Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday Musings: Uprooted Book Review

I recently read Naomi Novik's first standalone novel, Uprooted, after having a mild interest and receiving many recommendations from fellow bookworms. I really liked doing bulleted lists of likes and dislikes before, so we'll continue that trend today. Some minor and major spoiler follow, so if you prefer to avoid those, proceed with caution.

But first, just look at this gorgeous cover!


Appreciations:

  • The MAGIC! This book's take on magic (that there are different "schools" of thought, some more academic, some more intuitive) and the main character's descriptions of her own spells blew me out of the water. It's wonderful and immersive and I hope Novik does more in this world in the future.
  • The Polish fairy tale setting was a refreshing break from a generic fairy tale setting that's either England or France. It was just familiar enough to not be disengaging and just new enough to keep me in wonder throughout.
  • The resolution of the conflict with the Wood in the end felt very genuine.
  • This story starts out small and just keeps growing like the Wood. You don't expect it to go as large as it does (I thought we'd covered everything I expected to about halfway in, and wondered what Novik could do for another 200+ pages) but it's very satisfying when you get to the end.
  • My favorite minor character (a hard-core blacksmith mage who was born a slave and rose to the top of society) survived! (This after I was certain all my favorites had died within a handful of chapters.) [But seriously, Alosha is wonderful and deserves her own book. Also, there's almost no fanart that I could find, so someone please draw this character.]
  • The last scene. I spent much of that last chapter thinking we were going to completely wreck the ship we'd just spent 430-odd pages building, and then in a page everything was right again.
  • The fact that Agnieszka and others are able to step back at various points and attempt an objective view of the events that are tugging at their hearts was commendable (even if they sometimes got it wrong anyway).
  • Basically, the book as a whole was worth appreciation.



Disappointments:

  • The sex scene in the last third of the book was unnecessary. I'll admit I tend to say these are unnecessary in general, but this one added nothing except that Agnieszka and the Dragon seemed to finally admit and accept their mutual attraction. The details (while not shocking to me as a married person) felt like TMI (too much information for those of you who didn't grow up hearing this term), like voyeurism. I don't need to peek into another person's bedroom. I'm not sure if this is typical Novik or not, but it really bummed me out because this was the one thing that made me go "I can't just say, 'Everyone read this' now."
  • Baba Jaga didn't actually show up, despite the heavy hinting throughout that she would. (There was the mention of Jaga time-hopping, plus her spellbook being the guide to Agnieszka's own magic. Really, the frequent mentions of Jaga made me think we were going to find her trapped in the Wood. Or that she'd appear to give Agnieszka an empowering talk. Or something.) [I also kind of expected it because in my flipping ahead to check number of pages/chapters left (you don't do that?) I caught the sentence "Are you Baba Jaga?" and thought "Oh, we HAVE to see her now!" but that was not the case.]
  • Kasia (whose importance to the story seems paramount at one point) became kind of flat for a large chunk of the story. Some of that may be Agnieszka's own preoccupation with other matters (since it's narrated in first person), but I wondered why she seemed to be relegated to minor character after such an emphasis on her early on. She did at least get a bit of make-up awesomeness in the last couple chapters.

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