I was so ready to fall in love with Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. I have not read anything else by her, but I’d heard a lot of good things about it and it sounded like something I would enjoy. I didn’t dislike it or hate it, but I certainly didn’t fall head over heels for it either. I don’t even know how to explain the plot, but I’ll try to do it as brief as I can. Every ten years the Dragon, a wizard who lives in a tower in the valley, takes a girl to serve him for ten years. When the girl’s ten years are up so always chooses to leave the valley. Our main character, Agnieszka, is surprisingly selected as his chosen girl. Adventure and mystery ensues!
The plot sounds interesting enough to pick up, but vague enough to leave a reader curious. Somehow as I read… I became really bored. The action in the book starts pretty quickly and the first half of the book is fast paced. There is a problem and then by the end of the chapter they solve it, but another problem crops up in the next chapter. It was a little exhausting for me and for some reason I didn’t want to pick the book up. Halfway through the location of the story changes and I became horribly bored. I like stories of kingdom politics (I love Game of Thrones), but this back and forth of the warring countries had little depth. I will say that the plot got very interesting in the last fifty or so pages, but it was kind of too late by then to make me love the book. I wished that more of the plot line in the last fifty pages dominated more of the book. It was the best part, but felt hurried and unclear. The plot dragged for me even though the constant action tried to make for a fast read.
I love character development so much. Sadly, this book had very little! Let’s start with Agnieszka. She might have grown as a character a little. Maybe. I thought she would be a lovable, clumsy main character. She was for me at times. She had a cute side. She bludgeoned a prince over the head with a metal tray and they way it was portrayed made me laugh out loud. But really, that was about it. She was kind of a “Mary Sue” (as much as I hate that term). Everything happened to her, she was the special child with magic that she nor anyone else every noticed in her, she could cast crazy powerful spells with little training. It goes on. She was simply OK.
Then there was the Dragon. I love a character who you can kind of hate and yet love. Novik set the Dragon up to be just that kind of character. I was ready to love him, but he fell short too! He didn’t seem to change at all through the novel. He was always mean to Agnieszka even though they began a romance (which felt one sided and had no basis). He still scowled. He didn’t really show a loving, soft side. He did very subtlety, I had to look for it and maybe even imagine I saw it at times. (Like him saving her from getting pierced by arrows or casting a difficult spell to drag her out of certain doom.) I wanted him to change and be lovable in a grating way, but he just stayed grating.
Agnieszka has a best friend, Kasia, who everyone thought would be chosen because she was beautiful and talented. I thought Kasia would go away once Agnieszka was chosen and sent away to the Dragon’s tower, but no. She stuck around through the whole book and I didn’t feel like she had any life to her! She was beloved by Agnieszka and we were told how wonderful and perfect she was, but I didn’t see it. I didn’t care she was in trouble. She meant nothing to me. She was just an occasional plot device to carry the story. She felt hollow.
I could really go on. I wanted to love this book. The back and cover of the it was filled with authors I know and enjoy telling me how great it was. I am disappointed. Maybe my hopes were too high. I wanted to love it so badly! I came away just feeling unfulfilled. I’m not saying I’ll never read anything from Novik again, I may. I’m just so sad that Uprooted was just OK to me!