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Naomi Novik – Uprooted – Book Review

Urghhh. Yes, that is the first thing that pops up in my head when I think about Uprooted. See, the thing is I wanted to read this for soo long, but every time I saw it in the bookstore I was feeling a bit like Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect – Hmm, better not… I always knew I would read it one day, but then went off to get another book instead. Maybe I should have trusted my instincts, because the day my huge book haul arrived at home – and had Uprooted in it – I had to pick it up right away, but I instantly felt this strange feeling of a let-down. What I expected from the blurb was a huge ceremony – maybe Hunger Games-style – where all the girls are frightened for their lives and there is a huge spectacle around who is going to be picked by the “Dragon” – something I have to come back to later – and then there will be much drama about his pick and the girl will struggle and so on and so forth.

What I got was something different entirely. The build-up to the ‘ceremony’ – if I may call it that at all – was pretty much non-existent, it happens quite early in the story. As you may expect, it is the story’s main character Agniszka whom the Dragon picks and not her more beautiful, more everything best friend as everyone in town expected. The Dragon – and this is one of the things that infuriated me – is not a dragon at all. No long tail, no green, leathery skin or fish scales, no fire spitting – the so-called dragon is just a normal man. Well, ‘normal’ may be wrong here – he is a century old after all, and looks weirdly both very young and somehow also quite old, but he is still in a way human.

The next thing that I did not really get was the tales that the villagers have told themselves for decades: when the girls the Dragon picked have spent ten years with him, they never return to their old lives, even though they seem physically sound. Now, when Agnieszka is brought to the Dragon’s tower, she learns that he educates them in a way – they have more than enough books to read during their time, and the Dragon – also a powerful magician – teaches Agnieszka countless spells every day. But it wasn’t just the fact that the Dragon isn’t actually a dragon that disappointed me, it was also his character in total. From the beginning, he isn’t this swoonworthy Prince Charming or hot villain that makes you drool all over the pages – it may have said somewhere that he isn’t so bad-looking after all, but the first description of his as this weird hybrid of a young man and an old man stuck with me throughout the novel. This may not be the worst thing though – looks isn’t everything, right? – but the Dragon is not a particularly nice, either! He seems to be obsessed with perfection, be it Agniszka’s looks, her cooking skills or ability to learn the spells, she is perpetually either insulted or at least reprimanded by him, which I didn’t like. Mostly because there wasn’t anything nice that followed.

Another thing that was such an issue for me was that I just couldn’t warm to the main character in the story – or any character, for that matter. There was no warmth in the characters, nothing to like, really, and that didn’t change throughout the whole book. The whole vibe I got during reading this book was kind of negative, and I didn’t like it, sadly. Furthermore, not only the beginning of the book was weird to me, it only went really downhill from the middle onwards. I didn’t like the direction the story took from there. I think I was hoping for more with the Dragon and Agnieszka and to see a change in his behaviour, because that was kind of the impression I got from the blurb. Unfortunately, I didn’t like their relationship at all and couldn’t see where her growing feelings for him were coming from. As I already mentioned, he was verbally abusive towards her, called her an idiot, useless, horse-faced, and many more things, and she decides to love him after he keeps telling her that? Sorry, but that just isn’t right. I think books should never promote the notion that (verbally) abusive relationships are okay, especially books for younger readers. From the middle of the book onwards, the story then takes a different turn and moves away from the whole ‘girl-is-taken-into-the-tower-by-the-Dragon’-thing and I didn’t like the whole creepy ‘Wood’ story, and honestly I didn’t really get it either. It felt weird to me, but not the good kind of weird. I was so hoping to love this – I mean, look at that beautiful cover! But unfortunately, I was overly disappointed, and did not feel anything enchanting in this at all…

In the end it was probably the vibe in total that didn’t really make it for me. I wanted to be engrossed in the story, enthralled by the world Agniszka lives in, but I didn’t really feel like I was sucked into the story as much as I want from a book, especially a fairy tale. I don’t want to say it was a bad book – reading all the overly positive reviews floating around the internet are proof enough that it isn’t bad for everybody – but it just wasn’t the book for me, which I’m more than sad about. I just wished to see more detail and more warmth in the characters; I guess some things just didn’t add up for me…

 

3 thoughts on “Naomi Novik – Uprooted – Book Review

  1. I TOTALLY agree. The book sounded right up my alley but then I started reading and it was like….whomp. The character-building wasn’t that great, I didn’t feel invested in them at all. I feel like it’s hard to find a good fantasy romance novel these days. I think a lot of fantasy authors struggle with balancing world-building with character development.

    1. Omg, finally someone understands! Thanks for your comment!:) I was already questioning my own opinion seeing that many good reviews for that book…

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