Published: May 19th, 2015
Publisher: Del Ray
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
Well, what can I tell you about Uprooted other than 'Read It!'. I will admit that I first took this one home because I thought it was about dragons, but of course it's not. It's about wizards and magic and horrible scary creatures in a deep, dark, terrifying wood. It's fantasy at its best, that reads a little bit like a cautionary tale or fairy tale, but is so much more.
I loved Agnieszka. She was normal and real and had to work hard to find solutions to her problems. I loved that things didn't come easily for her and that when she does realize she has gifts she has to research to help herself. Some nasty things happen to Kasia and Agnieszka never gives up on her, even when Kasia's own family don't want her back. The wizard, Sarkan, is a bit of an enigma and his relationship with Agnieszka was interesting. The affection between the two of them takes a long time to grow and was all the more believable for it.
The antagonist in this book is not a person, but an entity. A weird, frightening, awesome entity that grows and destroys. It was so different and unusual and gave me the shivers on several occasions. The story behind the wood, which we find out right at the very end, was complex and took some serious unraveling, but ultimately made sense. The ending may surprise you - it did me - but it works really well.
Agnieszka is 17 or 18 in the story, but it is not a YA book. It's a long book that will suit YA readers if you like complicated fantasy stories with complex characters and I highly recommend it. It's also a stand-alone which gives it bonus points in my mind, since we see so few of them these days.