Review of Uprooted by Naomi Novik

UprootedUprooted
By: Naomi Novik
Release Date: May 19th 2015
Publisher: Del Rey
Format: ARC
Source: Book trade

My Rating:
star

Summary:
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

My Thoughts:
I had some high expectations going into Uprooted. All the early reviews were fantastic and it’s been optioned for a film…so let’s just say this book had a LOT to live up to. And, thankfully, it did. I adored the writing, characters and story.

I’m not entirely sure of what classification this book fits into–young adult or adult, but I felt that the pacing and overall feel was more adult but would be easily accessible to a young adult reader as well. Uprooted is a standalone so we get the entire story packed into one book which is always nice for a change of pace. I must admit though, I’m greedy and do wish there would be a sequel. I think I might have enjoyed the story even more if it could have spread over two books. I felt like some of the character interactions would have benefited from being longer and more drawn out.

The characters were fabulous- especially the Dragon. He was the perfect mixture of mysterious, inaccessible yet caring. I felt like him and Agnieszka had incredible dialog and chemistry. I was so sad though that we didn’t have more scenes of them together (see I am greedy). The side characters were strong as well and everyone felt well rounded to me.

One of my favorite elements of Uprooted was the scary Wood. It seems like many fairy tales always have the scary wood but rarely do we really get the full scope of what caused it to be that way or an adequate description of the forest. In this book the wood was such an entity and felt like a character. I was fairly creeped out by the imagery and was incredibly impressed with how creative Novik was in her describing the wood dwelling creatures.

Novik did a masterful job of incorporating fairytale elements into her story and the feel of this book felt very reminiscent of Grimm’s fairy tales. There’s this nice descript on Goodreads, “…introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale” that’s incredibly accurate concerning this book.

Final Thoughts:
Bottom line- I loved the writing, story and I had legit swoons though I’d hoped for a tiny bit more development for the relationship. Expect to be mesmerized by the world and to fall in love with the characters…just don’t expect to have enough scenes between the main leads.

Review of Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy, #1)Red Rising
By: Pierce Brown
Publisher: Del Rey (Random House)
Release Date: January 28th 2014

An electronic copy was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Darrow is a miner and a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he digs all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of the planet livable for future generations. Darrow has never seen the sky.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better future for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow and Reds like him are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow joins a resistance group in order to infiltrate the ruling class and destroy society from within. He will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

The Story:
I really had no idea what to expect going into this novel. I hadn’t heard of Pierce Brown and only knew that the story was classified as dystopian. I loved the cover and thought the summary had a lot of potential.

Red Rising starts off brilliant. I was awed with the gruesome world Brown created; it was harsh, realistic and gritty. We are introduced to the Reds, the lowest caste in a futuristic society. The Reds dig underground on Mars and live short, brutal lives. Brown’s words were vibrant, intense and spell-binding. I was immediately invested in Darrow and his story. I was sure Red Rising was on track to being one of my all time favorite books.

Sadly, around 30% the story took a major turn that switched the tone up and honestly felt like a completely different book. The summary supplies us with the knowledge that Darrow leaves his underground life to join forces with those above to retaliate and resist the upper castes–once these elements begin the feel of the books changes.

Many, many pages were dedicated to battle strategy, fighting and very gruesome deaths. All were written very well but overall I wish this section had been edited down so that the pacing felt faster.

The Characters:
Brown was able to create a very unique cast of characters with none of them being either good or evil. Each character had their faults though slivers of good shone through in certain moments. I enjoyed this juxtaposition of good and bad in each and found it made me interested in all the characters. The dialog was impressive since each character’s speech felt very different from the others.

The main character, Darrow, went on an intense personal journey throughout the novel. Though I was able to empathize and root for him I never connected to him as thoroughly as I would have liked.  Something about the way the majority of the novel was written kept me at arms length and I felt that I was watching things play out rather than living through them. I can’t pin-point why exactly but I think this is why that middle section dragged some for me personally.

Final Thoughts:
There is no doubt that Pierce Brown is a skilled writer and story teller. Red Rising is gruesome, gritty and horrific yet was able to get me pondering the questions Brown posed in his future society. Though the majority of the book felt a bit slow to me I was still able to find interest in the details and personal journey of the protagonist. The story’s stellar start gripped me leaving me unable to not know how Brown will manage to tie in the loose strands of his main story arc.

Kim at The Midnight Garden reviewed this title as well and was able to capture the atmosphere incredibly well. Head over to The Midnight Garden to read her thoughts.