Review of Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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

My Rating:

“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.

DNF Review of Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

By: Heather Dixon
Release Date: May 19th 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow
Format: E-ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I made it to 57%

From the author of Entwined, a brilliantly conceived adventure through an alternate London. This sweeping, cinematic tale of an apprentice scientist desperate to save his family—and his world—is The Night Circus meets Pixar.

Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that is breathtaking and wholly original.

My Thoughts:
Did you read that intriguing (and vague) summary? Sounds like perfection-so I knew I’d need to read this book as soon as possible. I’ve read Dixon’s Entwined and enjoyed it so I was even more excited. Pus, look at that cover. Really, what isn’t appealing about this?

Sadly, I think my expectations might have been too high. I enjoyed the beginning of this book but it felt on the younger side of YA and I’d hoped for a more mature storyline. The characters were okay but none of them really gripped me.

Illusionarium does deal with an alternate universe and the way Dixon introduces it through inhaling a drug and pretty much hallucinating the door between worlds was incredibly unique if not a tad hard to visualize. You’d think with drug use and hallucinating this book would feel on the older side of the young adult spectrum but it didn’t for me. The dialog and level of detail seemed nearly middle grade. I believe a good amount of people will become absorbed in the creative world building and enjoy the lighter feel of the story but it fell just a tad short for my taste.

I think my detachment stems from my inability to really connect to the main character, Jonathan. He was likeable, intelligent though on the goofy side. His voice seemed unique to him and I cant really find any real flaw with his character but my connection to him was absent. I wanted to feel more emotionally attached to him and his quest but I couldn’t. I wasn’t overly concerned about how he faired.

The side characters were less developed and felt a tad like caricatures. We spend very little time in Jonathan’s real world so his family members and love interest are quickly forgotten as the new cast of characters from the alternate universe are introduced. I’d also thought the book would be a tad romantic because of that swoony cover but it really wasn’t. There was hardly any romance and I wonder if that if it had been included if I’d have liked the story better. The book does focus on a sibling relationship that was sweet but I wanted a few swoon-moments. Again, I brought my own expectations into the story.

I ended up putting this book aside for more other books with more pressing release dates and after hanging out on my currently reading shelf since December of last year I figured it was time to give up and put this away. I might venture back because I really did enjoy this author’s other book and there wasn’t anything bad per se but it just couldn’t grip me.

I want to know- have you read Illusionarium? If so, would you recommend I go back and finish it?