novels, the Temeraire series, she has earned a Hugo Award nomination and won the Locus Award for Best New Writer, the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel and the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer.
In an imaginative world of magic and dragons and a dangerously dark woods, the reader is taken on a coming-of-age journey like no other and Novik’s own spellbinding power lies in the perfectly executed prose. The brave and pragmatic heroine is Agnieszka, seventeen and happy in her village despite the overbearing woods, her main concern the inevitable loss of her best friend Kasia to the mysterious Dragon, a wizard who takes a girl of his choosing from the little community every ten years.
This is his payment for being the village’s only protection from its surrounding trees and the corruption that spills from their depths. Everyone is prepared for him to take Kasia, although the reader may be ready for the first twist in this tale.
The rest is far from anything which could be expected. Agnieszka is a wonderful character: flawed at times, delightfully naïve in others and in this adventure you can’t help but root for her and admire her tenacity. Throughout the entire thing I was surprised at every twist and turn; I kept thinking I could see what was coming and then something else would appear. Novik conjures up scenes of peril, excitement and good old fashioned love without ever sounding clichéd or contrived.
Part fairytale, part fantasy, this book strays from the path and the reader is compelled to follow and it would be happy to continue to learn more of Nieszka as she gets older and wiser, but for the time being this is a single story, and while Novik has said that while one isn’t planned it’s not out of the question. With the film rights already having been bought and Ellen DeGeneres on board to produce the Warner Brothers adaptation, it is possible they may wish sequels should it prove successful, to say nothing of the additional readers who will discover the source material.
The sign of a good book is that it stays with the reader and this story has kept coming to the front of my mind for weeks, that same little tickle you get when you think of someone you like that you haven’t seen lately, swiftly succeeded by the realisation that these people you remember, the places you have been, aren’t real. They live only in the pages or on the screen but so well brought to life that for a second you feel that yearning each time you are reminded, a loss which can only be eased by further visits.
Such is the joy of books and stories that the ones that you really connect with can be enjoyed again and again and I am very much looking forward to reading the remaining Temeraire books as I miss the cadence of Novik’s storytelling.