Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Uprooted by Noami Novik

Our Dragon doesn't eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. ~ Opening of Uprooted



Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Del Rey, 2015
Fantasy; 435 pgs
Source: Purchased for my own enjoyment.

Goodreads Summary:  
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, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling 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 Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

I remember deciding this was a must read from the very first moment I heard about it. I was especially excited when one of you cast your vote for me to read this one in 2017. Finally, the push I needed to read it!

Every ten years, a girl from one of the villages is chosen by the Dragon, a powerful wizard named Sarkan, and taken to his tower. The villagers do not know what the Dragon wants with the girls, but at the end of their ten years with him, they always leave home to strike it on their own, leaving behind their families.

Agnieszka did not expect to be chosen by the Dragon, but when he sees in her the gift of magic, he realizes it is his duty to the kingdom to train her. She has no idea she has the ability to use magic, nor does he come right out and tell her. Agnieszka is young and a bit naive and yet she is also very curious and smart. I quite liked her. She wasn't the pretty one or the most skilled. She was a bit clumsy and could be rather impulsive at times. You can tell this bothers Sarkan at first. He appears to be very cold--he's very logical and likes things done his way. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders, keeping the  evil in the Woods back. As Agnieszka gets to know him better, so does the reader. I grew to quite like him. As time goes on, Agnieszka begins to realize how little she knows and her dislike for Sarkan grows into tolerance and eventually respect for her new mentor.

What didn't work for me especially was the romantic thread between Agnieszka and Sarkan. I imagine the kind of magic they were doing would bring them closer together; what they experienced is very intimate. And yet, he seems too old for her with her being barely an adult, and I just didn't see the romance. It seems more like a teacher/student type relationship, which, in essence, is what it was.

Agnieszka is definitely not the same person by the end of the novel that she started out as. Early in the novel, she has no idea of her abilities, and only longs to live the normal life of a villager. She grows and changes throughout because of her experiences and the more she learns about her own abilities. She is an out of the box thinker, her magic makes her so. Her way is the old way, the forgotten way. It makes her the only one who can really save the Woods in the end--if it can be saved.

Over the course of the novel, the reader, as well as Agnieszka, begins to understand the Woods better, and realize the threat to not only to the villages surround the Woods, but also to the entire kingdom and those beyond. Prince Marek's appearance and desire to free his mother, long lost to the Woods years before, takes an ugly turn and Agnieszka finds herself in unfamiliar territory, having to travel to the castle to beg the king for assistance. There we meet other wizards, including Alosha, a female sword-master, who I wish we could have spent more time with. There is also Solya, the Falcon, who she had met early on at Sarkan's. Agnieszka's, along with her friend Kasia, travels to the castle with her. I never was quite sure about him, but I could never bring myself to trust him.

I loved the world building in the novel--the drawing from folklore and the "old" feel of the story. The Woods with their darkness and their pain. I really liked how everything played out--and to go into detail would be too much of a spoiler. I have already said too much. The conflict between the Woods and the surrounding kingdoms isn't just a matter of good versus evil. Sometimes you have to uncover the root to find the cause. The question becomes, can it be healed or will it all have to be destroyed?

There are several stories within the bigger story in Uprooted, all connected--some in smaller ways than others. I appreciated the various nuances to the characters, the setting and the story.  I would not mind spending more time in the world Novik has created in Uprooted. I imagine there are many more stories are there worth telling.

To learn more about Noami Novik and her work, please visit the author's website. You can also find her on Twitter.


© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

32 comments:

  1. This looks really good! I've seen so many books in this genre lately that I want to read. I'm definitely adding this.

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    1. Christy - I really enjoyed this one, and hope you will too if you read it.

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  2. This book looks good but I do not usually read this genre. Great review and thanks for bringing this to my attention.

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    1. Cindy - If you decide to take a chance on Uprooted, I hope you will like it! This is a good one.

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  3. I enjoyed this a lot and I'm glad you did too, Wendy!

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    1. Melody - I am so glad I finally got a chance to read it. :-)

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  4. Looks really good!! I'll have to check if the library has it - thanks for the review!

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    1. Eustacia - I hope you can find a copy. I think you would enjoy this one.

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    1. Kathy - I hope she gets a chance to read it. :-)

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  6. I loved Uprooted! I enjoyed the first of Novik's Temeraire series, but lost interest in the later books. Uprooted was a deeper, denser fantasy world!

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    1. Jenclair - I loved the world building. It was very intricate and detailed. I am so glad I finally read this one.

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  7. I do like a good fantasy every now and again. This looks good.

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    1. I am glad I finally was able to read it. So many people had recommended it to me.

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  8. I really liked the strong-willed and spunky Agnieszka. I think we need more heroines like her. :)

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    1. Lark - She is a great character. :-) I liked that about her as well. She was a bit different too from the usual heroine, I thought.

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  9. This sounds amazing! I'm not a huge fantasy reader but I've realized that when I do read them I tend to gravitate towards the middle grade books. I'm adding this to my list of middle grade books I want to read. It is a middle grade right? It's in my head that it is. Regardless, I'm really glad to see you loved it!

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    1. Katherine - I wouldn't count this as a middle grade book. Maybe young adult because of the age of the heroine, if that? If you do read it, I hope you enjoy it!

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  10. I have so much love this book! It is one that I plan to read again someday. I keep hoping that there will be more stories in this world. Glad you enjoyed it!

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    1. Carole - It was so good! I can't believe I waited so long to try it. I really hope Novik will write more books set in this world. I would definitely read them.

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  11. You know, this is the first positive review of Uprooted I've read. I've always been intrigued by this story, it sounds exactly like my kind of thing, but I've seen so many negative reviews, I've put off giving it a go. But your positive review may have me giving it a chance. Thank you!

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    1. Jo - Wow. Most everyone I know who has read it loved Uprooted. Only one or two people were lukewarm about it. I did notice that there were mixed reviews on Goodreads, however. If you do decide to take a chance on it, I hope you like it!

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  12. I haven't read any fantasy this year but this looks amaaaaaazing! And the heroine?! *swoons* great review :)

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    1. Jenn - Yes, the heroine in this is pretty awesome. :-)

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  13. I really enjoyed this one - I think Novik is a fantastic worldbuilder. I'll agree with your comments about the student/teacher relationship - and like you, I'd be very happy to read another book set in this world.

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    1. Sarah - I am glad you liked this one too! I thought the world building was amazing in this one. I would love to read more books set in this world too.

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  14. Great review! This has been on my list for a while, and it sounds terrific, although it's a shame the romantic angle didn't work for you.

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    1. Stephanie - Thank you! I hope you are able to give this a try one of these days. The romantic angle was minor and so did not break the book for me. I could have done without it though.

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  15. I adored this book and keep hoping for more, as well!

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    1. Karen - I hope the author hears us and writes more books in this world!

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  16. This is one of those books I always intend to read everytime I see a review, but it always slips my mind! I don't think I have ever seen a bad review for this title. Thanks for sharing your review. :)

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    1. I really liked it and hope you will too if you do decide to read it!

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