Books

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I finally read Uprooted, by Naomi Novik! I know some of you have read it, because I remember seeing posts about it on my flist/DW (which I avoided reading at the time for spoiler reasons). Come talk to me about it!

I really enjoyed it! I loved the world, especially that it was a fantasy world built around Eastern Europe, which is not something you see much in Western/English-language fantasy (actually, the only other one I can think of is CJ Cherryh's Rusalka). I assume from the author's surname that she's drawing on her own cultural history here. And I loved the characters and relationships. Generally I found it unputdownable a lot of the time. I haven't been reading a whole lot of fantasy lately, and this reminded me how hard good fantasy can pull me in.

I spent a lot of the book not entirely sure if Kaskia or Sarkan was being set up as Agnieszka's main love interest -- not in a love-triangle sort of way, but rather because of her emotional intensity toward both of them. I was happy with how it worked out, but would've been just as happy the other way. Both relationships pushed a lot of buttons for me (hypercompetent grumpy mentor + young female mentee is A Thing for me, as are "die for you" friendships). And I liked that her entire network of relationships with people, and with the land, was important, and that she was a village-witch, Tiffany Aching kind of person, who cared about the trickle-down effect of her actions on people around her, and even empathized with her enemies and wanted to heal them rather than kill them.

The only part of the book that didn't grab me so much was the middle, which felt draggy and slow compared to the rest. I don't know if it was because of Agnieszka being separated from her loved ones and valley for a lot of it, but even though plenty of stuff DID happen, it felt like it bogged down in interminable council scenes and court intrigue. And then it picked right back up again as soon as they had to flee the city. I don't know, it might just be a feature of my personal reading tastes.

I wasn't expecting the plot to escalate as fast as it did. Chekhov's guns didn't sit around very long before being fired, and then there would be an EVEN BIGGER gun, which might be one reason why I felt like a little momentum got lost in the middle; there's only so long you can keep going up before you need a breather, but then it's hard to keep from flagging when it's been nonstop crises up to this point, even if the crises are still ongoing (but less critically WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE AT THIS VERY MOMENT). Generally though, it was a satisfying and rewarding book for me, and I loved the ending.

I got this from the library, but I'll probably end up buying it eventually, because I think I will be wanting to reread it.

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I, too, read this fairly recently from the library and quite liked it - though as usual Novik's just a little dark for my personal taste. (Though she's brilliant at it - usually when things get darker and darker, I start to emotionally check out of the story to save my sanity, but her characters show so brilliantly in the dark that I can't not follow them. Which, come to think of it, might make me more aware of the darkness than in stories where I skim the hard parts.) It's the first ebook I've checked out of my library, and I was reminded how strongly I prefer paper (despite my ability to devour 500K fics online - but maybe that's it; I'm half-expecting to suddenly discover that it's actually a WIP at a crucial moment). But given the trees in the story, the lack of paper might be a blessing!

Yes, Novik is Polish (and a ficcer! though she tries to keep her fic dissociated from her RL name; but she has quite the history with OTW) - and ISTR her mentioning a childhood connection to Polish folklore, but the one I found when looking for evidence wasn't about her grandmother telling stories like I thought. (Hey, I missed the subtle Robin McKinley reference! But this felt so Robin McKinley at times that I'm not surprised.)

And now I have thrown The Thoughts into the post, and I'm not even gonna try and make them more coherent because thinking about this more coherently will probably drive me to the bookstore to actually buy a copy and I can't read any more books right now, but: Uprooted! Yes! Good!
I like your thoughts! They are interesting thoughts! :D

But given the trees in the story, the lack of paper might be a blessing!

HAHAHAHA .... ack. (Of all the creepy ideas in the book, strangely enough she didn't hit upon the idea of a book, item of furniture or other object made out of the wood of the cursed trees! Which means IT IS WIDE OPEN FOR THE WRITING. And Halloween is right around the corner ... hmmm.)

Yeah, for some reason I still prefer paper books to ebooks by a wide margin, even though I've been reading fanfic (and webcomics, and other forms of free online e-fiction) for over a decade and a half now. The kindle helps, but I still find my kindle clogging up with unread books -- I have to be really motivated to read a book on it. (It's free/unavailable anywhere else/I need it for research faster than Amazon can ship it/etc.)

And yeah, I know her ficcer name! :D But I'd never realized she was Polish. As much GeneroEurope fantasy as there is, it's nice to see a little spotlight flung on a specific culture that doesn't get nearly as much play in fiction as England, Wales, etc.

Anyway, yes, I'm glad other people enjoyed it too! Strangely enough I had never thought of Novik's fiction as dark before -- I guess that I'm judging Temeraire by historical-fiction standards, not so much by fantasy standards, so it comes across comparatively cheerful and redemptive next to a lot of the other historical fiction I've read! The dark elements in this book were definitely noticeable, though - especially the bloodbath towards the end; this is the kind of book I wanted to read in a well-lighted room, preferably a room with someone else in it. XD
I would guess that the Wood would have to be considerably more subtle than usual for paper or wood to be an issue, given that it usually creates zombies with mere pollen - how could anyone pulp or carve the wood without being zombified? But that would be a clever decoy if the Wood had more patience!
Ooooo you read Uprooted! I LOVED it!!

....I totally missed that it was Eastern European fantasy, *facepalm.* I did have a passing thought of, "oh, these names nickname vaguely like Russian ones, I like it" but I'm glad I read your post because realizing she's writing out of a specific culture makes me like the book even more!

kiralademaus, interesting comment about it being dark -- my quibble would have been that it was too *light,* LOL. It just seemed to tie up very neatly with everything ending relatively happily and the Dragon and Agnieszka in a relationship that's looking like it will work out with minimal difficulty, and I would've preferred it if it ended without the Dragon coming back, all open-ended and angsty. But that's possibly just my reader tastes. ;) I did love that she decided to do her own thing entirely and *he* came to *her*, though.

And I absolutely adore the idea of anything being made out of the cursed trees -- I want that book now, dammit!
LOLOL ... actually the rapidly escalating plotting reminds me a bit of YOUR books, so it's not surprising that you liked it. ;)

But yeah, I really enjoyed it, although I also see what you mean about the plot tying up a little too neatly at the end. I am also interested that my general impression of the book going into it was completely wrong about what kind of book it was and what it was about, although in a good way -- I think I was expecting something much more generic fantasy, edges-sanded-off fairy tale, and instead got something rich and dark and wonderful instead.

(btw, speaking of rich dark fantasy, Fighting Demons is on my Kindle and will be read soon! FAMILY KEEPS HAPPENING TO ME INSTEAD. >_>)
LOLOL ... actually the rapidly escalating plotting reminds me a bit of YOUR books, so it's not surprising that you liked it. ;)

Ha, thank you, what a compliment! Interestingly, I actually went into Uprooted expecting to be disappointed, because the last handful of books that ~everyone recommended~ I kinda bounced off of, so I was feeling frustrated and was all, "WELL, harrUMPH, everyone loves it so I guess I'll give it a try but I'm not expecting anything" and then I adored it. :D

I also was expecting something different, but in the other direction -- I'm not sure why, but I think I expected something that was actually *less* fun adventure fantasy? Like, a lot heavier? And I was pleasantly surprised!

(btw, speaking of rich dark fantasy, Fighting Demons is on my Kindle and will be read soon! FAMILY KEEPS HAPPENING TO ME INSTEAD. >_>)

Aw, thank you for reading it! <3 I hope you like it. It's one of those stories that was terribly difficult for me to write so I'm simultaneously tremendously proud of it and terrified of people setting eyes on it. So far people are saying nice things about it, though, which mitigates the terror somewhat. ;)
.... btw, just noticed that Zero Sum Game is #506 in the Kindle store (!!!) and has a bestseller flag! Go you!!! \o/
Whaaaaaaaaaat! Thank you for letting me know, I totally would have missed it! I mean, I've been watching my sale, but I didn't realize the tag only seems to appear on the search page, not on the product page. Eeee! ^_^