Friday, May 29, 2015


UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars, actually.

First off, let me say that I'm a huge fan of Ms. Novik's Temeraire series (His Majesty's Dragon, et al) or I probably wouldn't have read this one. I'm not a fan of the "hocus pocus" school of magic - where one must learn the proper way to pronounce some sort of gimmicky spell, as in Harry Potter. (For a treatment of magic that I find more acceptable, read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.) And as this book started, I was afraid I'd have to grit my teeth through such spell-casting for the whole book. Thankfully, our heroine developed a more mature way of spell-casting that Ms. Novik described beautifully, and was really quite intriguing. Also, by this point in the book the action had picked up dramatically, so I was sailing along pretty well, pulled by the great storytelling.

This book is very much like a long, involved fairy tale. The basic premise is that there is an evil wood that is encroaching on villages, and it often "takes" unwary people and animals and they are either never seen from again, or are released, but are "corrupted" by the evil and must be put to death. One wizard, known locally as "the Dragon" lives near the wood and has been holding it at bay for decades. Every ten years he chooses a young woman who lives near the forest to come and serve him. After their time with him, these young women never return to their home villages, but go off to live elsewhere. No one really knows what actually happens to them during their time with the Dragon. Our protagonist, Agnieszka, ends up being the chosen one, despite everyone thinking her best friend - who is much prettier and more capable - would be chosen.

The first part of the book is all about the Dragon trying to teach Agnieszka simple magic spells and her failing miserably. It seemed a bit predictable - it's obvious from the dust jacket summary that she'll learn more powerful magic - but it was interesting to see how she finally learned it. In this section the Dragon is pretty one-dimensional, but I suppose that's appropriate, because that's how Agnieszka sees him.

Once she learns "real" magic, things start happening fast, and the rest of the books is about the pitched battle between good and evil (with some politics thrown in to spice things up.) This section of the book had me pretty spellbound (no pun intended), as it moved from action to action. These scenes, with the magic spells, were really quite captivating. I liked the fact that it wasn't easy to overcome the evil in the wood, and I especially liked what Agnieszka did afterward. And the relationship between the Dragon and Agnieszka was well-handled.

So, yes, I liked this book. Not as much as the Temeraire books (they have REAL dragons, after all!) but still I enjoyed the story. Ms. Novik knows how to tell a good tale! Harry Potter fans looking for something a bit more developed will eat this up.

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