When I found out I would have to spend 12 hours in a car by myself I knew I wanted to find an audiobook that would engage me as much as possible but not distract me. As I was travelling through the Rocky Mountains, I also wanted something that had an earthy tone. I’ve been a fan of Naomi Novik since I fell in love with the Temeraire series as a teenager. She has a beautiful lyrical writing style and weaves history and fantasy together masterfully.
Uprooted tells the story of a magical and menacing forest and the way the people who live around the forest react with it. The perspective is told by Agnieszka a 17 year old woman and protagonist of the story. Her journey has her leaving her home and living initially as a servant and then apprentice of the great magician who protects their country from the corruptible influence and spread of the forest.
I read that the inspiration for the story is from folk tales from Eastern Europe (maybe Little Red Riding hood type thing?) and I have been struggling with how to truly relate my feelings on finishing this book. There was a lot too it. So much in fact that after one battle had finished (about half way through the book I believe) I honestly thought the book was finishing and I was okay with that. Because I was listening to an audiobook I had no real concept of the length and I couldn’t remember how many hours it was recorded. But it was only the middle and there were two more good complete story arcs before the book came to a somewhat abrupt end. The book felt both incredibly long and like it left out a lot of details if that makes sense. Like the author had sketched out where she wanted the characters all to end up and concluded that she might as well make it one book instead of two or even three shorter volumes.
Despite my feeling of the book being incomplete, I liked the book very much. My biggest issue is with the main characters and how they developed. Agnieszka would have no growth, no change, no maturity except in powers and then a chapter later would have a complete new personality. She would go from being subservient and meek to all of a sudden being forceful and a brat. She would refuse to learn lessons or concentrate on what she was supposed to do, and then suddenly be able to complete complex magic when she needed it without hurting herself or others. And then there is the magician, the Dragon, the love interest. I found the magician a very strange one dimensional character and was disappointed because I’ve read Novik before and know she can write a complicated character better. The magician is supposed to be one hundred years old and yet had no patience, dismissive and a brute without ever really telling us why. It was again like she had a sketch of the character and included only the high points rather than flesh him out properly, like all of the details that would have explained his choices were cut for time. My favourite character was her best friend Kasia who had the best arc of the story and the best relationship. She is badass and cool and I really had hoped she would have ended up with Nieszka.
The most disappointing was ultimately the ending. It ends in the gorgeous world with new characters and no real opportunity to explore it. The author has said the book is a standalone and she has no plans to write a follow up, so I am left unsatisfied looking at a half-finished world she created.