UPROOTED by Naomi Novik
Verdict: The intrigue vanished into an endless battle.
Agnieszka lives in the valley on the boarder of the corrupted Wood, a forest with evil roots, full of malevolent creatures. The Wood is merciless, taking whoever it wants and twisting them into vessels to carry out its bidding. The only thing stopping the Wood from taking over her valley is the cold wizard, known as the Dragon. In exchange for his help, a young woman is handed over to serve him for ten years, usually the most beautiful, talented, and brave girl within the village. Agnieszka never expects to be chosen.
At first I was afraid, I was petrified. Kept thinking I would never leave this lovely book aside. But then it spent so many words describing skirts and dirt and song, and I grew bored. And I struggled to read on.
More seriously, I found the book slow from start to end, but I enjoyed the first half because I wanted to know more about the evil Woods and the mysterious Dragon. Why did he take a girl every ten years? What drives the Woods to pure evil? I grinded through the modifier-heavy prose and irrelevant details to get to the juicy fruits of my intrigue.
But once the book yielded answers, it stopped asking questions. The last section became a magical free-for-all, with endless battles and lawless magic solving every issue. It stopped making sense.
The writing is undeniably beautiful in places, and the spells are powerful moments at first, but the tone is distant, like a survivor's diary instead of a magical adventure unfolding before my imagination. I felt emotionally separated from Agneska and Kasia, and only gleaned their basic personality traits: one is clumsy and the other is perfect. More and more of it became stuffed with unnecessary fluff, like Agnieszka's time at court, her short lived friendship with a woman from court, and time spent on a hay bale. Even the ending took forever to close, dragging on needlessly past where the story ends.
I stopped enjoying this book entirely by around 70%. The dark twists, and shocking revelations had ceased and the story became battle after battle after battle. The mystery had fizzled out entirely. I had fully enjoyed the first half, but now I was only reading for completion.
The romance in the book also felt terribly misplaced. I didn't feel any chemistry between 16 year old vulnerable and clumsy Agnieszka and 100+ grumpy and abusive Dragon, so their first kiss shocked me. I also can't help but picture a grumpy Merlin getting it on with Hermione Granger - I was expecting more of a teacher student relationship, rather than romance. Am I the only one?
The age gap is lessened somewhat by the fact the main character doesn't feel like a sixteen year old, but there was still no chemistry. Neither of them seem to like each other, let alone love, and the dislike didn't seem strong enough to be love-hate relationship.
One last note before I leave the book alone, I've seen people recommend this novel as young adult. Despite the narrator being a 16 year old, this very much feels like an adult book. It's heavier to read, and riddled with darker topics of abuse, warfare, and corruption of every kind. Agnieszka doesn't sound like a teenage, but rather someone recalling their teenage years from their adulthood, and that's something different entirely. A teen might love it, but I feel this is adult fiction.
Source: Bought it!