Uprooted by Naomi Novik or my failed attempt to enjoy fantasy

Genre: fantasy. ⭐️Stars from Goodreads: 4.11. ⭐️Stars from me: 3.

I don’t normally read fantasy. Uprooted was my first attempt in decades to read a book of this genre. It didn’t go very well.

About Uprooted

The setting

The action takes place in a country called Polnya. Polnya is often at war with a country called Rosja (a Polish word for “Russia”). The prince from Polnya is called Marek (a Polish name), the prince from Rosja is called Vasily (a Russian name). In fact, at some point I thought that the Wood, being the big evil which “corrupts” and tortures people, is an allegory for communism.

The characters

There’s a powerful wizard called Dragon who takes a girl from the village every ten years and keeps her in his tower for the period of ten years. Whatever he does to them, the girls don’t want to stay in the village after he lets them go. They move to cities to start new lives.

The main character is Agnieszka who seems to be very simple and talentless until, to Agnieszka’s own surprise, we discover unexpected things about her and start following her adventures.

Good things about the book

The protagonist

As cliché as Agnieszka might be (an ordinary girl who turns out to be not that ordinary), I like her personality. She can be funny, and I like how brave and independent she is. I also like how she grows throughout the story.

The story

I didn’t find the story very beautiful or special, but I’m grateful that it developed and had a logical end.


I was completely mesmerised by the images! Gusts of sparkly dust flying up in the air when people make love, soap bubbles carrying voice messages inside, bloodthirsty trees, monstrous cows… How do authors ever come up with such ideas?! Do they practice this skill? This is amazing!

Had the book consisted only of these images, I would have probably loved it. Unfortunately, there were other things too, so…

Let me rant!

Problem solving methods

I got so engrossed by the story when the first disaster had happened! The situation was dire, inescapable! How would the author ever find the way out for her character in a crisis like this? It’s simply impossible! I was so curious, so naive…


Fine, I thought. It’s fantasy after all, some magic is bound to happen. As the story progressed, though, I started skipping chunks of the text when problems happened, because I knew how the actions would unfold. My Twitter keeps the memories of my frustration.

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The spells

Is it really necessary to devote so much attention to which exactly non-existent words a character uses to solve a problem? Is a reader supposed to care what the character will choose between “abracadabrium” and “bubblegumium”? I honestly don’t know. I didn’t care at all. The words sound silly and the outcome is obvious, anyway.

The character of Dragon

Dragon is always grumpy for the sake of being grumpy. He’s a caricature on grumpiness that makes Shrek or Grinch look deep and sophisticated.


Lethargic description of dramatic situations

I’m not sure if Novik did it on purpose (and why if so), or just failed to convey the tension and dynamism of many dramatic moments. The scenes that are supposed to shock and startle sound monotonous and almost serene. Judge for yourself. (It is a whole paragraph so it can be considered a spoiler although nothing important to the plot is revealed there.)

Somewhere behind me, one of the men sighed deeply — a relieved noise, as though he were setting down a heavy weight. It was loud in the Wood’s silence. I looked around. His scarf had sagged down from his face: it was the friendly young soldier with the broken nose who’d led my horse to water. He reached out with a knife drawn, sharp and bright silver, and he caught the head of the man riding in front of him and cut his throat in a one deep red gash from side to side.

The other soldier died without a sound.

Is it just me or it sounds as captivating as a list of inventory?

Drama cliché

Brave women saving orphaned children and drama queen thoughts after having sex. One word: no.

Final thoughts

I am … confused.

If all fantasy is like that, I don’t want to read it. I outgrew fairytales a long time ago (just for the record, the book is not appropriate for kids because of violence and sex scenes). Theoretically, this is not a bad fantasy book. It got several awards. There are many praising reviews on Goodreads (while I relate more to this negative one). Many bloggers whose opinions I trust also liked this book. There even will be a movie adaptation, produced by Ellen DeGeneres!

Thus, I’m inclined to think that I’m just not compatible with fantasy. Some people from Twitter offered to help me choose a fantasy book that I might enjoy more. That’s why I will give this genre another chance, but not before the spell from this one wears off. 😉

19 thoughts on “Uprooted by Naomi Novik or my failed attempt to enjoy fantasy

      1. Can we talk about the “oh no, he educated them and gave them money” review you referred for a second? Like seriously. I read the first two pages, and I was out because it was annoying. It’s not like the girls were traumatized, they just wanted better lives than the village could offer. (At least from what I gathered in my two pages and these reviews.)

        1. Well, there’s slightly more to the story, but you got the general idea, yet. I think if I knew more about the genre I would have probably felt that something was wrong already at that point 🙂

  1. I love your review – witty and hilarious. BUT I would also say that Uprooted is a particular type of Fantasy – there are a bunch of other sub-genres which you may enjoy more as they are not so rooted in the world of fairytales.

    1. Yes, I need something uprooted from that world :)) Thank you Sarah! I’m happy you liked the review. I remember you liked the book too so I’m happy to know I didn’t upset you with my review. Yes, many people told me that there are many other types of fantasy. I wasn’t sure what to believe. Is there a fantasy that wouldn’t look so much like…well…fantasy? I know too little of the genre. I’m planning to try some other type of fantasy.

      1. How petty would it be of me to get grumpy over a witty well-reasoned review just because you happened to find the book annoying, when I loved it? Have you tried any of the urban fantasy around, which is set in modern cityscapes. The Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch, or The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic by Helen Harper is loads of fun in that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

  2. Oh, man. You had a hard time with this one! Yeah, some of this sounds like why I can’t get 100% into fantasy, either. The premise of this sounds interesting, but I don’t think I like when stories get TOO magical. I can bend my mind a decent amount, but when everything appears to completely be in contradiction with reality as we know it (e.g., sparkly sex dust), I start to lose interest. Maybe I WON’T be trying this one. 😉 Thanks for the honest review!

    1. Thank you CJ! Yes, I think we match in our attitude. I was willing to try, I thought maybe I can go through this fine, if so many people enjoy it, but all I managed to achieve is the occasional wow at the amount of the author’s imagination.

  3. Really enjoyed your review, Alexandra! I don’t read all that much fantasy anymore, but I do like dipping into it occasionally. Well done for trying, and three stars isn’t a disaster 🙂

    1. Thank you Stephen! You are right, it wasn’t a disaster. It might have been even better than I expected (even though I din’t expect that much magic in problem solving). For some reason, I thought you like fantasy 🙂

      1. You’re welcome 🙂 I do like some fantasy, just not the full range of it. For example, the Harry Potter series are my favourite books, but apart from them I only revisit the genre from time to time 🙂

  4. Oh well at least you tried… maybe there is something about fantasy that tends to make for poorer quality writing? Just guessing here, because I don’t tend to read fantasy any more. If I do, it’s usually children’s/YA which I first read a long time ago and which I return to. I have no idea about the subgenres of fantasy though.

    1. Thanks NS for the attitude, I also think that it’s good I tried. Also, I will try again. I had a suspicion that YA and fantasy might be of poorer writing, and probably because people who love these genres love the actual stories, visuals, situations, so they are willing to ignore how the stories are written. Bone Gap wasn’t that bad. I will try more fantasy. I also used to think it’s all dragons and spells but apparently there are different subgenres.

      1. I pretty much agree with you there. I’m not really interested in dragons, unicorns, spells etc. I wouldn’t read a book just for the content, for me it’s about the writing style.

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