Uprooted by Naomi Novik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Solid, solid, solid. As solid as wood.
Honestly, I was feeling a bit of trepidation before reading this, and I'm very happy to say that I didn't have any issues with the novel.
What? No issues at all?
No, not really. I honestly enjoyed opening characterizations, all focused more upon the hopes and the realistic expectations when it came to the Dragon who may or may not be an evil nobel/wizard, and I enjoyed the bait and switch enough that I just got suckered into the rest of the story despite all the old resonances of plot and myth.
Instead of being tired, though, I actually looked forward to learning the magic and discovering how all of it worked, or didn't work in her case, and I plainly enjoyed the dichotomy as it revealed itself. Words and reason versus song and intuition.
Of course, it wasn't the dichotomy alone that made it special. It was the interwoven dualism of both and the harmony that both deep learning and a trust in instinct can form together.
As a love story, it's mild and cute. As a retelling of the evil forest mythos featuring Baba Yaga (or Jaga in the text,) it's strong as hell and always on target. As a story, it had strong plots and steady progression, right down through the training, to the introduction to the kingdom, to the Main Reversal, to the Next Reversal, to the dire oh-shit-this-has-gotten-crazy reveal.
I'll tell you right now: I was rather a bit upset that the big bad is an evil forest, but the idea is much older than all our modern tree-hugging sympathies, so in effect it still came across as something fresh. How odd!
I was entertained to the very last page and so damn happy that I got to read this.
Of course, strangely enough, I hadn't even considered reading it until I learned that it was nominated for the Nebula, and now I feel rather more than vaguely embarrassed. Shame on me!
Barring any upsets on my upcoming short-list for the Nebula, I think this one is going to be second favorite of the bunch.
The Fifth Season still leads, followed closely with Uprooted. I've still got a few other titles to read, but I can tell you that Ancillary Mercy will be somewhere in the middle and Updraft will trail at the bottom.
Let's see how Raising Caine, The Grace of Kings, and Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard fare, shall we? :)
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