Magic as Personality: Subversion in Uprooted

I still have Uprooted on the brain because, like I said the last time, it's really good. It's an interesting story in part because of how it juggles the familiar with the unfamiliar, giving the reader a lot of material that gives them the comfort of something they know while providing enough subversion in each case to keep things very interesting. Uprooted gives the appearance of a lot of familiar stories, particularly fairy tale ones. There's a smattering of Beauty and the Beast here, a dollop of princess in the tower there, a smidge of an evil sorcerer, something of Paris and Helen, a bit of magical boarding school, a little royal court hijinks, and -- since this is Naomi Novik after all -- dragons. I don't want to spoil anything above the cut, so -- page 1 reveal that the dragon is not a real dragon aside -- I won't say too much, but suffice it to say that each of these familiar tropes gets a bit of a twist in the telling, and part of the joy of reading Uprooted is seeing Novik's awareness of her material through these twists.

One area I particularly enjoyed having my expectations toyed with is the book's magic system. I always like seeing how magic systems are constructed (and writers and readers alike are pretty invested; just see Brandon Sanderson's firstsecond, and third laws of magic for a taste). Sanderson, his own works wildly popular, has created something like a magical physics in his Cosmere universe. One of the more popular magic systems I've seen lately also draws on the principles of physics: Patrick Rothfuss's magic as conservation of energy system in his Kingkiller Chronicles. Novik's magic, with words of power, rituals, potions, and so on, feels more old-school than these, more familiar. But it's not quite so simple. Note: There are some spoilers after the cut.

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