Author: Naomi Novik
Narrator: Julia Emelin
Audiobook Length: 17 hours 44 minutes
“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.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
As I wait for the third installment in the Scholomance series, I decided to finally read some of Naomi Novik’s other titles. I decided to go with Uprooted as I have heard amazing reviews about the story and the romance and next I will try Spinning Silver. Since most people typically favor one or the other, I am curious to try them both. After finishing this novel, I am excited to see what else the author has to offer as this story was not as expected. Although there is a fairy tale aspect to the story, it is full of multiple plots and subplots that weave together to form a complex tale. The story follows a girl named Agniezska in her own Beauty and the Beast-like tale. She lives in a village on the edge of the cursed forest. Although her best friend, Kasia, is thought to be the chosen one, it is Agnizeszska who is chosen by the Dragon (a wizard), who selects a girl to serve him every ten years. While the story initially seems simple with a girl taken by a dragon, it became a lot more intricate and captivated my interest from start to finish.
The initial piece of the story gives an introduction to all of the characters and Agniezska’s new role with the Dragon. This leads into the intricate world-building magic use as well as help the reader form an initial connection to Agniezska and Sarkan, the Dragon. Each character comes off a certain way, at first, as Niezska is protective of those she loves, and the Dragon is a little standoffish, but they slowly begin to reveal more about themselves and grow as the story moves forward. The characters towards the end of the novel are more developed versions of the ones presented at the start, which is an element that makes a novel appeal to me. The character development is not as in the foreground as other similar novels, but it is intertwined within the progression of the plot.
The entire novel is told from Agniezska’s perspective and while I loved following her side of the story, I wished that this was a multi-POV tale. While the story is easy to follow in a single perspective, the romance felt like it needed more. I think if there was a little inclusion of both sides, then I could have connected to the romance’s progression more. It was still a well-done romance as it was written in a very different style. The characters getting from point A as strangers to point B where they have feelings is not a simple build-up as, similar to their individual development, it is “hidden” among the main storyline. The friendship between Niezska and Kasia is well-written as they are loyal to each other, similar to siblings. While it is initially not apparent how big of a role Kasia will play in the story, I loved how it was done as it fit together well with the Wood and the Dragon.
While the content was amazing in this novel, there were times where I believe it could have been a little less detailed in some places. On the other hand, all of these details helped to add to the world-building aspect of the story and there could have been even more added to build on to the characters and relationships. The number of pages is an element that I could not reach a conclusion on my feelings. On one side, I thought there were too many and, on the other, I felt there were not enough. There is a slow buildup to the action in the story, so even if it seems slow at first, to me, it worth continuing to read. There is a lot packed into this novel that it could have been a duology, although I do love standalones so there is only one novel to commit to instead of multiple. Overall, I wish there was a little more in the writing to make everything feel complete, however, this novel was well worth my time to read it!