Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Posted September 16, 2015 by Debby in Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted by Naomi Novik
Published by Macmillan on May 21st, 2015
Genres: Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 437
Format: Hardcover
Source: Won

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.

From the author of the Temeraire series comes this hugely imaginative, engrossing and vivid fantasy novel, inspired by folk and fairy tales. It is perfect reading for fans of Robin Hobb and Trudi Canavan.

4.5 Stars

Uprooted is one of those books that had a pretty quiet release, but then a massive tidal wave of hype in the book blogging community. People who know me probably know that hype and I aren’t exactly friends. And I feel like the book would have benefited if I waited a year or so to read this, so that some of those hyped thoughts would have faded from my mind. So ultimately though I won’t praise this book as utter perfection, I think it is a brilliant book that is worth reading. Just.. maybe not quite at all-of-the-feels level.

Uprooted is another fantasy take on Beauty and the Beast. And boy, there are a lot of those out there, aren’t there? But believe me when I say that Uprooted is well and truly a unique read. It’s filled with magic and lore, a main character who grows from ignorance to a force to be reckoned with, and within one standalone novel it packs a powerful story arc with a war against the magical wood corrupting the world. The writing is noteworthy too – lush and full of rich detail. Much of the story played out like a movie in my mind, and so I can’t wait for this to be adapted to the silver screen.

Agnieszka, the main character, is handpicked from the villages of the valley to live with the Dragon – a wizard (not an actual dragon) who protects the valley from the wood. The wood has many fearsome creatures but is particularly fearful for how it can corrupt human beings. Being in the presence of the wood, the wood can start to control the minds of the people, and it uses them to make the people fight to extinction. There’s magic and mystery there that make this a very thorough and creative novel.

While Agnieszka is with the Dragon, she discovers that she in fact possesses magic and can fight back against the wood. The system of magic is incredibly intriguing. The Dragon is very much a by-the-books type, his magic being the product of hundreds of years of study, but Agnieszka is more the natural type. Certain words speak and call to her, in a way that doesn’t make sense to the Dragon. It fits her character: stubborn and messy, but filled with good intentions. Gradually they find out that with their two types of magic combined, they are a dream fighting (and healing) team – a good thing too, because the threat of the wood is rising, Agnieszka’s own friend Kasia having been corrupted.

While Uprooted is mostly (I believe) being promoted as a young adult novel (at least with respect to the main character’s age, it would definitely qualify), it very much reads like an adult novel. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but not something that I really expected. The book read so slowly to me. It took me ages to get through it. I only managed like 40 pages in my hour and a half commute. Now, that’s partially my own fault, but it did mean it took me ages to really get into the story. It’s not fully action-packed, and there’s a lot of development of the world (which is ace) and Agnieszka as a character (who is awesome). If you do read this book, it might be a good idea to just set some evenings aside where you can read many pages in single sittings – I did so for the last 80 pages and was infinitely more thrilled by its magnificence. Granted, that last part also had way more action and higher stakes (SO MANY DEATHS WTF), so I pretty much had to keep reading anyway.

I do feel like the massive hype that this book got kind of put a damper on my enthusiasm, to be honest, particularly with respect to the romance. Like with A Court of Thorns and Roses, I can’t help but compare this to Cruel Beauty – which I think I can definitively say is the best take on Beauty and the Beast that I’ve read. It’s ruined me for other books (*dramatic sob*) particularly with the gloriousness that is Nyx and Ignifex. Since people were raving so much about the ship in Uprooted, I kept waiting to have all the feelings about their perfection together and it didn’t quite get there. I mean, at the end of the day, I like the ship a lot, but the book didn’t spend all too much time on the romance, choosing instead to go for an intricate and unique fantasy plot. And that was pretty much near perfect, but it did mean I didn’t get the romantic feels that I was expecting.

The ship is good – but at the beginning I was really hesitant by how the Dragon constantly insulted Agnieszka for being a “stupid idiot”. He treats her with pretty much zero kindness, so I was off the bat questioning it, like, “Umm, I’m supposed to ship this?” As time passes, he gets a little bit less gruff, and Agnieszka manages to see through some of his other rough edges, realizing that he’s doing that to prevent himself from making connections to other people and the valley in particular. So at the very end, I was a bit charmed by his irritability. When they practice magic together, there’s a clear connection and chemistry between the two that is quite palpable. And when they did get to kissing it was really good kissing, but still. It was not exactly all of the feels-ville for me. Perhaps on a reread, with my knowledge of the Dragon and his ways, it would be.

Summing Up:

Curse you, hype machine, for making me expect a novel of 100% perfection!!! But seriously, Uprooted is a great book. My high expectations aside, it’s loaded with fantasy brilliance, a unique storyline, a main character to root for, writing to write home about, and a gradual romance that is quite beautiful. It’s a bit of a slower read (at least for me) but definitely worth it. I only really wish… there had been a map. *map obsessed* *cries about lack of map*

GIF it to me straight!


Full of memory… and anger.

Recommended To:

Fans of Beauty and the Beast retellings, Crimson Bound, and Sarah J. Maas.

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2 responses to “Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

  1. I was so nervous when I clicked this link. I couldn’t remember if you ended up liking this one. But I know what you mean by waiting for the hype to settle down. I seriously did not know this one existed until other bloggers were begging everyone to go get the ARC, if they could. I kinda shrugged and though, “Yeah, well, it sounds so cliche, but I’ll do it, because I trust you guys.”

    I actually shipped the ship because it wasn’t constantly thrown in my face. I know, totally counter productive, but I am so over the entire “throw the romance in their FACES” approach that I was happy to see one that didn’t make up the entire plot of the novel. I do wonder how I would feel about it during a reread.

    Like you said – this one is epic. I don’t get to see many of these types of books outside of the adult sci-fi world, but it thrilled me to finally find a novel that spanned out and took you on an adventure. It reminded me very much of Tolkien.

    Great review, Debby! I am very happy you liked it! Kara is going to pick it up soon, so I get to wait with baited breath all over again.
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