4 / 5
"Our Dragon doesn't eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley."
“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.
I didn't see this one coming at all. Uprooted left me constantly surprised by its twists and turns. It began like a traditional fairy tale, and so the reader is lured into thinking it is going to follow a certain prescribed path, but it kept turning away from the expected into more and more adventure. While it did read somewhat slowly at times - even in the midst of nonstop action! - overall, it was a book I just kept looking forward to returning to. I really wanted to know what happened to Agnieszka and the Wood.
Again, the beginning felt tired: a young girl who doesn't realize she is anything special is selected, despite all odds, as the Chosen One. This is something every girl her age has been preparing for their entire lives. Agnieszka is whisked away to a remote tower where she is tested...in some quite unusual ways. The reader could join in with the girl's own frustration as she worked to puzzle out exactly what was expected of her. When she does figure things out, though, in many ways it's "all wrong" - this is the first of many times that the book diverges from the reader's comfortable idea of a fairy tale. But it's a great branching off, and creates a much more enjoyable story.
It's difficult to discuss this book's specifics without giving too much away, so I'll refrain from writing too much more. I will, however, add that I did think this was a YA book until I had it in my hands. There is some rather adult content in the book, which actually bothers me because otherwise it is so PG! I suppose a creative parent could read this book to an older child (I'm imagining the audience for The Princess Bride or Stardust, say) and simply gloss over the two rather unnecessarily graphic scenes (I didn't feel as if they added anything to the story, honestly). Otherwise, it's a really magical adventure story, full of sorcery and villains (some unexpected!) and monsters and castles and nature and the strong bonds of friendship. I also loved that it was steeped in a lot of Polish fairy tale history. Definitely worth the read.
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