“His name tasted of fire and wings, of curling smoke, of subtlety and strength and the rasping whisper of scales. He eyed me and said stiffly, “Don’t land yourself into a boiling-pot, and as difficult as you may find it, try and present a respectable appearance.”
Synopsis: In Agnieszka’s village, a corrupted, powerful Wood stands on its border, threatening the lives of the village’s inhabitants. They rely on the Dragon, a powerful wizard, to keep the Wood’s force at bay. But in return, one young woman, each ten years, must serve and live with him in his tower. No one knows what the Dragon does to the girls he takes, but they know that the girls never remain in the village once their service is up. The time is coming for a new choosing, and everyone in the village is certain it will be Kasia: special, as all girls the Dragon chooses are, and also Agnieszka’s closest friend. But when the Dragon does come, he does not take Kasia with him.
I guess this is unpopular opinions time, because I did not enjoy this book anywhere near as much as it seems most others did. When I was telling my sister about reviewing this book, and how I didn’t like it, she replied: “Well at least it has a nice cover!” I feel like that pretty much sums up my opinion of this book. But for the sake of a review, I am going to go into what lies behind the gorgeous cover a bit more!
Uprooted started out promising. Actually, very promising! I really loved the opening chapters. Who wouldn’t be hooked in by an opening sentence like…
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.”
It has so many questions attached to it. Sets up the main characters straight away. And I really liked those characters introduced at the start – the dynamic between Agnieszka and the Dragon in those early parts of the story being just the right amount intriguing and funny. To be honest, at the start I loved everything about Uprooted. I thought this was going to become one of my favourite books, not only of the year, but ever!
But from about 20% in, it did a complete 180!
The plot, which started out so well, seemed to be going nowhere. The beginning started out really strong: a girl from the village being picked to spend 10 years with the Dragon who everyone feared (sounds a bit Beauty and the Beast-ish), evil, living woods that want to devour the land and its people (sounds the right amount of creepy and cool), and the potential for a good, strong story about friendship as separate from romance (which is harder to find in a book than it sounds). It had potential – but that was all it really was, because other than the story’s set-up, it didn’t feel like it went anywhere.
I also found it too confusing. For a girl who reads her fair share of high fantasy, with long descriptions and intricate complex story lines, this is saying something. The world didn’t feel like it was explained well enough, which is a shame, because I think it sounded like a cool one. I couldn’t picture anything, especially the Woods. I didn’t get any atmosphere, which I think has mostly to do with how confusing it was. The world, actually the whole plot, never fully unravelled in my mind, because I just didn’t get it.
The same went for the magic in this book. I didn’t understand how it worked. Agnieszka opens a book called ‘The Summoning’ (which is supposedly one of the hardest spells to cast), and with a bit of singing, it suddenly works for her. Literally, she just sings a song. In fact, most spells and magic just appeared to work for her.
Ignoring her apparent ability to just perform these spells though, Agnieszka was actually quite a relatable character. She is the clumsy, plain girl, who gets mundane, everyday things wrong. And yet at the same time, she is very intelligent, more powerful than people expect, and develops into someone who is mentally strong, and a hero in a quiet, understated way. I really loved that!
On the other hand, I really didn’t like the Dragon by the end of the book. At the start, I liked his blunt, grumpy, stand-off-ish, dramatic attitude, which reminded me a lot of Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle. His annoyed retorts, and irritated accusations towards Agnieszka were very humorous. But he is absent from a large part of the middle of the book, and when he does return to the story, he hasn’t grown or developed at all. The way he spoke to Agnieszka (that I had previously found humorous), suddenly seemed simply rude.
And I did not buy any ‘romance’ between the two of them. Even in the scenes that were supposed to be romantic, I saw absolutely no chemistry between them. Because he does not once say something nice to her. I didn’t need him to get on his knees and confess undying love from the rooftops, but I would have liked some acknowledgement other than an annoyed scowl, and ‘grudgingly’ putting an arm around her, to show her he had any interest in her at all!
So overall, it wasn’t a great read. But I like the cover, and it gets nice comments when people look at it on my shelf…so all is not completely dire.