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Reading Naomi Novik's delightful fantasy Uprooted is an enchantment all itself - I could scarcely put it down until I had read it through completely, and its memory stayed with me for some time afterwards.

On first glance, it appears to be a standard sort of fairytale, with peasant girls and wizards in towers and lost queens and heroic princes and ancient curses lurking in the deep woods. But it is much more than that. It is a story of an young woman coming unexpectedly into great power and great responsibility, and how she learns to carry both with grace and humility and confidence. It is also about the true sources of evil, in the fear and greed of humans. And it is about roots of all kinds, finding them, losing them, growing them, mourning them, nurturing them.

It is the story of Agnieszka, who lives in a village near the dark and forboding Wood, and Sarkan the Dragon, a human wizard, who once every ten years takes a seventeen-year-old girl from the area to live in his tower. Kasia, Agnieszka’s best friend, is the girl that everyone expects to be taken, because she is beautiful and talented and everything a young woman should be, unlike Agnieszka, who is untidy and awkward and a tomboy. But when the day arrives for the choosing, the Dragon takes Agnieszka, because he recognizes that she can do magic, and he like every wizard knows that an untrained witch must be taught to use her powers.

However, in choosing Agnieszka and making her his apprentice, Sarkan has taken the first step toward the ultimate battle in the centuries-long struggle with the force that dwells in the heart of the Wood, a force which seeks to bring corruption to all the world if it is not stopped.

I loved this story.

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