5 Glowing stars!
"You intolerable lunatic."
What? Uh, maybe I should start at the beginning.
In Uprooted, Naomi Novik introduces us to Agnieszka's (try saying that three times fast) world, where The Dragon (he's actually human), comes to take a girl every 10 years. No, it's not your normal, "oh he eats her or sacrifices her" type of ordeal. In fact, he releases the girls after 10 years and they go on to live happy lives. Everyone knows that Kasia, Agnieszka's best friend, will be taken. She is beautiful, smart, and talented. That's not what happens. It is Agnieszka (also called Nieshka) who is taken. Things are rough at first, but The Dragon and Nieshka slowly form a trusting bond and determine to fight the Wood which plagues and poisons the land and people.
This story was an honest-to-God delight to read. The world building is well thought out but doesn't take too long where readers of light high fantasy want to bang their heads against the walls waiting for the story to actually begin. Novik weaves the story of the world along with the adventure which makes it a delight to read.
There is also character growth in not just one, but whole characters! THREE!!!
Nieshka starts out as a whiney brat with no courage to a woman who everyone grows to respect. The so-long isolated Dragon slowly learns to lean on others and stop shirking responsibility when the going gets tough. Dear Kasia, learns how to deal with not being the chosen one and finding a new worthy goal in life. All three characters make mistakes and realize the consequences together. We slowly see them grow from their mistakes and become wonderful, (but not perfect) individuals.
What I really liked was the relationship between Nieshka and The Dragon. They trusted each other, but weren't afraid to believe in their own-selves and be independent characters outside of the people they relied on. Also, it wasn't a typical romance story. The Dragon isn't really good with compliments, but instead calls Nieshka... well, lets just say he has a vast spectrum of insults on hand. A few of my favorite to name:
1. "Don't waste my time you outrageous idiot."
2. "You intolerable lunatic."
3. "You useless imbecile."
4. "You're proving to be a remarkable paragon of incompetence."
It's so fresh in a male main character. *sigh* *swoon*
Penultimately, the qualms. There was a point, where I felt Nieshka isolated herself too much when she was away at court. She refuses to get an official *spoiler* name bestowed on her. I would have liked to know how she looked in the eyes of the higher ups and mentors above her.
Also, I could never understand how Nieshka's gift worked. She was able to learn what it took others in a life time and it was never explained. She never made irreparable mistakes as others before her did. Everything just seemed to work for her. That's not how fostering a talent works and it aggravated me to no end. Other than these two points, I had no qualms with the book whatsoever.
A full, well-deserved five stars. I wish I could get amnesia so I could read it for the first time again. Highly recommended for all Fantasy readers of above 16 because it does get complicated at times. Anything I read next will be an utter failure compared to Uprooted. It is a great stand alone, but how I wish it wasn't! Be still my beating heart!