Uprooted, by Naomi Novik

As fantasy novels go, this is a thoroughly enjoyable one. But it's hard to write an original fantasy story these days, and if you've read enough of them, you can name all the tropes Novik tied together to create "Uprooted." We have the different kinds of magic, the young adult who doesn't know she's special until suddenly one day she is, the vain and arrogant nobility, the corrupted natural landscape. Novik's tale isn't new, but then maybe it isn't really supposed to be. Her use of Russian-like names and recognizable characters such as Baba Yaga indicates this is more of an homage to the fairy tales of old, the gruesome, twisted Brothers Grimm-type stuff. If that's the case, she does a lovely job. My only complaint with the writing is her tendency to have our heroine (through whom the story is told in first person narration) think something in her head, then another character responds to her as if she were speaking. Was she actually speaking aloud, Novik just didn't bother to put quotations around it? Are these people all slightly psychic? Is Agnieszka's face THAT transparent? It's a device used several times throughout the book, and it's rather distracting. But it's the only thing taking away from this fun, engaging fairy tale.


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