Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Once every ten years, a village girl of seventeen is selected by the wizard in the tower known as the Dragon. Everyone believes the beautiful Kasia will be chosen, not her best friend, the plain Agnieszka whose only talent is finding things like blackberries near the dangerous, corrupted Wood. But when Anieska is able to hold a ball of fire in her hand, cool as marble, the Dragon begrudgingly takes her as his apprentice. In the tower, the Dragon tries to teach basic spells to help her do ordinary tasks like improve her cooking or keep her clothes clean. But looking through the immense library, Agnieszka finds a spell book by an old witch of legend, Jaga, whose form isn’t formulaic and precise like the Dragon’s. Agnieszka learns to seek the weak or damaged places and reinforce or remove them, her magic a complement to what already exists, even bolstering the Dragon’s magic. Together, the young, compelling apprentice and the ancient master must battle the corruption the Wood is sending not only to the village, but even to the palace, and aid the Prince in an attempt to rescue his mother, lost for twenty years. Filled with the beautiful poetry of magic and the thrilling dangers of corruption, Uprooted is a saga for anyone who’s ever wondered what became of the beauty who lived in a tower with a Dragon sorcerer.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why did the people of the village fear the Dragon so much, despite all he’d done to protect them, especially from the Wood?
  2. Why did the Dragon not choose Kasia? What evidence was there, and even later in the tower, that Agnieszka had the gift?
  3. Linrintalem was the first spell the Dragon taught Agnieszka. What did it do to her cooking, and with what others did she practise in the beginning?
  4. What did the prince assume Agnieszka was taken for? But what was her true purpose, and how did the Dragon treat her, as opposed to how the prince did? Why was the Dragon still hard on her?
  5. How did corruption torment a person, and the Wood consume them with it, such as was happening with Jerzey? Was it better for a person long-corrupted to die?
  6. The Dragon used one form of magic, and followed it along a certain path. But Agnieszka thought about the rhythm and less about the words. How was it for her like gleaning in the woods, picking her way “through the thickets and the trees, different every time”?
  7. How did their different styles of magic make it difficult for her to follow him in the beginning, and how did her type complement his when creating the rose?
  8. What was the danger of the Wood being in Kasia when she was in the Dragon’s tower, other than just the obvious threat of corruption?
  9. The Dragon had originally thought Agnieszka a healer, and tried to initially train her as one, but what was she really? Is there a word for her type of magic?
  10. Was the problem with the queen that you couldn’t heal absence? Had she merely been in the wood too long for redemption?
  11. Wizards ordinarily took seven years of study before asking to be admitted to the list. Why was Agnieszka asking for it after only a year? Why didn’t the other wizards believe her to be worthy or to have enough command of magic to join them, initially?
  12. Why did everyone at court desire to hear Agnieszka’s version of the battle in the woods, and why did she recoil from that memory and refuse to speak of it?
  13. Why had Alicja gone to the trouble of talking to Agnieszka and “befriending” her just to mock her? Why was that something beyond Nieshka’s comprehension, and how did that color the way she perceived everyone at court?
  14. “Magic may extend the senses…amplify the voice, or conceal it in a nut to emerge later” but what could it not do, particularly with Agnieszka’s voice or visage, which she desired and had to resort to a magic mirror for instead?
  15. Alosha told Nieshka that she was “too young to be as strong as you are… you haven’t let go of people. When you’ve seen a century of your own go by, you’ll have more sense.” What sense was she lacking that Alosha had?
  16. The power in the Wood wasn’t “some blind, hating beast; it can think and plan and work towards its own ends. It can see into the hearts of men, all the better to poison them.” How did the poison spread so efficiently, especially in the hearts of humans? How did this make it so much more dangerous to battle against?
  17. Why wasn’t the Summoning meant to be cast alone? How was it related to the statement “truth didn’t mean anything without someone to share it with; you could shout truth into the air forever, and spend your life doing it, if someone didn’t come and listen” ?
  18. How did the wood make people into weapons against one another, until all of them were dead and it “could creep over their bodies”?
  19. Why did Sarkan, the Dragon, really take girls from the Valley to train in magic? Was it out of duty and obedience to the King? Or did he have a greater motive?
  20. What objects and characters in this story bear resemblance to the fairy tale of beauty and the beast? What are the differences?

The Recipe

In the tower kitchen, there were “drawers of spices that smelled like Midwinter cake” and Agnieszka baked an apple with the spices for the Dragon. When he taught her to use magic to improve her cooking, the baked apple was replaced by “a tartlet full of apples sliced paper-thin, glazed over with honey.” During the battle in his tower, Sarkan brought back a sealed glass jar full of cherries in syrup for he and Nieshka to eat, deep wine-red sour cherries from the orchards outside Viosna. To Agnieszka, they tasted of home, and the valley’s slow magic resting in them.

Apple Cider Cherry Apple Pie Bites

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 medium Gala apples, peeled and diced small
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 tbsp salted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tbsp cold salted butter
  • 1/4 cup pitted, jarred dark red cherries, diced, NOT maraschino cherries
  • 3-4 tbsp cherry juice, from jar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp water, at room temperature
  • 1/3-1/2 cup ice water
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, one tablespoon of sugar, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Place the butter on top and use a pastry cutter to mix the butter in until it resembles small crumbs. Then add the water, one tablespoon at a time, and mix by hand. You may need a bit more or less water than listed, just make sure it is icy cold. When the dough is fully combined, roll into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  2. Cook 2 tablespoons of butter and diced apples in a nonstick pot over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes on one side, then turn to prevent burning. Add the apple cider, one tablespoon of sugar, one teaspoon of cinnamon, and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the apples are soft. Combine the cornstarch and two tablespoons of water in a small bowl and add to the apples. Heat on medium-high until the mixture begins to boil. Then add the cherry juice and diced cherries. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Spray a mini cupcake tin liberally with nonstick cooking spray. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface and cut into small circles just slightly larger than the holes of the tin, using a small cup. Then place each round in each hole of the tin and press down gently. Fill each dough round with about a half tablespoon of cooked apple and cherry filling. Don’t fill them above the line of the tin or they will boil over. Bake for 20 minutes, then allow to cool 5-10 minutes before devouring. Top with a little whipped cream if you’d like.

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Similar Reads

Naomi Novik’s Temeraire Series begins with His Majesty’s Dragon, a story about a young captain in the Napoleonic wars who confiscates a dragon’s egg on board a captive ship, and bonds with the dragon Temeraire to help in the war of Britain versus France.

Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia McKillip also contains a girl who is forced to be “crammed into a room full of old, ragged-edged books with not even an arrow-slit window for air” deep in the bowels of a castle. But Nepenthe discovers there an ancient book that translates an old fairy tale about a conqueror and his magician and how they claimed the entire known world for their kingdom. She is also befriended by a wizard from the neighboring floating school of magic, and together they unravel the connection between the old text and a rising threat to the current kingdom.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince both involve witches and wizards learning about new ways to cast spells and the power a small book can have to reveal the past and change the present.

Other books that are modern retelling of children’s fairy tales are Wintersong, about the Goblin King who takes a girl captive to be his queen of the underground, or Briar Rose by Jane Yolen, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Beauty by Robin McKinley, Poison by Sarah Pinborough, or Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley Cartwright.

© 2017 Amanda Leitch

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