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
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