|Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik|
|Category | Genre||Adult | High fantasy|
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
“A spellbinding fantasy inspired by Polish folklore meets fairytale.”
Uprooted is one of those rare books that fifty pages in, I know this’ll be getting at least 4-star rating. Novik had a way to weave a story with that perfect pace that kept you on your toe. It has the perfect amount of spooky and gore without being gratuitously violent.
Novik, a first-generation American, borrowed the folklore from her mother’s hometown, Poland, mixed it with fairytale – Beauty & the Beast style, and added her own twist to create a fantastic blend.
The main character, Agnieszka (Ag-Nyesh-kah), is a klutz. She cannot keep her clothes clean, and forever getting her hair messy. She also has a little of that special snowflake syndrome. Yet, I cannot help but root for Nieshka, as her BFF—Kasia—called her (pun sort of intended). She is selfless to the point of nearly suicidal and she suffered so much throughout the story, one cannot help but want her to survive and win her prince charming. The rest of the characters are quite predictable. The grumpy magician, the hot-blooded prince and his wise older brother, the cunning wizard—all of them are here and they behave just the way you expect them to. I found this to be quite alarming because everyone turned out to be exactly the kind of person the MC thought they are.
The chemistry, however, was real. I really like the strong bond between Nieshka and Kasia. It’s refreshing to see two friends who are jealous of each other, but don’t let it ruined their friendship. As for the romance, there aren’t many romantic scenes in Uprooted but what there are were put into really good use. Just saying…
The MC lived in a small village near the Wood, which was said to be the house of scary mysterious creatures. You know that book that promised to be creepy but never delivered? Uprooted is not one of them. The author succeeded in creating a spooky atmosphere in the Wood. So spooky it was that if there’s a wood near my house, I would avoid walking through it anytime soon. Fortunately, there’s not any.
Her description about the village, the Tower, and especially the Wood was not poetic but it was vivid. I also like how she described magic and casting a spell as more than speaking some gibberish in weird language, but rather something that incorporates feeling and intonation.
Plot and narrative
The narrative was perfectly paced. In this regard, I was convinced that Novik is a witch. I don’t know how she could put just the right amount of buildup and action to that point of perfect balance that kept me reading without ever feeling overwhelmed. The fact that I finished Uprooted within 24 hours of purchasing it speaks volumes.
However, there’s a problem with trying to pack so many things into 400+ pages book. At times, the plot felt ‘jumpy’. I opened a chapter to find they’re about to battle and thought, “Wait… When did this happen?” There were also some strange occurrences that were indicated to be important, but never explained.
At this point, you might be questioning my rating. Why the 4.5 if I have so many complaints?
See, the truth is I truly enjoy this book. My complaints about jumpy plot, predictable characters, etc. seem trivial when compared to my enjoyment of reading this book. Uprooted has plenty of flaws, but at the end of the day, it depends on whether or not you like the writing. If, like me, you find it delightful, then all those flaws seem highly insignificant, but if you don’t, they will likely annoy you.
4.5 stars (out of 5 stars)
Let me know, have you read Uprooted or is it on your TBR? If you have read it, do you like the book?