Uprooted (novel)

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Uprooted cover picture.jpg
AuthorNaomi Novik
Cover artistScott McKowen
CountryUnited States
PublisherDel Rey
Media typePrint (hardcover)

Uprooted is a 2015 high fantasy novel written by Naomi Novik.[1][2]

The book is a standalone novel, like Spinning Silver, but unlike Novik's other fantasy series.[3]


Agnieszka lives in the village of Dvernik in the kingdom of Polnya. Every ten years the local wizard (known as "the Dragon") collects one teenage girl as payment for protecting the local valley from the magical forest (the Wood) that borders it. Despite being born in a tribute year, Agnieszka does not fear being taken, as the Dragon only chooses the best and brightest girls and Agnieszka is clumsy and slovenly – as opposed to her beautiful friend Kasia, who has been groomed to be taken by the Dragon from childhood. However, at the choosing ceremony, the Dragon picks Agnieszka and abruptly brings her to the white tower where he lives.

Through notes left behind by previous girls, Agnieszka gathers that her role mostly involves performing household domestic duties for the Dragon. However, the Dragon has chosen Agnieszka because she has magical abilities, and he starts teaching her simple spells. Agnieszka finds these acts of magic difficult and unnatural to do.

As part of his duties, the Dragon is called away to deal with a Chimera. During his absence, Agnieszka notices a call for assistance coming from her village. Defying the Dragon, she escapes from the tower and returns to Dvernik, where she learns that wolves from the Wood have infected the cattle and a man. Agnieszka successfully uses magic to help destroy the cattle, only for the wolves to return and to try to kill her and Kasia. Before they can do so, the Dragon arrives and manages to save her, but not before being wounded himself. Returning them both to the tower, Agnieszka manages to save the Dragon's life after she intuits a spell from a notebook (written by the witch Jaga) which the Dragon had previously believed to be useless. Recognizing that Agnieszka's powers differ from his own, the Dragon reluctantly allows Agnieszka to teach herself the more intuitive magic that Jaga used.

Kasia gets captured by creatures from the Wood. Knowing that no one can return from the forest alive, the Dragon writes Kasia off as dead. However, Agnieszka uses her magic to locate the girl, where she is half-entombed in a tree that is feeding off her flesh, and to extract her. However, the Wood has corrupted Kasia, and the Dragon tells Agnieszka that her friend must be killed. He agrees to put off the execution, though. Agnieszka hits upon the idea of using a summoning spell to see if there is anything of Kasia still left in her body. She and the Dragon combine their magic and manage to free the girl's mind.

News of Kasia spreads far and wide, bringing Prince Marek and his wizard, the Falcon, to the Dragon's tower. Once they realize that Kasia is no longer under the spell of the Wood they order the Dragon to go into the forest to retrieve the prince's mother, who ran away twenty years earlier. Agnieszka, Kasia, the Dragon, Prince Marek, the Falcon and a search party of thirty soldiers go into the Wood. Walkers and Mantises slaughter the troops but the party manages to free the Queen, who acts as if in a coma. The Dragon wants to use the opportunity to destroy the weakened Wood once and for all, but the Prince brings his mother and Kasia back to court so that they may prove they are free of the Wood's corruption. Agnieszka goes with them to testify. After some reluctance, she gains certification as a witch and meets other witches and wizards. However, things quickly go awry. The Queen speaks at her trial to cast blame on Rosya, the rival state to Polnya. A wizard is transformed into a hideous creature and slays the King before being slain himself. The Queen then manipulates her oldest son into going to war against Rosya, where he is ambushed and killed, and then traitor soldiers murder the Crown Prince's wife, intending to kill his children as well. Instead, Agnieszka and Kasia grab the children and flee to the Dragon's tower. The Dragon has been joined by a baron prepared to help protect the children against Prince Marek and the Queen. The Queen, Marek, and the Falcon arrive at the Dragon's tower and engage in a violent battle. Just before the Queen is about to kill her grandchildren, Agnieszka has a vision and realizes that the Queen has been inhabited by the Wood Queen, who hundreds of years ago was bricked alive by her subjects in what is now the Dragon's tower. Kasia tries to kill the Queen but ultimately fails, though she does manage to drive her back to the forest.

Though the Dragon is satisfied to send the heirs away and to continue to slowly battle the forest, Agnieszka convinces him to go with her to defeat the forest once and for all. They come upon a glade of heart trees and try to burn the one in which the Wood Queen is entombed. She defeats both Agnieszka and the Dragon and forces Agnieszka into the trunk of the oldest tree. Once again Agnieszka has a vision of the past where she learns that the Wood Queen was part of a group of magical people who lived in the forest. She married a human king, however, once he died his people turned on the wood people, causing them to choose to become trees in order to protect themselves. After they failed to kill the Wood Queen she returned to her people only to find them turned into trees and in a misguided effort to protect them, began feeding human people to the trees. Agnieszka succeeds in escaping from the tree and tells the Wood Queen to heal the tree of her sister with her own body. The Dragon remains skeptical that this will keep the forest in check. He decides however to go to the Polnya court in the city of Kralia to help free it of the corrupting influences that have taken root there – though Agnieszka suspects him of running from his feelings for her.

A year later Agnieszka has managed to tame the Walkers who now help her in burning corrupted trees and in planting new, good trees. At the local harvest, the Dragon returns to collect his taxes – though Agnieszka knows he has actually returned for her.


Uprooted won the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Novel,[4] the 2016 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel,[5] and the 2016 Mythopoeic Award in the category Adult Literature.[6] It was also nominated for the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel.[7]


  • Agnieszka, the protagonist
  • Kasia, Agnieszka's best friend, who everyone expected would be selected by the Dragon
  • Prince Marek, a son of the King of Polnya
  • Sarkan, "The Dragon",[8] the wizard residing near Agnieszka's village
  • Solya, "The Falcon", a wizard known for his "far sight" magic
  • Alosha, "The Sword", the warrior wizard
  • Father Ballo, "The Owl," the monk wizard
  • Ragostok, "The Splendid", jewelry making wizard (great-grandson of Alosha)
  • Queen Hanna, the Queen of Polnya, captured by the Wood 20 years ago
  • The Wood: an ancient forest


  • Polnya and Rosya, two rival kingdoms.
  • Dvernik, the village where Agnieszka and Kasia live. It is near to The Wood.
  • The Wood, a doomed forest between the borders of Polnya and Rosya, full of deadly animals and strange creatures.
  • Porosna, a village lost in the wood.
  • Kralia, the capital of Polnya.
  • Dragon Tower, Sarkan´s home. The tower protects the valley and it is built over the ruins of an ancient civilization.
  • The Spindle, a river that flows along the valley and disappears deep into The Wood.

Cultural references[edit]

The book, owing to the author's mother being Polish, contains a number of references to the Polish culture. Most Polnyan characters bear Polish names, including the protagonist whose name references a story Agnieszka Skrawek Nieba (Agnieszka Piece of Sky) by Natalia Gałczynska, as explained in the Acknowledgements. Baba Jaga is a common boogeyman in Slavic folklore. The rival nation of Polnya, Rosya, shares its pronunciation with the Polish word for Russia, Rosja. The 'birthday song about living a hundred years' to the melody of which Agnieszka chants the spell which cures the Dragon of corruption is the Polish birthday song Sto lat, literally 'one hundred years'. The lyrics of another song quoted in the book, 'about the spark on the hearth, telling its long stories', are a translation of a part of a bedtime song Bajka iskierki (or, Z popielnika na Wojtusia) by Janina Porazińska. At the final feast, Agnieszka tastes zhurek which is a phonetic spelling of an Eastern European soup known in Poland as żurek.


In 2015, Warner Brothers purchased the rights to make a movie adaptation of Uprooted and assigned Ellen DeGeneres to produce it.[9]


  1. ^ Kallam, Clay (2015-08-25). "Worlds Beyond: Naomi Novik's 'Uprooted' will have readers rooted". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2015-09-18.
  2. ^ Valentine, Genevieve (2015-05-28). "Science Fiction and Fantasy". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-09-18.
  3. ^ Giltz, Michael (2015-05-20). "BookFilter Exclusive: Naomi Novik On Her Acclaimed New Fantasy Novel 'Uprooted'". BookFilter. Retrieved 2015-09-18.
  4. ^ "Nebula Awards 2015 Winners". Nebula Awards. Retrieved 2020-03-01.
  5. ^ "2016 Locus Awards Winners". Locus Online News. Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  6. ^ "Mythopoeic Awards: 2016 Winners Announced". The Mythopoeic Society. Retrieved 2016-08-09.
  7. ^ 2016 Hugo Awards at TheHugoAwards.org; retrieved February 6, 2017
  8. ^ Shawl, Nisi (2015-05-26). "'Uprooted': the spellbinding power of truth". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2015-09-18.
  9. ^ Kit, Borys (2015-06-08). "Ellen DeGeneres to Produce Adaptation of Naomi Novik's Fantasy Novel 'Uprooted' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-09-18.