I went into this book with trepidation for one reason alone: I was afraid the pacing would be as slow as Ms. Novik’s acclaimed TEMERAIRE series. I love the creativity of that series, but the pacing is one that drives me mad.
I have never been so happy to be wrong in my entire reading life. UPROOTED grabbed me from its opening paragraph and whisked me off into the dark woods of this twisted, captivating world. The brilliance of the story’s introduction is its simplicity: like most fairy tales, we meet a likable female protagonist to whose routine life is interrupted by something unexpected. Except, unlike Brothers Grimm or other such stories, what happens to her isn’t something horrible: it’s actually, well, kind of okay.
Now, don’t get me wrong and then think this book is all sunshine and rainbows: this is a dark and dangerous fantasy world full of sentient woods, political plots, and dark schemes. Something I just have to note and praise is an element of this darkness that is too often absent from many fantasy novels: the consideration of the use of violence and its effect upon the people involved, wielder and victim alike. Does the books sit around and moan on a moral debate about violence? No. But the consideration is there, especially given the situations in which our protagonist, Agnieszka, frequently finds herself. And, yes, while I certainly like my fantasies on the darker side of the spectrum, I appreciated the kind of strange humour that wove its way through this novel: the humour of true life. Sometimes things make us laugh that aren’t really that funny but, well…we laugh anyway! That’s the humour of this novel.
Anyone who is a fan of Dianne Wynne Jones will see the echoing ghosts of Sophie and Howl in the relationship between Agnieszka and the Dragon — something to be rejoiced! What’s better than rooting for a team so fundamentally different but, as a whole, so wonderfully cohesive? I think this book will go down as a classic, a phrase I usually hesitate to say but, in this case, it’s true. Everything about this novel from the writing to the characters to the richly-imagined world are done on the level to which we hold fantasy classics.
A true rare gem.