Author: Naomi Novik
My Rating: 3.5 stars
This book was one I really wanted to enjoy, however it did not live up to the hype. A slow paced, frustrating plot is only redeemed by the poetic ending. If you love fantasy that has a lot of unique twists, then this is the book for you!
PLEASE NOTE: Spoilers ahead for this book.
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
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.
And here is a classic example of a overhyped book. I really, really wanted to enjoy this book. I tried and tried and ended up finishing it quickly because I wanted it to be over. Always so disappointing when you are told that the book is fantastic and then it does not deliver.
This book is the story of Agnieszka and the Dragon and her discovery that she has magic and all the politics that come with it. Sound interesting? Yeah, no.
The book starts off with great premise: a girl gets taken as payment for the Dragon, a wizard who protects the valley from the Wood, the evil in the book. He takes Agnieszka, not the one who was expected. Why does he do this? Because Agnieszka has potential for magic. He whisks her off to his tower and ….
Nothing. For a long time. The progression of the story between the Dragon and Agnieszka is so slow it drives you crazy. I don’t know whether I went into the book expecting a great romance and that’s why I was disappointed but the interactions between the two of them are awkward. He is horrible to her, doesn’t explain a thing and just is mad and upset about her being around, with no explanation for a long time. Agnieszka also is really frustrating in the beginning and you deal with so much unnecessary tension around them both. I hate books where there is not a lot of external dialogue and so I think that’s why I struggled with the book.
Some parts are great. I like seeing her learn magic and their closer interactions. I also liked the idea of the Wood and the evil lurking in it but it was very confusing to understand to be honest. Because I was quite bored, I did skim read some parts of the book which is not great for understanding the story.
Despite the Dragon being problematic, the moment Agnieszka left him to go on her own separate plot line (which is totally fine as she is the protagonist and woo girl power), and the moment he disappeared from the page, I lost interest in the book. Completely. I didn’t care about what she was doing or who she was meeting or learning. It was ok, but so boring. They needed to add some interesting interactions or complications or something. Just reliving how long it took me to get through this part of the book is painful.
Also, while I really wanted there to be romance between the Dragon and Agnieszka when it happened it was so ill timed and unnecessary. Why oh why do couples always get together the night before a big battle? Maybe sexual tension leads to that but it was so, so unnecessary. I was rolling my eyes during that whole chapter because really? A guy insults you, doesn’t connect with you and pretty much tells you that you are useless and you just jump into bed with him? Come on Agnieszka, you deserve better than that!
However, all that being said, the writing in this book had some absolutely beautiful parts and the ending and destruction of the Wood was super poetic and lovely. I loved the idea that it was all because of someone not being able to let go and it was beautiful to see how Agnieszka saved people from the Wood by giving back. It was almost enough to redeem the middle of the book but unfortunately not quite.
So all in all, beautiful writing, intriguing storyline but uninteresting plot and character progression. Very disappointing since I really wanted to love this book!
Recommended for: Fantasy lovers who prefer deep story over romance.
Quotes (Spoiler Free):
“If you don’t want a man dead, don’t bludgeon him over the head repeatedly.”
“There was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage.”
“No one was enchanted beyond saving in the songs. The hero always saved them. There was no ugly moment in a dark cellar where the countess wept and cried out protest while three wizards put the count to death, and then made court politics out of it.”
“We’re meant to go. We’re not meant to stay forever.”
Have you read Uprooted? What did you think of it?