Uprooted – Naomi Novik
Agniezka and Kasia grew up knowing they were born in a choosing year, that one of the girls their age would be selected by the Dragon at 17 to live in the tower for 10 years. They also know that whoever is chosen usually leaves the valley after their years are up. When the Dragon arrives to claim his choice, everyone assumes it will the bravest, the most accomplished, the most beautiful: Kasia. Except they are wrong.
This book has been getting many (and by many I mean thousands) of mixed reviews. They complain about the romance – newsflash, the age difference is still less than that in Twilight – as well as the protagonist. She gets called a ‘special snowflake’ a lot. I think this term has come to be used very loosely and in too many different ways.
The term is actually defined as a person who gets special treatment because of supposedly unique attributes or characteristics. In 2017, we have to contextualize our use of the word, because it has come to mean someone who creates ridiculous characters (like an ‘Avariel wereshark Elemental Archon of Fire‘), as well as a derogatory word for an entire generation of people (who are apparently ‘too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge their own‘). Lately, if a fictional character discovers any type of hidden talent, they are immediately called a ‘special snowflake’. Sure, in the past few years this term was used to define a character who miraculously finds out they know the exact way to win their personal battle at the exact right moment and is able to accomplish it without any training whatsoever (like if Harry Potter had Avada Kadavraed Voldy as an 11-year-old without ever being taught the spell, or if he made up a new one altogether). But that’s not what our heroine does in Uprooted.
SPOILERS **** Not only is she terrible at most magic, the only magic she is good at was written by a famous crazy lady who had the same affinities that the heroine does. And also: SHE PRACTICES! Plus she’s like, channeling the valley, or whatever.****
The point being at no time in this book is the heroine a ‘special snowflake’. She works hard for what she has, and it’s explained that she’s had these tendencies since she was born. I wouldn’t even call her a ‘chosen one’ since she finds others like her later on. If she hadn’t saved the world, someone else would have. The timing (and her temper) just set everything in motion in time for this story to take shape. There is, in fact, nothing so special about her at all.
That being said, this story is fantastic. It’s based on a Polish folk tale, the kind of story the Brother’s Grimm would have loved to tell, but not quite as dark as they probably would have written it. The heroine is frustrating, as are our would-be heroes, and I wouldn’t say anyone is completely good or evil, or even completely sane, probably, but that just makes everything more mysterious and magical, and twisted. I really loved their use of the forest as a backdrop, character, and metaphor. You don’t come across many stories as filled out as this one anymore, and it’s a standalone novel!
Anyone who enjoys their fairy tales dark(-ish) will love this book. And not just because it has something like five climaxes. Just a warning: It is YA. There are some ‘romantic’ scenes not really appropriate for younger audiences, but they are pretty quick, so I wouldn’t really call the book steamy or anything. If you have a young teen, I would recommend you read it first and then decide if it’s appropriate for them to read.
HHC Rating: 5 Stars