Basically, I loved everything about this book except for the actual reading the book part. I KNOW. The shame is great with this one.
It’s so promising and epic. I mean, fairy tales?? Polish influences?? Beautiful cover??? Uber creepy wood that wants to KILL ALL THE THINGS?? Saddle up my a unicorn and a party hat and LET’S READ THIS BEAST. Unfortunately, I withered. A lot of my expectations got thumped in the head and the writing style was so not for me. I shall take a moment of silence for sadness.
One thing I REALLY expected the book to be about is a dragon. It isn’t about an actual dragon, just a DUDE named “Dragon”. Yes, the blurb says “ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon”, but I still thought talking dragon because, hello, DRAGON and also Smaug spoke and had sneaky attitude, so why not?
(Although, not really, Smaug. You have like ten million fangirls who all want to pat you and call you adorable scaly misunderstood lizard. So, yeah. Not so much with the terror. But I digress.)
BASICALLY, IT WAS ABOUT…
A wizard (named, confusingly, Dragon) who lives in a tower, demands every ten years villagers to pay a tribute of a girl. The wizard protects everyone from the Wood since the Wood is MEGA-CREEPY. It’s great that he stands between them and the wood right? RIGHT? But what does he do with the girls? NO ONE KNOWS. He doesn’t collect shiny things, but he is pretty bad tempered, ergo, dragonish.
It’s narrated by…omg, are you ready for this? Agnieszka. Try saying that with a mouthful of pumpkin pancakes. She’s in her late teens and is a walking disaster. Everywhere she goes she destroys things (accidentally) gets messy and muddled and SHE’S ADORABLE AND ENDEARING. She narrates in 1st person. Pity I read the entire book without the faintest idea how to pronounce her name. It was mostly Agnsekfffffka. And then I’d slink away. Apparently it’s pronounced “ag-NYESH-kah” as told in the author’s note at the BACK. Whyyyyy not the front??? Save me some heartache. Everyone else has semi-comprehensible names like Sarkan, Kasia, Jerzy, and Marek. Ugh.
Why Agnieszka, why?
Also: the writing did nothing for me. Absolutely NOTHING. It was beautiful, don’t get me wrong, if you want to spend lots of time appreciating vivid description. I do not. I read YA because it’s fast and the words are crispy enough to crackle when you bite them. UPROOTED just took forever to say anything. Granted, it is an adult book. Even ifAgnsekfffffka is in her late teens, it reads as an adult because of the style. I can’t handle this kind of slow, methodical writing!! I NEED TO MOVE FASTER.
The characters didn’t rescue it for me either, sadly. I felt Dragon was a jerk. I hated how he treated Agnieszka. He randomly picks her to be his girl/servant for the next ten years and ohhh, turns out she’s a witch! YAY. He can train her. Does he tell her that? NOPE. I get that he’s bitter and tired and is 1000% done with stupid people. And Agnsekfffffka doesn’t help things by being dotty and messy. But he forces her to dress how he likes (um, creepy?) and when she brings him food and he doesn’t like it, he just magics new food anyway. WHY DOES HE EVEN FORCE HER TO WORK WHEN HE DOESN’T NEED IT? There are “reasons” but they’re sort of spoilers so I won’t say — but it still didn’t float it for me. And yeah, he looks young, but he is old, so when their relationship deepened, I was not onboard.
BUT HEY. THE CREEPY WOOD WAS STILL GREAT! I feel like so many fairy tales say “and hey, something creepy’s going on over there!” but don’t actually go ahead and be creepy. THIS WAS. It had world building like Splintered! The trees were basically alive and eating people and everyone who looked at the Wood too long went crazy. The Wood would get inside people’s skin, turn them crazy, and then send them home “looking normal”….so they’d suddenly snap and kill everyone at home. Terrifying? Yes please and thank you.
Uprooted is a lush, detailed retelling and while I wanted to love it, in reality I was pretty bored. It totally destroys my fairy-tale-loving soul to not like this one, peoples. But I need snappy, crisp stories, not ones that ramble with their brambles. Like I said, I love everything about this book except for the reading part. So much awkwardness for me.
Thank you Pan Macmillan Australia for the review-copy! Uprooted by Naomi Novik was published May, 2015.
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, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost 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 no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.