I’ve worked with books for twelve years now and in that time I’ve seen plenty of fantasy titles come and go. There are classic titles that we all know and love, and then there are titles that one or two of us choose to champion because we love them even if they didn’t quite work for the rest of the staff. It’s rare that a single fantasy title captivates so many people with differing tastes, but Naomi Novik’s new novel Uprooted has done just that. Here’s some of what our staff has to say about this amazing new book.
Uprooted is, and will most likely remain, my favorite fantasy novel of 2015. What’s not to love? This is a fairy tale told in the vein of the Grimm brothers, where the evil is personified by the dark Wood that borders the kingdom, where the bad guy is secretly more complex and lovelier than his name suggests, and where our heroine gets into the sort of trouble she can get out of on her own. And by trouble, I mean politics, war, magic, romance, and her own stubbornness. Agniezka’s journey into the “Dragon’s” world leads her down many new paths, one of which is the royal court where she encounters wonders and wizards, rules and riddles. She must learn, quickly, that the darkness is harder to identify than she thought. But identify it she must, before it devours everything she holds dear.
More powerful than the promise of romance, or the threat of a malevolent forest, or even the magical ability to cast spells is the narrative itself, told in the true and timeless voice of our marvelous protagonist. Naomi Novik has woven a story that is one part myth, one part legend, one part fairy tale, and one part folk tale. And I read page after page with the hunger of a reader who has fallen in love with this fictional world and its fictional characters. It’s easy to imagine this as a beautiful Disney classic, but with the teeth of something much grittier and more head-strong.
-Sara Cutaia, Bookseller
Imagine Frozen crossed with Evil Dead and animated in the style of the Rankin/Bass Last Unicorn film and you’ve got Uprooted in a nutshell. Inspired by Polish faerie and folk tales, Novik (author of the Master and Commander with dragons series, Temeraire) has fashioned an amazing story filled with high fantasy and creeping dread that’s perfect for adults, teenagers, and even middle grade readers. If you loved Neil Gaiman’s Stardust or Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn then this is the book for you.
-Joe Turner, Assistant Buyer
A mysterious wizard called the Dragon protects a valley from the encroachment of a malevolent wood. All he demands in return is ten years service from a village girl of his choosing. Agnieszka is one plucky girl who is chosen in place of her friend Kasia–but for what purpose? The only thing she knows for sure is that she will not be the same when–or if–she ever returns to her beloved village.
Novik draws on a vast tradition of German and Polish folk lore and tales to craft a story that is half fantasy, half horror that creeps thorny tendrils off the page and into your brain–grabbing your attention and your time (oh, so much time! I lost an entire day inside this story). Wicked queens, good witches, living statues, less-than-honorable knights, exorcisms, corrupted spellbooks–Novik folds all of this and more into a beautifully written tale of human suffering and love.
-Jan Day, 2nd Floor Inventory Manager
I took home a copy of Uprooted in November and handed it to my girlfriend with a warning. “Other people need to read this,” I told her. “You can’t just clutch it to yourself and keep it forever.” She read it in six hours while I was at work and, predictably, clutched it to her chest when I got home. “You have to read it immediately,” she said. “You have to let it go, so I can,” I replied.
She was absolutely right. Uprooted is the kind of novel you don’t put down. Its world is lush and detailed, its characters gorgeously flawed. It’s a fairy tale for the disillusioned, for the reader who doesn’t expect a happy ending any more. Novik will give you hope. She will also give you magic, and violence, and love. Isn’t that what fairy tales are all about?
-Demi Marshall, Kids Inventory Manager
I’ve always been a fan of Naomi Novik. Her Temeraire series is a fun mash up of the Napoleonic Wars and dragons, but I was never blown away by anything she wrote, until now. Uprooted sounded very strange when I first heard about it, I mean Eastern European fantasy zombie folktale didn’t exactly sound like the perfect combination. However, the more I dug into this book the more I realized that it was a book I’d always wanted to read even though I didn’t know it.
The world Novik creates is one of a stubborn group of hamlets growing and, more importantly, surviving in the face of a dark, cursed wood from which none have ever returned. Into this darkness is thrust an incredible cast of characters that includes an ancient sorcerer, his young apprentice, nobles, peasants, and a mysterious dryad. At certain times I’ve found it difficult to describe Uprooted to people, but recently I’ve stumbled across the perfect way to do so: It’s a beautiful, haunting fairytale that would do both The Brothers Grimm and Walt Disney proud.
-Thomas Wilkerson, Master Bookseller