Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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4 Stars

I liked this book, a lot… but I had some problems with it that kept me from giving it five stars.

Uprooted is a coming-of-age dark fairytale. I think that’s the best way to describe it. It’s about a young girl, Agnieszka, who gets “uprooted” from her humble village by a century-old wizard they call the Dragon, and is brought to his tower. She learns that she has inherent magical powers and is then trained to become a witch. The plot itself is very simple. The good guys must bond together to defeat the darkness (which is embodied in The Wood).

The story was good for what it was. Expect a young-adult fantasy and it will deliver. The world-building was just average, and the magic was just that—magic. Don’t expect any intricate Sanderson-type magic systems or Tolkien-deep world-building and mythos. It’s a nice dark fairy tale, and that’s where it shone. I liked the fairy tale feel of the book. I think this book is suited for those who want some fantasy but aren’t ready to invest too much in its lore and aren’t ready to commit to something too heavy.

What I liked the most (spoilers ahead):
I liked how the author chose The Wood, a forest, as its primary villain. It had a mystery to it. You can’t help but ask: What is in it? What is it? What does it really want? These were somehow answered at the end when the Wood-Queen finally appeared and we’re shown what happened many years ago. I kind of predicted that there was some sort of “vengeance against my people”kind of thing, but being validated didn’t reduce its effectiveness in the story. That bit somehow reminded me of the Children of the Forest (aSoIaF) and the Fae (Name of the Wind)’s backstories. I also liked how the end of the book didn’t conclude at the vanquishing of evil—it explored and dwelled on the aftermath of it all. In real war, it doesn’t truly end when you kill the enemy. Lives are lost and ruined and rebuilding is just as hard as winning. This is what made “The Scouring of the Shire” so important in LOTR. It delves into what happens after. How do we move on? How do we heal? Imagine being in war all your life and then one day you’re free—what do you do then? I think the closing chapters were the some of book’s strongest (and that epic tower “summoning vs the queen” battle scene, too awesome).

What I liked the least (more spoilers ahead):
The love story—ugh, where do I even begin? It was so unnecessary! The characters of Sarkan and Agnieszka didn’t develop enough for them to have that kind of connection. It didn’t help that Sarkan was written like he’s an old grumpy man. Yes, they are centuries-old apart. That alone made their relationship icky—but Sarkan was written exactly like he was centuries older than her. He told her around, nagged her, called her names, and treated her like she’s a little girl. The author could’ve at least made his character more youthful. Twilight was terrible but at least you kind of felt that Edward was young at heart despite being decades older than Bella. Sarkan, from the very beginning, was pictured as this “old” powerful hermit wizard—his words and actions were like he’s an old wizard… and for him to have sex with a seventeen year-old girl?? I mean… that was just really creepy! Talk about major Stockholm syndrome for Nieshka! The way the sex scene was written also bothered me A LOT. It was graphic and didn’t fit the genre of the book at all. I have no idea what the author was thinking putting that in there. She could’ve written it more subtly and more classy, like in Graceling (Po and Katsa’s love scene was beautifully-written and fit the theme of the book). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude at all, but it really felt like one moment I was reading YA Fantasy, the next I was reading erotica, then YA fantasy again.

Another problem of mine was the way some scenes were narrated and depicted. Some of the narration was not clear at all. There were a lot of times wherein I had to read a paragraph twice because “Wait, what just happened?”. Imagine this: you’re reading a storyboard and instead of carefully panning from one scene to the next—the scene suddenly jumps five frames forward and POOF, there you are! The choice of words and descriptions were also not clear enough to make the reader accurately visualize some scenes, especially when there were a lot of fantastical elements involved. I’m just saying this book could’ve been so much better. I feel like the story and the development merited at least two books—but everything was cramped into just one, making the content suffer.

Final Verdict:
Overall, I still loved this book. It’s a light dose of fantasy with a dark fairy tale twist. I think Uprooted would make a great movie, especially with all those Summoning special effects and dark magical trees. It has a lot of Disney-esque potential if done right.

If you liked Graceling then I think you would enjoy this book. If you’ve read this book and are looking for something similar, Graceling is a book you should definitely add to your reading list (and it is tons better). I wouldrecommend this book despite its flaws, and I do think it is a good read 🙂

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One thought on “Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik”

  1. I found myself getting confused on occasion too! The one I remember was when she was thinking about how she didn’t want that potion to turn her to stone again and I was like “wait, when was she stone the first time?” I went back and found it, but the first time I read it I definitely did not read that as stone D:

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