Agnieszka lives in a small village in the valley, bordering on the corrupted lands of the Wood. No one willingly enters the Wood, and if they are taken, they would be fortunate not to return. Those who do, come back changed, corrupted like the Wood itself, and their only hope lies within the wizard who lives in the tower. He is known only as the Dragon, and like all dragons, once every ten years, he takes a maiden from the valley. No one knows what he does with them, but they never wish to return home once their time is done.

I picked this up thinking it contained dragons, but it doesn’t, only a wizard who bears their name. It does however play with the idea of a dragon taking a tribute or sacrifice, something that is common in folklore. The Dragon keeps the villagers safe from the Wood, but only if they offer him what they need.

Uprooted is firmly rooted in Slavic fairy tales and folklore. The Wood is a living, sentient thing, malicious in its actions. It is the thing that the people most fear. I’m not sure if the heart wood trees are something that have been around in folklore for a long time or if it’s borrowed from A Song of Fire and Ice, however these trees are not ones you would pray to. The idea of being trapped in a tree for months, years, but still alive is terrifying.

Traditionally, trees played an important part in Slavic religions, before Christianity came along. Each village would have a sacred tree, but they would also believe that some trees contained malevolent spirits. Baba Yaga is one of the best known characters from Slavic mythology and she gets a nod here, even if she isn’t in the story. Witches were always feared and here they have respect, perhaps out of fear, but do good for the land.

Agnieszka’s first forays into magic do not go well and the Dragon exasperates over her. As her abilities grow, it becomes clear that her magic is more organic in nature rather than the more academic style the registered wizards and witches prefer. Agnieszka has raw, unstructured magic, rather like the Wood perhaps.

Kasia is the girl everyone expects to be chosen by the Dragon. She has spent her whole life knowing what her fate will be and being groomed by her parents. She’s Agnieszka’s best friend and they worry about being separated. Kasia seems like the perfect fairy tale maiden but her role grows and grows, and she becomes a much more interesting character.

I liked the theme of being attached to a place, despite its dangers. And the walkers are basically giant stick insects but actually made out of wood. They were one of my favourite bits, and I don’t want to give too much away, but I loved their closing scene. It’s amazing how much a creature can evolve during a story, without it being the focus.

Uprooted is published by Tor and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 21st May 2015. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.