Title: Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Published: May 19, 2015
Read as: Audio from Audible
Average Goodreads rating: 4.09
My rating: 3
“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.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
If you don’t want a man dead, don’t bludgeon him over the head repeatedly.
Sigh. Earlier this year I read Novik’s Spinning Silver and fell absolutely in love with the book. I loved the writing style, the immersive settings, and the depth of the characters throughout their development. Most people I have chatted with about that book told me in no uncertain terms that Uprooted was far superior and that I would be blown away.
So, of course, being a person completely susceptible to bookish hype, I made room in my TBR and started reading this book with enthusiasm in my heart.
Sadly that enthusiasm soon waned.
Within the first chapter or two of this book I could feel the same immersive settings and complex characters that I had found love with in Spinning Silver but that quickly changed.
Once Agnieszka is taken by the Dragon back to his tower things came to a grinding halt. Agnieszka herself is a moderately interesting character with her flaws on full display without shame. I liked that about her. She didn’t try to hide what could be considered unattractive traits behind a mask and made no apologies for them. That is where my interest in her ended. She never became more interesting than her flaws.
The Dragon himself did not at any point appeal to me. He was openly verbally abusive and always thought himself better than those around him. Later in the story he is painted as a romantic interest but by that time I already disliked him enough that it didn’t feel true. He seemed to only care about Agnieszka for her magical abilities and not for who she was a person. Verbal and emotional abuse is not attractive, no matter how it is delivered or for what reasons.
While I enjoyed the relatively slow moving plot in Spinning Silver I just couldn’t get on board with the pace in Uprooted. We were nearly halfway through the book before anything of any interest happened and when it finally did it felt like it came out of left field. I didn’t understand the pace change and the very sudden and jumpy character development of Agnieszka. It didn’t feel true and left me even more disjointed from the story.
The saving grace of this book, and why I gave it three stars instead of two, is what is essentially the big battle towards the end. The fight and the reasons behind the Big Bad are finally explained and it makes much of the story make a great deal more sense. However, by that time, I was already mentally over the book so it didn’t improve my opinion that much.
This story failed to find its intended audience with me although I still appreciate Novik’s writing style. I’ll certainly pick up a book from her again although Uprooted is not a story I will ever find myself revisiting.
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