by Naomi Novik
Original Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Length: 438 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Obtained Via: Bought
View at the Traffic light:
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.
I swear this book is enchanted, because I had the STRANGEST reading experience with it. When I was reading it, especially at the beginning, I LOVED it and wanted to sink my teeth into the words. Then, whenever I put it down, it was like getting a stubborn animal to move just to get me to pick it back up. No matter what I told myself, I did NOT want to return to this book, and I couldn’t figure out why. As the book went on, that almost flipped-flopped. I read the second half in a day and a half, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the beginning–for reasons I’ll expand on.
So, Uprooted is a standalone fantasy novel that has a very classic fairy-tale feel and atmosphere. There’s an odd wizard called the dragon who takes a girl from Agnieszka’s village every ten years, and nobody knows *quite* what he does with them, which of course is suspicious. When Agnieszka is picked over her beautiful & smart friend, she learns the dragon is not as malicious as they all feared, and bonus: she’s a witch. The dragon begins training her in magic & they have to fight the wood, which is this sentient evil forest basically. There’s a royal family and a quest and sadly, no actual dragons.
I did enjoy Uprooted over all, but I’m not IN LOVE with it like so many readers seem to be. I’m beginning to think this sub genre of “fantasy novels with creepy forest/woods” are not for me, because I had issues with this same aspect in Crimson Bound as well. While I think the creepy wood aspect of Uprooted was handled much better, it still didn’t really creep me out that much. I just don’t think there’s anything an author can do to make me scared of magical woods or forest. That being said, while it didn’t quite hold my attention, I do think Novik did a good job of showing how scared the characters were of the wood and how that fear had permeated Agnieszka’s entire life.
I found myself much more invested in the first half of this book than in the second, mostly because the dragon was a more prominent figure in the first half. Around the halfway mark, Agnieszka leaves the tower for plot reasons, and that’s where my enthusiasm waned a bit. Now, I have rarely said this in my life, but I kept reading Uprooted for the romance. It’s not typically what I read for at all, but it was my favorite part of Uprooted. I loved the grumpy dragon and clumsy & still learning Agnieszka and how they interacted. Their interactions were character gold and I was rooting for the romance SO HARD. I do feel I need to point out that the dragon is over a hundred years old because in the Uprooted world, witches and wizards live longer than others, though he still looks young. And Agnieszka is a young woman. I’ve hated this type of age difference in other books before, but I was so into their dynamic in this book that I totally did not care. Perhaps that makes me a reading hypocrite, but I’m A OK with that.
Another bonus for this book was the strong friendship between Agnieszka and Kasia. It didn’t hit me in an emotional place, like I had hoped, but I enjoyed the aspect of their friendship and how much of the plot of the book was based around that. Novik wrote all the relationships in this book well, and it’s one of the things that kept me reading and invested.
Yet. . . I dunno, at times this book was a bit of a chore to read. Would I recommend it? Yes, but it’s not a new favorite for me like I was hoping it would be. This book has been getting a lot of hype in the online book world, so maybe my expectations were too high, but I can’t help to feel a bit let down by it, especially since it lacked the emotional impact I crave my books to have.
Honestly, I’m pretty sure this is the the first time I’ve ever said this in a final impression, but: NOT ENOUGH ROMANCE. That being said, I think this is an excellently written book and I did enjoy it for the most part, though I was kinda iffy on the whole creepy woods thing. My initial rating is to give this one a 3.5 rounded up, so 4/5 cupcakes.