Naomi Novrik’s Uprooted is a fantasy novel that, sadly, feels a bit more like a too-familiar fairy tale.
Agnieszka is the surprise pick of the wizard called “Dragon.” Every ten years, he whisks a village girl away to his tower to teach her to manage her magic skills. She’s bubbly and positive and easily outraged — everything you’d expect of a precocious witch. The Dragon (150-year-old Sarkan) is Oscar the Grouch in wizard form, quick with rebukes and ridicule, short on kind words and depth as a character. His pervasive negativity and sourpuss outlook is unwavering, which makes him thin and tedious.
I felt like Uprooted had great potential, but it was the lack of depth — in the characters, mostly but also in the plot — that put me off this battle-heavy epic. Uprooted’s scenes post-climactic battle left me confused. Agnieszka and Sarkan venture into the evil Wood to stop its omnipresent malevolence from devouring the surrounding small towns, yet these scenes feel muzzy, somehow like the dream the wood people seek to find peace. This part of the plot feels like it comes out of left field. I understand the idea and theme that wanton violence solves nothing and only creates more problems, though there is nothing to alert the reader earlier in the book that taking the path of nonviolence with the Wood is what will eventually bring peace.
Some of the most compelling scenes in the book take place when Agnieszka and Sarkan make magic together and I happily lost myself in the telling of that part of the story, only to find the battle scenes overdone and exceptionally longwinded in telling description. This, along with the puzzling dénouement, and I’d have to say that Uprooted was not for me.
May and June, 2016
The Dragon Reborn is book three of the Wheel of Time series. In book three, Rand appears only briefly as the book follows Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve’s storyline as Aes Sedai, interspersed with chapters from Perrin’s and Mat’s point of views. As a reader it was disappointing not only to know what would happen at the end of the book before reading it (Rand goes another round vs. B’alzamon. Who knew?) but also to find out the epic battle you’ve been waiting 600 pages for is short, perfunctory, and unsatisfying. It’s almost as if Robert Jordan became bored while writing the book. There’s almost no denouément whatsoever.
I’m currently reading book four, The Shadow Rising though not sure if I’ll continue reading the series beyond that.
The first half of The Great Hunt (book two of the Wheel of Time) series, suffers from the same tedium as The Eye of the World. The last third of the book is action-packed and nearly impossible to put down. Getting there is a bit of a slog, at times.
What intrigued me most were some very cool scenes that mirror the superposition principle of quantum physics. As Rand moves through the Portal Stone to Toman Head, he experiences the many variations of the path his life could have taken: with Egwene, without Egwene, honouring his position as the Dragon Reborn or rejecting it.
The sul’dam and the damane were compelling, yet revolting and bizarre at the same time. This idea of magical slavery was so brutal and cruel that as a reader, you want to see the Seanchan come back somewhere in the series so that you can see their empire destroyed.
The visit to Stedding Tsofu late in the book reveals more about Ogier life and culture — some of the most interesting scenes in the book.
Character development has improved in The Great Hunt, though the fact that some characters can survive battles and slavery and remain so innocent is baffling and annoying at the same time.
May and June, 2014
The Eye of the World is book one of the thirteen-book Wheel of Time series. I bought this book over a year ago and it took me a long time to start reading it. I began the book, telling myself that I could stop at any time and abandon not only book one, but the idea of reading the whole series.
The story starts slowly, focusing on Rand Al’Thor and a few friends from Emond’s Field: Mat, Perrin, and Egwene, and two strangers (Moraine Sedai and her Warder Lan Mandragoran) who come to town around the feast day, Bel Tine. Implausibly, these strangers convince Rand and his gang to leave the Two Rivers area in a bid to end the recent and unprecedented Trolloc attacks on their village. (This is a place they’ve barely left their entire lives. It’s all they know, and these intriguing strangers convince them to leave on a moment’s notice. Hmm…)
The middle of the book is repetitive to the point of tedious, where (of course) the fleeing group gets separated into smaller groups. The story mainly follows Rand and Mat, who get attacked by Darkfriends in various guises in every stop they make.
This long middle section reminded me of Scooby Doo where meddling kids are repeatedly attacked only to foil the evil forces. The book is over 800 pages and it covers this one lengthy and perilous journey. I was almost ready to abandon the book when the action began in the last couple hundred pages. Additionally, Loial the Ogier‘s appearance added a much needed element of intrigue. (Who doesn’t love a thinking being who adores books?)
My other major qualm with the writing is the golly-shucks-hayseed innocence to the interior monologue of some of the characters, notably, Rand, Perrin, and Egwene. Greater character development would make them feel less wooden. They’re young adults, though they think like children. Sometimes this book felt like a YA novel.
The action in this book hooked me enough to read to the end. I enjoyed learning about the world and about the various inhabitants, dark forces, and magical beings enough to start book two: The Great Hunt. Two hundred pages in, it’s moving slowly as well. Will I read book three? The jury is out.
May and June, 2014