Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I did not love this book.  The more I think about it, I’m not sure I even liked it.  Was some of the writing very pretty?  Yes.  Was the main character likeable?  Sure.  But that’s about it for positives for this book, in my opinion.  Obviously I’m in the minority on this, so please don’t let my…ambivalence about this book stop you from reading it.

A brief summary of the plot.  Agnieszka is born in a village protected by the Dragon, who is a 150 year old wizard.  Every ten years, the Dragon takes a 17 year old girl from one of the villages in his care and keeps her in his tower for 10 years.  Despite rumors, all the girls thus taken agree that the Dragon never touches or harms them and when they are released from his service, they are given a large dowry.  But they never fit in again at home and after a brief visit to their parents, always move away.

Agnieszka is the right age the year the tribute of a girl is required but everybody knows her best friend, Kasia, will be the one chosen, because Kasia is beautiful and clever and kind and brave and the Dragon always takes the best.  But of course that’s not what happens, because that is not how stories work.  Agnieszka is the one chosen, whisked to the Dragon’s tower by magic and unsure of how to go on.

The rest of this review will contain spoilers, so if you are still planning on reading Uprooted because of all the nice things you’ve heard, skip the rest.

Agnieszka is chosen by the Dragon because she has magical powers.  He attempts to teach her the standard ways but doesn’t have much success.  Until there is an emergency that incapacitates the Dragon and Agnieszka finds a book in his library that has spells that work perfectly for her but which has never worked for the Dragon.  The rest of the book is Agnieszka learning to use magic her way and combining it with the standard way to make something more powerful than either of the parts and then using that magic to Defeat Evil.

All that sounds like something I would normally really, really enjoy, so let’s break down why I didn’t.

Let’s start with the characters.  Nobody except the main character and maybe Prince Marek have any personality.  Not the best friend, not the love interest, not the adversary, NOBODY.  And even the main character, Agnieszka, her main traits were that she was clumsy and she was stubborn.  Really?  I thought we went through this was Bella Swan.  Being clumsy is not a personality trait.  And there is some attempt to explain this through the fact that Agnieszka’s magic is just SO POWERFUL that it leads to her being clumsy/making messes.  But while I can see where it would lead to a tree reaching out to snag her skirt, it does not explain why she is always spilling shit on herself.  Does the overwhelming force of her magic make her hands shake?  How has nobody else noticed and commented on this?  Despite this, the character is, as I said, likable.  I can picture the “What the fuck is wrong with you?” look that must have been on her face for so much of her time at Court and it endears her to me.  But everybody else was SO BORING.

Next up, the oh so unnecessary romance.  WHY.  WHY DID THERE NEED TO BE A ROMANCE.  And if there had to be one, why did it have to be this one.  Where a 17 year old girl becomes romantically involved with her 150 year old teacher.  WHY.  STOP IT.  GROSS.  Plus, so many of their interactions were him calling her names.  That’s not romantic.  It doesn’t make me go, “Oh, that’s just the way they banter, so cute.”  It makes me go, “God, the Dragon is an asshat.”  If the scene where they discovered that the combined parts of their magics make a great whole had gone, “Well, the backlash of that spell caused a physical reaction that manifested itself as lust but once cooler heads prevailed we decided that getting romantically involved with one another was a bad idea not the least because ONE OF US IS THE OTHER’S TEACHER,” and their relationship had progressed from teacher and student to friends, I would have LOVED that storyline.  It would have been unexpected and fresh.  Instead we get a retread of a gross trope.  Ugh.

The much touted friendship.  The very beginning, before Agnieszka is taken by the Dragon, did well with the relationship between Agnieszka and Kasia, I thought.  But after that?  I just kept waiting for the girls to have an actual conversation.  Almost all of their interactions seemed to be shouting each others’ names in time of crisis.  It was a very much tell and not show version of a friendship.

And then there are little things, like it’s explained why the Dragon takes a girl from the villages every ten years but why on earth does it have to be a GIRL?  Why couldn’t he have used anybody for the purpose?  An orphaned child.  A widow with no way to support herself.  A 40 year old man who hates farming.  It literally could have been anybody and the fact that it was always 17 year old, usually pretty, girl just makes it creepy.  And then there was the fact that I was in no way convinced that Agnieszka had enough training/skills to be declared a full fledged wizard.  And speaking of magic, there is absolutely no consistency to the magic system in this world, even allowing for the two different ways of doing magic we are shown.

In conclusion, boring characters, gross romance, telling and not showing in important relationships, and lots of shit that is poorly or not at all explained.  I think I’ve talked myself into out and out disliking this one, y’all.  Sorry to all the people out there who love this book, I just really, really don’t get it.

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One Response to Uprooted by Naomi Novik

  1. Good to visit your site as a part of my A to Z visits. My theme Blog Promotion
    Welcome to A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016 – Co-Participant – Nrao – NRao Blogs 1109
    @knoltweet
    NRao Blogs – 2016 A to Z Challenge Blog Posts
    Management Theory Review

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