“She'd remembered the wrong things, and forgotten too much. She'd remembered how to kill and how to hate, and she'd forgotten how to grow.”
I had a little internal struggle about how to rate this book. I adored about 90 percent of it, but the other 10 percent, not so much. In the end I decided to settle on 4.25/5 stars.
Uprooted is an adult fantasy novel, although it is often mistakenly labeled as YA (due to the young age of the main protagonist). Which is not a bad thing for it appeals to both adult and young adult readers (although it might seem a little too dark for some ya readers). Uprooted has also won The Nebula Award for the best novel and is rumored to become a movie.
Writing Style: If I describe it as: familiar, would you understand? From the very first pages I felt at home with this story, writing was simple and fluid. It felt as the magic from the story had spilled over the style of writing too, because yes, it was magical. The author is of polish descend, so this book was rich with Slavic traditions, characters and food. I didn't expect this when I picked up this book to read, so you could say that it was like a cherry on top. The best part was the magic. It was not flashy - no dazzling staffs and bright lights, but simple and earthy. The whole magic process was compared (from the main character's point of view) to works of nature - walks in the wood, flowers growing, rivers flowing; it might seem a little confusing and out of place for some, but trust me – it was beautiful.
Character development: Agnieshka, a girl of barely seventeen, is the main heroine of this story. I loved the fact that her teenage age did not play any part in the story (I have read way too many books about unstable and hormonal teenage girls as main characters, so it was a breath of fresh air to see this one play out differently). I really enjoyed her character, and her personal growth through the story. She was described as average, in comparison to her extremely beautiful best friend, Kasia, but Agnieshka doesn't go complaining and comparing herself to her friend (well she does a little bit, but not in a jealous way). These two girls have a bond stronger than iron. At times it may seem that Agnieshka is completely and ridiculously infatuated with her friend, but she "grows out" of it as the book goes. Agnieshka is headstrong, clever and loyal, which are amazing characteristics to place upon a female character, she stays true to herself till the very end and never forgets where she comes from.
Another character of whom we see a lot of is Dragon (a bit too cliche of a name, due to parallels between dragons that take girls into captivity and all, but oh well), a wizard that looks over their village and fights the Wood (a collective evil being in this book). Dragon is cold, prideful and pretty mean. But somehow you end up liking him anyway.
Kasia, Agnieshka's best friend, despite being described as incredibly beautiful, is nothing short of a woman warrior. She places others before herself, and is willing to sacrifice everything she has not only for her best friend, but for their whole village.
There are many secondary characters, all of whom are very well built and are important to the story, but they never steal focus.
Very minor spoilers ahead.
Story line: Story starts pretty slow, but extremely enjoyable, as we get to see Agnieshka struggle through her new role as a witch in the tower of Dragon. Being taken by him instead of her friend, which comes as a shock to the whole village, Agnieshka stumbles and crashes through her new life at the tower. She is messy, clumsy and not good, well pretty much at anything. When Dragon realized that she is a witch, he tried to teach her magic, but alas, she is not good at that either. Only when she finds an old spell book of Jaga (yes, THE baba Jaga), her immense potential unfolds, and she ends up being the one to explain to Dragon how to do the sort of magic that she does. Seeing pompous and almighty wizard trying to do simple magic and failing was quite comical.
Let's talk about Jaga. Yes, this is the famous Baba Jaga (my slavic blood is so happy), the witch in a hut with chicken legs. Only that here she is described as a complete badass and an amazing witch (not as a bad witch either, as she is usually portrayed in children's tales). Turns out Agnieshka is able to perform the same magic as Jaga could - the earth magic (it is never really named that, but it is a nature magic of sorts). There are many beautiful descriptions throughout the book of the way they do magic.
My favorite ones are these: when Dragon and Agnieshka make a rose for the first time, when they cast the Summoning Spell and when Agnieshka uses pine needles for a protection spell.
We see Agnieshka's true character when she goes all alone to save her village from another of Wood’s attack. After this the story unfolds extremely fast, as Wood keeps attacking them in various ways. At one point Agnieshka goes to the city, for the trial of Kasia, and we see all of the dirty politics going on behind the scenes. People in the city depicted as arrogant, pompous and quite mean. This is not Agnieshka's cup of tea, and as a reader I could not wait for her to leave the city, I felt that she did not belong there. Tragedy after tragedy strikes the city, and Agnieshka finally flees.
From this point on I felt like fighting was the only thing going on. It was greatly described, but at one point I felt like I had too much of fighting, it was exhausting to read as the villain was only getting stronger and more brutal. Half a star of my rating got lost somewhere in all of the fighting. When the book comes to a point of Agnieshka and Dragon defeating the villain, it was not what it seemed at first. And boy did I enjoy that little twist on the story!
Another fourth of the star for me was lost in a completely unnecessary love scene. I thought that the book was extremely perfect without it, even though I understood why it was put there in the first place. It just made me feel very awkward, as I myself had somehow stumbled upon lovers and their act.