UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It wasn’t that I wanted a husband or a baby; I didn’t, or rather, I only wanted them the way I wanted to live to be a hundred: someday, far off, never thinking about the particulars. But they meant life: she was living, and I wasn’t. Even if I came somehow out of the Wood alive again, I’d never have what she had.

This is a story about Nieshka finding in her the strength to change not only her world, but the entire realm. While it cautiously blinks at the Beauty and the Beast, this story remains entirely its own.

Once every ten years, the Dragon comes to the village to choose a new woman to serve him. The villagers have no choice in the matter, nor can they decide whom he takes with him. Kasia spends her entire life believing she will be chosen. The Dragon always chooses the most special among the young women. Her mother trains her her entire life to be his servant. However, this is not her story. Instead, the Dragon chooses Kasia’s best friend: a frumpy, messy, untalented girl named Nieshka. This is a story about how the most unlikely person can become the most extraordinary when put to the test.

The Dragon is not pleased with Nieshka: she is strong-willed, stubborn, and fearless even as he terrifies her. Forced to choose Nieshka because of circumstances outside his control, he attempts to guide the wayward girl. However she is the one who ends up teaching him to bend his rigid beliefs and understand that not everything can fit so nicely in books and experiments.

In the middle of these two unlikely companions is the Wood. A toxic and monstrous creature, the Wood seeks to annihilate all human life. It is a living, breathing entity. It conspires to destroy. No kingdom is safe. No altruistic move is wise. The Wood sends unimaginable creatures to kidnap humans to feed its advance. It hungers. It feeds. It is never satisfied.

After a series of horrors are visited among the village that was Neishka’s home. She ventures out to save what she can of the people she loves. But nothing is without a price. And her choices leave both herself and the Dragon blackmailed into very human machinations. Human machinations that may ultimately give the Wood exactly what it wants: destruction of every human everywhere.

All those stories must have ended the same way, with someone tired going home from the field full of death, but no one ever want this part.

Even as the Dragon and Neishka grow closer, they are torn apart. Fighting wars against both man and Wood, they will need to choose who to trust and what to believe. If they choose wrong, the race of man will end.

A well-developed story with beautifully crafted narrative: Uprooted will not disappoint. The characters are intriguing and complex. The plot is well-developed and unique. This is a retelling that comes into its own. So why not 5 stars? Simply put, thought complex and we’ll rounded, I found the characters annoying.

The Dragon is a hoity toity prick who looks down on those around him. He verbally abused Neishka and refuses to explain anything to her. He leaves her believing that he is sucking the life out of her for his experimentation. He is arrogant and selfish. He believes that because he knows something that it is common knowledge. He steals women from their homes and then is affronted that they believe he has I’ll intentions. He abandons Neishka more than once and has zero imagination. He is a prick.

Neishka is whiny at first. While I admit that she does a great job growing out of the whining and into a woman of character, she constantly ignores sound advice and ends up making a hash of things. She is brave when it comes to the Wood but a complete coward when it comes to humans. She is kind and loving, but she makes the right decisions too late to save people. It is aggravating.