Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fantasy
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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.

This was originally supposed to be just a little note I dropped on Goodreads to say what I thought of the book. But then it turned into a full review. So let's get started. Note: You don't get any quotes because there was a sum total of two that I remember/like. The one about the Dragon that makes you think the book it going to be a lot more funny than it is (which was on the first page) and another entertaining quote that was on the last page. The pages between were taken up by flat words that I won't have remembered in a week.

Honestly, the more I think about this book, the less I like it. The whole synopsis is fulfilled in the first chapter and while I liked that at first, I soon realized that's because there's really no plot to the story. If anything, this is about Agnieszka's coming of age, her growing and 'finding' herself. Which are books that I don't often enjoy. Every time something new happened, I was thinking 'this is it, this is when it'll start getting good'. I read the book quickly, but that wasn't because I was excited and wanted to see what would happen next. It was because I kept waiting to feel a spur of excitement.

I never did. The book kept plodding along, skipping months with hardly a mention. And then Agnieszka went to the capital and the last hope I had that I would love the book crumbled. You take a peasant, dress her up in finery and shuffle her off to the capital and I don't know why, but I always find it boring and uninteresting. (Which is kind of the way I found the whole book.) It felt like nothing more than a string of barely connected events that were little more than padding to make this book seem even longer than it 438 pages.

This story is told in the first person, so if you don't like Agnieszka you probably won't care for the book - at least in my experience that's the way it goes. Well, I didn't much like Agnieszka. At first I thought I would, but then…she's too special. Girls are taken to the tower where they spend ten years - not being seen by anyone outside the tower for that length of time. Well, it felt like we were hardly a month into Agnieszka's ten years and she was already traipsing through her village. (I won't say there wasn't a reason, but it still felt like 'isn't she so special'.) And she's 'spunky'. I'm growing to hate 'spunky' girls.

I do like the romance - rather, it's the hints of the romance that I like. Seeing Agnieszka and the Dragon interacting and her being all stubborn and him being all sarcastic was fun (about the only fun this book offers). But the romance was forced too quickly in my opinion. I never truly felt that they liked each other, much less loved. They never felt like they could be a couple away from all the fear and death that they fought. As a character, I do like the Dragon - but I like characters that are caustic and cynical and sarcastic (especially guys) but I don't like them as love interests. 

A major driving point of the barely connected events was Agnieszka constantly rescuing her best friend from one peril or another. The 'great female friendship' that I'd heard so much about. Honestly, I never felt it. It didn't feel so much like friendship as guilt and borderline co-dependence.

The writing style was just odd enough to leave me confused sometimes. There were many, many times Agnieszka thinks something and another person answers her thoughts. However, no one was surprised so…did she say it out loud? Why wasn't it indicated if she did? All it would have taken at the end of those thoughts was 'and she said so'. And some of the descriptions were confusing. They were wordy, but they never really gave a clear indication as to what happened. It was like the words for what actually just happened had been danced around. And, if I'm being truthful, this is yet another fantasy book whose description/narration is way too out of balance with the dialogue. (Because I honestly like more talky books.)

I think when it comes right down to it, my problem was that I always felt a distance to the people. I don't know if that's because of Agnieszka or because of the writing style. I just never felt a connection to the people. The whole valley could have been destroyed by the Wood and I'm not sure I would have even cared. (Except to get angry that I wasted my time.) I have no connection so I can't sympathize or relate. Or, maybe I can't sympathize or relate so I don't have a connection.