Captivating, magical, and honest, this is a contender for best YA Fantasy of 2015. "Uprooted" is written by award-winning author Naomi Novik, acclaimed for her alternative history/fantasy "His Majesty's Dragon." Every ten years one girl is taken to a wizard who keeps the malevolent forest from swallowing the village whole. Agnieszka, our protagonist, has heard that when the girls return every ten years, they are women, and changed. But what goes on during this ten-year service? Agnieszka is sure that her brave and beautiful friend, Kasia, will be the next to go at the upcoming Choosing. Kasia is all the things Agnieska is not. But when this wizard called "the Dragon" comes, it is not Kasia he chooses. Why?
As a lover of history, legends, and Polish fairy tales, Naomi Novik simply has the chops and talent to develop delightful, rich worlds. Since the success of Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games, dozens and dozens of adult fiction writers have tried their hand in the YA market. These attempted novels run the full spectrum of quality as you might imagine. Some are trying to make fast money while others seem well-suited for the terrain. I don't think Naomi Novik sought out to capitalize on the Young Adult market -- she simply has the solid skill set perfectly lending itself to strong, dynamic story with young characters. Throughout its pages, "Uprooted" has a humor and a thoughtful flavor absent in other YA fantasy. When Lev Grossman, Jacqueline Carey, Ursula K LeGuin, Cassandra Clare, and the great Robin Hobb call your work "vivid," "compelling," and "charming," you're in a genre you belong. The back cover is nothing but quotes of praise from other authors -- all deserved.
If you're a fantasy lover -- teen or adult -- you need to read this book. Emphasis on the word "need." It could be shelved in the adult or the YA section and engulf half the other titles in dragon flame.
Recommended by Matthew Lowder