Starting April with Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I always think of a fantasy standalone as something to get jittery about: there is this excitement to dive into a whole new world without needing to commit to who knows how many upcoming books; there is, however, the same amount of weariness about how many chapters will it cost in an attempt to reduce too long of a plot into only one installment.

I started Uprooted by Naomi Novik with both sentiments in mind, though one chapter afterward, the weariness quickly ebbed. Following the lore in a small village called Dvernik, the story kicks off with something that haunts every seventeen years old girl in every decade: that the most powerful wizard called the Dragon will pick one of them to live with him in his tower, not to go out ever again before the ten years period has passed.

For some reason unbeknown to all, the girls that get picked out will no more be the same once they are free to go. Neither desires to live in the village anymorethe longest stay has been for only a month. But it is of no worry for Agnieszka, for everybody knows that the Dragon will pick her best friend: the beautiful, brave, and perfect Kasia. And Agnieszka hates the Dragon for the thought of losing Kasia. So when the time has come and the Dragon shows interest in her instead, her world turns upside down, and she discovers that there is more to her than what it has always seemed.

I was half ready to proclaim this book as a new favorite, or so at first. With a promising premise, a page-turner for the first chapter, and magic, nothing, it seemed, might go wrong. Agnieszka seemed headstrong and brave to me, and after a few chapters in, the Dragon sort of reminded me of Nathaniel Thorn from Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson, only a bit ruder.

I found some flaws that raised several unanswered questions about the magic system. Albeit it felt rather strange that a new witch could summon power so strong that quickly, or that the system itself didn't have some general rules to apply, the first half of the book hooked me. I liked the eerie ambiance of the Dragon's tower, the magic that seemed so liberating instead of being suffocating, and the fact that both main characters were equally stubborn as hell. I even broke the promise I had made to myself to not sleep past midnight if I could help it.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn't last very long. The more I dived into this book, the more I found the uncanny resemblance between Agnieszka and the infamous Mary Sue, and that no matter how foolish she acted, she would always get her way and succeed. It was not annoying more than it was just far-fetched, and the story itself was not bad to begin with, so I kept going and enjoying it.

I couldn't stop but wonder though, that maybe, I would enjoy the story more as a trilogy: the first book would be the journey in which Agnieszka tried to get used to the magic within her and how to efficiently handle it, the second would be her trying to weasel her way in the Capitol, and the third would be the impending doom that had been waiting all along. I think, separating the story into three parts would provide us with more serious character development, and also more chemistry between Agnieszka and the Dragon. The plot wouldn't feel as forced short, and we would probably see another side of the Dragon that would make us like him more.

In conclusion, I would say that this book had a lot of promising potentials, though some of them didn't actually come to fruition. I really enjoyed the first half of the book; the last half I decided to read quickly just so I could see what happened next. Regardless of that, I will still recommend you to try and see how this book will do to you though. Who knows its magic will work its way further to you than it did to me.

Actual rating: 2.9