Hello my fellow bookworms and page turners, in today’s post I am looking at the book Uprooted by Naomi Novik, let’s start off by looking at the vague outline of the storyline this processed square wedge of magical tree we call a book has to offer.
A magical wizard referred to only as the Dragon, a man of great power and influence, who answers only to the King. He lives in a tower away from the bustle and bumbling of the courtiers, his main job to protect the lands from a never sleeping forever encroaching evil wood that is surrounding the kingdom. His payment for this it seems was that every 10 years he can select one girl who has come of age to live in the tower with him for a time before he returns them to their homes with, riches, extenuated talents and a thirst for knowledge, which eventually leads for them to leave the valley into the capital in order to seek their fortunes which seems somewhat alien to the inhabitants of the kingdom, even to that of our main character Agnieszka a “hick” girl from a little village in the valley. Uprooted, which for what it’s worth is a great play on words given the storyline of the novel this story follows her as she becomes a “Chosen” of the dragon, “Uprooted” from her home, and follows her path both into becoming an apprentice, a Courtesan and her path into womanhood, this Ladies and Gentleman is Uprooted.
Sounds pretty intriguing and empowering right?.. well I am afraid I was greatly disappointed in this novel. This has definitely been one of my worst reads of 2015, and it pains me to say it because the writing of this book isn’t bad, not by a long shot. But it failed to deliver on what it promised, it had so much going for it and then bit by bit everything fell away into a big pile of epic snowflake syndrome, this was particularly in the case of the main character, she isnt pretty, and isnt ugly, has no real skills except to get everything she is wearing covered in dirt and ruined by doing even the most siplest of tasks, unlike the other girls who all have skills or are beautiful.. all of a sudden she is chosen by the dragon instead of any of her “talented” neighbours, and then quicker than you can blink she suddenly has magical powers that have never manifested themselves before.. and she can find things in the woods and it doesn’t seem to want to kill her as much as everyone else for some reason? from there it snowballs to a ridiculous amount.. she even overcomes the in place magical system, how do you ask? well she basically makes her own much to the alarm, surprise and frustration of her Tutor (The Dragon). To her credit if i had to say ridiculous almost non-pronounceable spells such as :
“Zokinen valisu, akenezh hinisu, kozhonen valisu.”
I think i would find a way around it as well, this seems to mostly be done either by chanting part of the spell over and over again like a mantra, or in the case of a cantrip (smaller spells) she simple shortens or slurs the word entirely. Although this doesn’t work first time every time the more she does it the more it somehow just works?.. if that’s the case why don’t all the wizards and witches do that?.. I guess we will never know.
It’s not just her though, all the other characters were either so bland, like shadows mere cardboard cut outs of what they could be, or so loud sporadic and downright annoying and non consistent, I couldn’t find myself connecting with these character, I couldn’t even bring myself to hate them they were just so… meh. So that was the death of the book to me, even if the plot is bad, I can usually learn to love a character and get though it but this.. this was a hard slog indeed.
So low and behold just as I thought the story couldn’t get any muddier the sudden introduction of a romantic element came in.. weird as at the beginning of the book she was in an absolute panic that he would force herself on her, and that she didnt want to lay with any man.. for the most part I thought her over fondness for her “best-friend” had her barking up an entirely different proverbial tree, however I was proved wrong as of course she loves the Dragon.. why wouldn’t she.. I mean he’s so nice to her… oh wait no he isn’t. Oh well he looks after her and supports her… err nope not that either.. he compliments her.. nope still not in this book… ohh its one of those abusive you bitch!, I love you so much storylines isn’t it.. *nods head*…
This is one thing that needs to stop Authors, film writers whoever!.. abuse, is what it says on the tin its abusive, it’s not romantic – I mean the first kiss he calls her a “intolerable lunatic” previously jeering over how “the dirtiest thing in the tower is you” and almost belittling her at any given opportunity to vent his frustration.. sorry I mean love onto her.
So as you may have guessed she finds more power in her “connection” to the dragon and eventually together they save a warring nation, from an old foe as well as uncovering the truth behind the evil wood, while making some people upset and a lot of people die in the process.
Perhaps its me, and this book is actually good. but I wouldn’t recommend this, don’t be drawn in by its brilliant cover (which is pretty good by the way, it’s the reason I picked it up, and if I were the author id throw the illustrator an extra quid or two as I think that’s why it seems to be selling as well as it has, because for my money it’s not worth it I’m afraid..
But please don’t take my word for it, if you fancy it give it a read, and please let me know what you think! If you agree with me or not it’s always good to hear another opinion on literature.
Until next time, read more books!
2 thoughts on “B|t|B: Book Review – Uprooted by Naomi Novik”
I really loved the book — it’s certainly not perfect, but it kind of hooked me. If you look at it as an exploration of fairy tale tropes, both modern (fanfiction) and old, there’s a lot of cool stuff to think about.
Onto the contentious part:
The Dragon’s a grumpy asshole, no doubt about it, and not everyone likes that kind of romantic lead — but I think the book makes it pretty clear that he treats everyone that way, if not worse, and that he softens a bit over time. The other wizards we meet seemed to be equally if not more callous (with the possible exception of the Sword), but with more tact. It seems like it’s partially a side effect of how the establishment thinks of immortality.
Plus Agnieszka stops being afraid of him extremely quickly — I think there’s a scene where he’s exasperatedly berating her and she corrects him when he gets her family’s profession wrong? And her narration is basically “His bark is worse than his bite”.
I don’t know, there was something about how they interacted and how he was breaking some very major rules for her (He really should have killed Kasia and her both after she went into the wood) which worked for me, unlike the relationship in Master of Crows, which made me really uncomfortable.
I think what the problem is, is that there is a lot of interactions happening “behind the scenes” when he’s training her with Jaga’s book that we don’t see. and depending if you like this kind of character or not, you either fill it in with how they worked on the rose together (before the magic fed off itself) or with how difficult their first interactions were.