Uprooted by Naomi Novik (2015) is a fairy tale that takes place in what is probably Poland in a time that is probably the Middle Ages. It features a few powerful wizards, at least two equally powerful witches, and just a little bit of sex. Uprooted is also – unlike most of its historical fantasy fiction peers – a standalone novel. Told from the perspective of the main character herself, but some time later in her life, you’ll immediately be drawn into the story of The Dragon and The Maiden.
Agnieszka is a strong girl who grows up to be a powerful, intelligent, compassionate woman and whose life drives the plot forward. Novik writes with ease and honesty, delving deep into her heroine’s psyche without completely drowning the narrative. It’s a long book, and there were moments in the middle where I struggled to stay continually invested in the plot because, for me, the main villain’s motive wasn’t apparent. It definitely wasn’t enough to make me consider not finishing the book, I just had to allow some room for disbelief while reading. Nevertheless, there is wit and humor and it’s easy to see why Uprooted is becoming a modern classic in fantasy.
I highly recommend Uprooted (especially the audiobook!) to anyone who likes fairy tales and fairy tale re-tellings, readers who love Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy, and people looking for fantasy with strong female characters and a diverse(ish) cast.
Cover image from https://lovelyowlsbooks.com/post/170535159936