I stopped reading years ago.
I don't know why. The last book I read was BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore. I enjoyed it. The previous book in that series, FIRE, is still one of my favorite books I've ever read. Nothing about BITTERBLUE made me stop reading. I just did.
I read a lot of fanfiction. When I'm sad or anxious, fanfiction gives me what I want. I click the characters, relationships, genre, and tags I'm looking for, and there it is: the perfect story. Maybe fanfiction spoiled me. Books didn't have tags. Books were mysterious. Books were scary.
I tried to start reading again. I discarded book after book. I'd stop after the first or second chapter. A character would say or do something that annoyed me; the pacing would be off and I'd get bored.
UPROOTED is the book that broke the cycle.
What is it about this book in particular that made it possible for me to hold on until the end? It wasn't easy. The second I got annoyed or frustrated, I'd set it aside. But then the next day, I'd doggedly return to it.
At first it was the magic.
The magic of UPROOTED is unlike anything I've read before. It's chanting, whispering, singing strange, italicized words that may or may not be a real language. Words that are sharp and clear on the tongue of Agnieszka's love interest, Sarkon, but soft and fluid on her own. She tries to speak his magic and fails; he's utterly baffled by hers. There is a hazy masculine and feminine divide between these two magics that only the wizard Alosha seems to stand in opposition to. Sometimes that made me uncomfortable; sometimes it fascinated me.
Next is the Wood.
The Wood is every dark and foreboding forest that dwells at the heart of a fairytale. That makes it imminently recognizable and imminently terrifying. The horrors that occur within the Wood had me skipping frantically over sentences, too anxious to linger over details and only eager to see who would make it back out into the light alive—and still themselves.
And then there was Sarkon, and Kasia, and Solya, and all the others. I didn't always connect with Agnieszka, but I loved the people who loved her. Kasia is worthy of her own story. They all are. The death of a villain towards the end broke my heart in a way I wouldn't have anticipated. And by the end of the book, there were no villains left, if only because there had never been any in the first place.
I'm not saying I'm completely cured (no more than anyone is in this book, I suppose). For a while, I forced myself to read a chapter a day. By the end, I was reading three at once, and only stopping because my head had become too full of this story.
I suspect I would have adored this book had I been able to get my hands on it when I was a kid. It reminds me of Robin McKinley's DEERSKIN in so many ways. I think it's also a wonderful example of an adult fantasy book with a teenaged protagonist.
I recommend it to anyone who loves fairy tale retellings, feminist fantasy, and new, unexplored settings in fantasy (in this case, a sort of fantasy Poland).