by Naomi Novik
I have a soft spot for the kind of fantasy that starts with an everyman protagonist in a small village who suddenly discovers they have magical powers and goes on a grand adventure. I also have a soft spot for female protagonists -- everywomen, if you will.
Uprooted tells the story of Agnieshka, a plain, clunky young girl from a small village near The Wood. Every decade, the Dragon shows up and takes one of the young girls to his tower for mysterious purposes. Ten years later, the girl is released, but she never stays in the town. This year, Agnieshka is ready to see her best friend Kasia disappear into the Tower for what amounts to forever.
Meanwhile, the Wood lingers nearby, a fount of evil that infects anyone who wanders close enough. As Agnieshka's adventure begins, the Wood stirs to life. Kasia, some royal princes, and even other wizards get involved, and the story careens off on a magical adventure.
Honestly, this is everything Mystic should have been. It's fun but dark, and the magic system is clever and actually useful. The story of the Wood is enchanting and believable, as is our heroine's drive to save her friends and family from the dark powers in the world.
I obviously enjoyed this a lot and totally understand why Uprooted won several awards. If you enjoyed Damselle in Distress by Kiley Kellermeyer or Mystic by Jason Denzel, you'll enjoy this.