Location: FIC NOV
"Enchanting in every sense" Robin Hobb
This fantasy is one part Polish folk tale, one part coming-of-age magical fantasy, and one part horror. The main character is Agnieszka, a 17 year old village girl who is chosen by the local wizard, called the Dragon, to be his servant for ten years, the latest in a long string of local girls who each serve the wizard for a decade, emerging at the end somehow changed. Agnieszka turns out to be both more and less than the Dragon expected, with powerful but rather uncontrolled magic of a nature that no one alive has ever seen before, and they both become deeply embroiled in the Dragon's ongoing battle against the Wood.
Everyone fears the Wood. It encroaches on the valley further each year, or tries to. Those who go into it never are seen again, or worse, they emerge corrupted, evil and murderous. Sometimes it sends out wolves whose bites will kill or corrupt, or huge walking stick monsters that kidnap villagers and take them into the Wood.
Uprooted is beautifully written, with an unusual setting and a great set of characters, realistic and flawed but admirable. There's a wonderful, touching, layered relationship between Nieszka and her friend, Kasia. It explores good and evil, love for friends, family and nation, and other complex themes in a nuanced way. One of my favorite fantasy reads this year.
Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years.