Uprooted by Naomi Novik

So I'm actually going to start this review with the description that made me buy the book. I was listening to my favorite podcast, WRITING EXCUSES (It's really good! Brian Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Dan Wells talk about craft once a week!) and every episode they recommend a book.

Brian Sanderson picked Uprooted & here's what he had to say: "It's a dark fairytale retelling of a fairytale I've never heard before. Naomi may have made it up. I intend to ask her. It's Polish. The whole thing is themed very Poland. You never feel like... It never says we're in Poland, but the names, the setting, and everything, you're like, "Wow. I'm in Eastern Europe." It's really cool. It feels very authentic. What they're eating, what they're talking about. It's the story... It starts off with a woman talking about the wizard... Or the Dragon. I'm sorry. Who is actually a wizard. Dragon is his title. She's like, "Our Dragon doesn't eat people, but he does require a sacrifice now and then." Something like that. This young woman ends up being the sacrifice that's sent to his tower. Apparently the reason for that sacrifice is so he'll have someone to clean for him. So I'm sure she started with a story about a dragon eating people as a sacrifice and she turned it into Dragon as a title of a wizard. Every wizard has a ranking, this wizard requires the young woman as a sacrifice but instead she goes there and starts doing all this stuff. He has mysterious reasons for wanting her, but it turns out she starts learning magic from him unexpectedly both to him and to her. She has a very different style of magic than his own. The story is fantastic. It is... It doesn't go where I was expecting it from that opening. I had a blast reading it."

(quote taken from the 10:24 transcript here: http://wetranscripts.livejournal.com/103477.html)

So I went out and bought UPROOTED immediately, of course. Everything about that description is catnip to me. Wizard needs a sacrifice? The sacrifice is forced into drudgery and servitude but turns out to be a wizard herself? It's exactly the kind of shifting power relationship I like.

Also, the wizard is a TYPE I very much like: grumpy and irascible and solitary and fussy, an intellectual with poor social skills and a very scary side.

UPROOTED reminded me very much of a Robin McKinley book, both in the tone (really rich descriptions, maintains a high degree of emotional intensity throughout) and in some of its themes; i.e., a dark fairytale about a young woman who gains confidence and self-knowledge while battling monsters and maybe falling in love.

I don't want to say too much else--the initial premise really only lasts through the first few chapters, things go on from there, and it's nice to be surprised--but I devoured the book in a single sitting.

Recommended!