Naomi Novik’s Uprooted isn’t part of her Napoleonic dragon series, it’s… um, I’m not sure what it is, actually. I was going to say “a dark fairy tale retelling,” except that I don’t think it’s actually based on a fairy tale (though it certainly brings in Polish fairy tale elements), and it doesn’t quite read like one either.
The more I think about it, the more I think it’s actually an epic fantasy, though that’s not exactly right. An epic fairy tale? I don’t know if that’s a real thing, but let’s go with it.
So, the book starts off with our heroine, Agnieszka, in her little village waiting for a mysterious tower-dwelling wizard to come and claim one of the girls from her village. I think it probably does not count as a spoiler to say that she doesn’t just go home peacefully afterward and settle down to a life of villaging.
But while that much might be obvious, the book doesn’t go where you’d expect—it seems like it’s going to be one type of story, and then becomes something else; then, once you think you see what it’s going to do next, it becomes another thing altogether; and then, just when you think you’ve finally figured out what it’s building toward… you’re basically right, and it goes on from there in relatively predictable (though satisfying) ways.
There are lots of things to like about this book. The Polish-esque setting works well, the characters are well-drawn, it has a truly creepy villain, and it has the same sense of pace and momentum as Novik’s Temeraire books. Recommended.