Monday, October 10, 2016

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik


Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Del Rey

Pages: 438
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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.

I am a sucker for a good fairytale retelling! Beauty and the Beast happens to be my favorite of all time, so Uprooted has been on my TBR for awhile. Recently, when I was in a reading slump following Sleeping Giants, Uprooted was pitched to me as "Cruel Beauty but good." Since I loved Cruel Beauty I expected to be totally blown away by Uprooted! I had heard that the language was dense and sometimes hard to pick through, but I dove in fully prepared to fight my way to the end if needed.

I think it's important to point out that the synopsis of Uprooted tells the reader approximately 1/10th of what actually happens. Usually I can get a good feeling for what a book will be about based on the blurb. Not so here! The story begins when Agnieszka is (shockingly) chosen by the Dragon (who isn't a dragon) to live in his tower for ten years. She goes with him and finds that she will basically be his servant for the duration of her time there, while also dabbling in magic. Agnieszka at first finds the Dragon (also known as Sarkan) to be a jerk, but slowly discovers that there's more to him than meets the eye. This is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, after all.

I liked Agnieszka for the most part. There were times when she ran off and did really stupid things without much reason, and I do have a hard time with dumb characters. I do think her heart was in the right place, though, and that she made the best of difficult situations. I can't say the same for the Dragon. Sarkan is the kind of snarky, arrogant, rude male character that women love for some reason. I'll admit, I like a confident, sarcastic love interest as much as the next person, but Sarkan didn't do it for me. This kind of character also has to have endearing qualities and I didn't really see that with the Dragon.

The romance was weird. Sarkan was pretty much rude to Agnieszka 95% of the time and called her names regularly. When the romance actually did appear it came from out of nowhere and didn't seem to have much bearing on the story, almost as if it was an afterthought.

By the way, they weren't kidding when they said Uprooted was dense. This book somehow moved incredibly fast while also taking forever to push through. It took me a full ten days to decipher everything that happened in Agnieszka's story. There were descriptions of descriptions and the story suffered from way too much detail in one area while there was no detail in others.

It felt as if this story was meant to be two or even three books. There was not nearly enough time for Sarkan and Agnieszka to get to know each other. Their time in the tower before the real threat came was over so quickly that I almost felt like I missed it! This really should have been the first book a the series... The threat of the woods was told in such a way that it was terribly creepy, but again it was there and over too fast. There was also a bit in between these two main plots that felt quickly thrown together as a way to connect the two. It just didn't work for me. The ending was also incredibly abrupt.

I wanted to love Uprooted so much! This story was supposed to be the best Beauty and the Beast retelling (complete with creepy evil woods) I'd ever read. At the end of the day, it was a decent retelling with way too much going on in way too small a word count. I feel like Uprooted could have been fantastic had it been given more time to come together. As it was, it never reached its full potential, in my opinion. I'm sad to say this book was all hype and not a lot of (or maybe too much?) substance.