Uprooted is the best book I’ve read this year. I was torn between trying to make it last, and devouring it as fast as possible because I just could not put it down. The former won, barely; this book was such a pleasure to read that it would have been a shame to wolf it down. (And when I finished, and saw there was nothing in my to-read pile that could possibly compare, I started over and read the best parts again.)

Uprooted is a fantasy novel with a fairy-tale feel. Once every ten years, the local wizard picks a girl and takes her to his tower. This time, to everyone’s great surprise, Agnieszka is picked, instead of the beautiful, brave, kind, smart girl that everybody was sure would be picked – because the wizard sees that Agnieszka has the power to learn magic. The book is about Agnieszka’s growth as a person and a witch, and her and the wizard’s struggle against the corrupting powers of the nearby Wood.

Agnieszka’s magic turns out to be very different from the wizard’s. His is disciplined and beautifully ordered; hers is intuitive and organically growing. I was glad to see that those differences were not because she was doing explained by her gender but by her background. She wasn’t doing “girl magic” but “country magic” – the city witches are as appalled by her magic as the wizard. He is not the least bit happy when they discover that they can achieve the most by combining their magic. I loved the beautiful, fascinating descriptions of their magic spells and their battles with the Wood.

I was also glad to see that this story was driven forward by a deep and surprisingly complex friendship between two young women, rather than a love relationship (although there is one of those as well). The love relationship is the one problematic part of the book – thoughts of Stockholm syndrome come to mind.

But the entire book is such a pure joy to read so I blinded myself to that problematic aspect of it and kept going. Every word, every phrase is perfect and fits just so, and no other word could possibly take its place. I found myself trying those words in my mouth, or reading some phrase again just for the feeling of it.

Some events you see coming a mile away. Of course it is obvious from page one that the wizard will pick Agnieszka. For me, that predictability was part of the fairy-tale charm of the book. Just like when reading a fairy tale you simply know that the heroine will survive all the challenges on her way, and that knowing doesn’t take away any part of the pleasure of reading the tale. You know that she will find a way to do exactly the thing that the oh-so-wise say is impossible, and that she will find a way to put an end to evil not by killing and destroying it but by turning it around.