by Naomi Novik
I found this treasure at the library, heavily loaded with quotes from raving reviewers & authors I admire on the back cover. It's one of the best ways to find a good read, I think. No online research, no friend's recommendation, just the stumbling upon potential treasure in the middle of abundant rows of books.
I liked the first paragraph, “Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes..." and I liked it even better when I finished the story after Agniezka's nagging question of "why?!" was answered.
Agniezka totally rocks. She's unpretentious and knows what she likes. She's one of those people who should be the secondary character rather than the main character just because she's so accommodating. Her frank acceptance of life and herself and her situation leads to spontaneous action. Where I would think something to death before doing it, Nyeshka just jumps in and tries something.
This is emphasized all the better with the Dragon's scowls. He is hardly the best person to be a hero, either. He's reclusive to a fault and the opposite of wonderful Agniezka. Where she kicks off her shoes to feel the dirt under her feet, he flicks a speck of dust off his stiff, pressed clothes. Where she follows her heart and desire for people and community, he tolerates interactions if his attempts to put people off fail. Agniezka grows used to him and comes to understand and appreciate him. It's a gradual process that caught me off guard as I was dragged through her feelings almost unwillingly. Lol.
The nemesis is the best part in the book, though. You know when evil/bad/wrong is just awful so you hate it? Well... take that strong antipathy and then add perspective/understanding/heart. It's an awful mix that is just so darn realistic, it's irritating. Don't you find that you would rather not know too much about someone you hate just in case you couldn't hate them anymore? I don't ever remember feeling that way quite so strongly while recognizing that everything just won't be right if I sit/live/dwell/simmer in hate. Again... Agniezka.
I'm not surprised by the number of good reviews. I have to review the story well, too. But I did struggle a few times. Not... not when the book was in my hand, mind you. If/when I was reading, I could NOT put it down. But when I thought over what I'd read... remembering what scene I was picking the story back up in, sometimes I was squeamish, to put it gently. If you've read it, just picture this book as a movie... and imagine explaining to your spouse why you liked it so much while bodies pile up or one of the horrors from the forest is dripping saliva on you. See what I mean? More than a few times I would hide behind the couch to watch scenes that can be felt approaching just by the moments of calm.
That's some skill, I say. Good writing skill. 5 Star skill. Memorable world and memorable characters with a story that lingers long after the final scene. I'm not sure I want to visit Agniezka, honestly. I think I'd be quite terrified of her world and herself and her Dragon... and everyone else. But I'm quite gratified that I saw how things came about. I'm thrilled that so much happened in ONE BOOK when every story seems to come in 3's and 4's nowadays, b/c it's no less epic than those. I am pretty sure I'll crave it again some day and wonder what world or what character it was that made me feel this way as I try to remember what book it was. Not that Uprooted isn't an appropriate title. It is. But this book is much, much more than roots, too.