Uprooted: an incredible creation
Updated: Sep 4, 2020
Author: Naomi Novik
Edition reviewed: 2015
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genre: High Fantasy
Setting: Kingdom of Polnya (fantasy country, based in part on Polish lore)
Difficulty: Medium Pages: 435
Always spoiler free.
Another book choice inspired by bookstagram! This is one I spotted on the ‘gram and then realised with delight that I had it on my shelf and hadn’t read it. I live in a small flat (rented) so I only have four small shelves and can’t horde books like I normally would. At my childhood home I have over 300 books compared to around 50 now. So now I mostly read on my phone or kindle to save money and space; what a joy to realise that I had the physical book and it was getting great reviews!
Agnieszka lives in a small village next to ‘The Wood’, a dark and twisted place. The Dragon protects the surrounding area from the malevolent Wood, but every ten years he comes down from his tower and chooses a young female to serve him. This year, Agnieszka is part of the group of young women the Dragon will chose from, but she’s busy preparing to say goodbye to her best friend Kasia who everyone knows will be chosen.
Novik has created an amazing world, steeped in Polish lore and her imagination. It’s an original world that I’ve never experienced before, and I loved the valley and the Wood. However, I felt that outside of these two areas the rest of ‘world’ was shallow. Uprooted is ‘high fantasy’ but there felt like less time was spent building world-based lore than other high fantasy novels I’ve read. This makes the book less dense and an easier read, but also meant I felt disconnected from anything outside of the valley. In part, this ignorance of the wider world matches the insularism of the people within the valley, however it also meant that I struggled to enjoy the second half of the book as much as I had the first.
I found that around the mid-point the plot lost some of its momentum, getting bogged down in what for me seemed like a pointless move to a new location that actually had little relevance to the overall plot (it felt like the author needed to get everyone to plot point C to further the story, but wasn’t sure how to precisely do that). The book also switches pacing around three quarters of the way through and then suddenly feels rushed, speeding through plot and action. I honestly would have liked to see the book split into two to allow the second half a chance to breath, and Novik to expand the world building and action descriptions. Admittedly I was rushing to finish it as I was reading it in one go through the middle of the night, which may have exacerbated the feeling!
The Dragon was slightly two dimensional. I liked him as a character, but when thinking back at his significant traits…I am slightly lost! I also never really formed a picture of him in my head, although I know that Novik took the time to describe him at least twice. I felt that they could have done more with Kasia too. Don’t get me wrong, she has a significant part in the plot, but it feels like it’s never fully actualised and her character never developed despite significant trauma experienced throughout the book. Thinking back on it, I actually think that (excluding the MC, who I really enjoyed and connected with!) overall the characterisation was weak; I could have done with more well rounded characters (maybe something that’s linked to my belief that the book should have been split into two).
The book features a romance with a significant age difference (à la Twilight) which we all know has some established problems! It’s easy to forget but both Kasia and Agnieszka are only 17, so take that under advisement.
Another perpetual annoyance I have with books like this is that there is an established limit to magic, but somehow that doesn’t seem to come into play in times of action. Also jumping from novice to expert-of-own-type-of-magic-through-sheer-instinct-despite-being-shit-at-it-five-minutes-ago is another trope I dislike. Hopefully self-explanatory why!
I loved the ending - or more precisely the epilogue. I loved the Wood, the slow pace at the beginning, the magic and the MC. The prose of this book is absolutely stunning. I think that’s why I only really established small niggling annoyances when I sat down to focus on this review. This book is an undoubtably an excellent read and my criticisms above are small considering the magnificence of the book overall. I definitely would recommend this book to fantasy lovers!
Well Red Reviews
Would I recommend this book? Yes!
“’If you don't want a man dead, don't bludgeon him over the head repeatedly.’”
“’What an unequaled gift for disaster you have.’”
“He darted a look at the uncovered basket behind me, saw what I was eating, and glared at me. ‘That's appalling,’ he said.
‘They're wonderful!’ I said. ‘They're all coming ripe.’
“There was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage.”
“His name tasted of fire and wings, of curling smoke, of subtlety and strength and the rasping whisper of scales."