Book Review : Uprooted

Book Review : UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik
Published by Del Rey on May 19th 2015
Pages: 435
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“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.

When I first heard about Uprooted, I was expecting it to be like Dragon Rose by Christina Pope, which was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but with a dragon as the beast! Perhaps I set myself up for disappointment, but I couldn’t seem to like this book as much as Dragon Rose and even struggled to get through it. It really didn’t help that the Dragon of the book was not actually a dragon at all. And I just couldn’t get past the main character Agnieszka’s specialness and the descriptions of her magic, even though I enjoyed the unique aspects of the story at the same time.


I felt pretty letdown when I realized the “Dragon” taking a girl into his tower every 10 years wasn’t even a dragon. Instead, he was just a super crotchety semi-immortal wizard, who really didn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities except being a skilled wizard. And he couldn’t seem to say anything nice to the main character, but I was able to forgive him of that, because I really didn’t like her much either. I don’t really enjoy when characters are so special and unique in their unive­rse that I can’t relate to them at all, and that is definitely the case with Agnieszka. Despite their personality hang-ups, I did sort of enjoy the developing romance between the Dragon and Agnieszka. Admittedly, their romance was more like two societal misfits who found that their magic complimented each other, with their attraction simply being byproduct of that magic, and not real romantic or sentimental feelings.


On the other hand, Agnieszka’s relationship with her friend Kasia, whom she saved from her ensnarement from the very heart of the evil Wood, was absolutely solid and interesting. The dynamic of their entire friendship was forever changed when Agnieszka, and not Kasia, was chosen by the Dragon to be taken into the tower, but the two remained true friends through it all. Agnieszka’s determination to save her friend from not only the Wood and its possession and the changes it wrought for Kasia, but also execution for assumed corruption, was the true standout relationship in the book to me, and not that of the Dragon’s and Agnieszka’s.


Despite not being thrilled with the romance and the lack of a real dragon, I had to give author Naomi Novik props for creating such an original work, one that wasn’t actually like Dragon Rose at all. I was surprised by the way Novik set up what seemed like a typical fairy tale retelling, only to break down the walls, and turn it into something else instead. The evil and insidious entity, the Wood, and its ability to set traps for the main characters was really interesting and not something I had read before. And Novik deftly made the trip into the eerie Wood feel like a march towards death.  The heartwood trees, their fruit, and the Walkers were extremely well-written and menacing. Who would have thought to make an ever-growing Wood, with roots all over the world, the main evil of the book? It was truly an inspired idea and the mere thought of getting stuck in one of those evil heartwood trees was truly fearful.


But it was the parts of Uprooted not featuring the omnipresent Wood with which I had issues. Descriptions of the main character’s magic, along with her journey to the castle, felt super boring after the harrowing fight in the Wood. I found myself skimming through the descriptions of the character’s magic, utterly sick of hearing long descriptions about Agnieszka’s song magic and what folk song she plucked it from and what it meant. It was constant and just got very old. I also didn’t care that she derived her magic from Baba Jaga’s branch of it, as she wasn’t at all pertinent to the story. And I frankly didn’t care about the courtier’s dislike of Agnieszka because she didn’t fit in, their politics, or the Falcon’s attempts to flirt with Agnieszka. Perhaps this was Novik’s way of attempting to make it more like a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and Agnieskza more like Belle, but I didn’t care—I simply wanted more of the sinister Wood and its plotting.


Though the Uprooted wasn’t my favorites by any means, it was still a very interesting and unique read and I was glad that I read the book. And if you’re a fan of Gregory Maguire’s books, or other retellings, it’s certainly something that you will enjoy. However, if you’re looking for anything more than a fresh concept, or a retelling with an emphasis on romance, Uprooted isn’t the book for you.

Book Review : Uprooted - Blogging with Dragons

Posted May 1, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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