– goodreads –
I was a huge fan of Uprooted, so of course I had to pick this up in hardcover as soon as it came out and read it as soon as I could. And it’s a lovely, wintry tale; subversive yet true to its origins. Novik takes a fairytale and makes in complex, shot through with realism, but no less magical for that. It’s not “just” a retelling. It also touches upon medieval antisemitism, the position of women in their society without denying them agency, family, all in a way that makes sense within the story.
I wasn’t sorry to be leaving them. I loved nothing about the town or any of them, even now when it was at least familiar ground. I wasn’t sorry they didn’t like me, I wasn’t sorry I had been hard to them. I was glad, fiercely glad. They had wanted to bury my mother and leave my father behind to die alone. They had wanted me to go be a beggar in my grandfather’s house, and leave the rest of my life a quiet mouse in the kitchen. They would have devoured my family and picked their teeth with the bones, and never been sorry at all.
Easily the best part besides the atmosphere (nailed, of course) and beautiful writing are the characters. Especially the main three female characters. Miryem, the fiercely pragmatic moneylender. Wanda, a farmgirl who’s much smarter than she looks. Irina, a daugher of a local duke without much control over her life. Neither of them particularily strong or beautiful or inherently superspecial, but they all try to make the best of what they can do.