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Naomi Novik, author of the New York Times best-selling and critically acclaimed Temeraire novels, introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.
"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 10 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 10 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.
It isn't the accent so much as the woodenness of the narration that makes this a little frustrating to listen to. The story is great, but the reading really detracts from it.
117 of 124 people found this review helpful
"Uprooted" feels like a forgotten fairy tale that somehow slipped out of our common culture, but would be right at home next to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and all the rest. There's magic, wizards, princes, and evil forests. (WOW, the evil trees are AWESOME. But we'll come back to those later.) But despite that sense of familiarity, I can't think of too many other books like it. In some ways it reminds of Neil Gaiman's "Stardust," and in other ways of Susanna Clarke's "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell." Maybe a dash of Katherine Addison's "The Goblin Emperor." It's charming like those books, and yet it's also very much its own story.
Agnieszka is a fantasy heroine for the ages. She's messy, kind, stubborn, bumbling yet brilliant when it comes to magic. I loved how devoted she is to her friend Kasia (and how loyal Kasia is to her). Her relationship with the Dragon could've felt like a revamped Beauty & the Beast, or Pygmalion, and maybe there are hints of all that here. But Novik twists all those tropes and stories and comes up with a relationship and storyline that feels fresh. At it's heart, this is a story of love (not only the romantic kind, although there is that too) and friendship.
Can we talk about the forest and the trees? Because Novik has created some of the most horrifying evil trees I think I've ever read, and it's kind of delightful how vile and terrifying they are. The bark, the sap, the branches...the descriptions and details were terrifying (and delicious).
Julia Emelin's narration has come under a lot of criticism, which baffles me. Because of the Russian accent? Honestly, I cannot figure it out. After reading the reviews, I previewed the narration before I purchased the book, and remained puzzled -- Emelin's voice and accent helped ground tone for the story. I was captivated by every minute of her performance. Novik spun an incredible tale, and Emelin's narration complimented it to perfection.
"Uprooted" is one of my favorite listens in the last year. It feels like a story we've known our whole lives, even if we're just hearing it for the first time. And it's one I'll want to hear again and again and again.
27 of 29 people found this review helpful
This is one of those stories that causes one to heave a contented sigh when it ends.
Naomi Novik has written a tale that reminded me of some of Peter Falk's lines from The Princess Bride, "revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes..." Yet none of this story is in the usual way. It is not a humorous story, but it is a tale of wonder.
Agnieszka, (a mouthful of a name), simple village girl, infuriatingly clumsy, untidy, seemingly slow; handed over to serve the wizard of the tower. He is called Dragon, impatient, cold, unkind, proud and arrogant.
There is an evil wood which is slowly expanding, overwhelming the land spreading grim darkness, evil and monsters. The Dragon is trying to keep the wood from growing but is not succeeding.
The tale unfolds with many other characters adding to a story more complex and nuanced with each chapter. It's quite a long tale and Agnieszka herself tells the story.
Some readers complained about the performance by Julia Emelin. I rather liked her Eastern European accent (though I have no idea how accurate it may be). It made the story more authentic in a way, even if it was at times a little difficult to understand.
Listen to the sample and judge for yourself. If you don't care for her performance, then read the book, it is a satisfying experience and worth the time.
17 of 18 people found this review helpful
Agnieszka is the daughter of a woodcutter, living in a quiet village in a peaceful valley--bounded by a menacing Wood where dark forces lurk. The Dragon, a cold and remote wizard, is their valley's defense against the Wood, but there is a price: every ten years, he chooses one seventeen-year-old girl to serve him for the next ten years. The girls emerge from the tower at the end of their service seemingly unharmed, but changed. They don't stay in the valley; they take the dowry the Dragon gives them and move elsewhere. Admittedly to prosperous, successful lives, but leaving the valley seems unimaginable.
Agnieszka and her best friend, Kasia, are "Dragon-born," i.e., seventeen years old in the year the Dragon will next claim a new servant. Everyone knows that that new servant will be Kasia. Kasia is everything the Dragon looks for--beautiful, clever, kind, and brave. Agnieszka dreads losing her friend forever.
But when the day comes, it's not Kasia the Dragon takes away to his tower; it's Agnieszka. Grumpily, reluctantly, he announces that he "had better" take Agnieszka.
Because the Dragon does not explain anything, it's quite a while before she begins to understand why the Dragon decided he "had better" take her rather than Kasia.
Agnieszka has embarked, unknowingly, on an adventure that will take both her and Kasia to the Wood, to the capital, and on a journey of self-discovery that holds the potential to bring salvation or destruction on everything she loves.
Once I started Uprooted, I couldn't stop till I was done. Agnieszka is stubborn, argumentative, kind, and loyal. The Dragon is slowly revealed as a complicated, difficult character, with real strengths and real flaws. Kasia, too, is much more than the rather simplistic role everyone had unconsciously assigned her. Even Prince Marek, who in a superficial reading is assigned a "bad guy" role, is a good deal more layered than that simple role, brave, egotistical, seeing through manipulative scheming, ambitious, rebuking a lord for imposing too-high taxes rather than punishing the peasant who stole a sheep because of the burden of those taxes. Right to the end, I had real doubt about how Marek would turn out--and how he turned out remained complicated.
I want to say lots more about Agnieszka here, what she learns, what she accomplishes, and her complex, layered relationship with the Dragon, but every time I try I wind up deleting it as too spoiler-y. Read the book! Get to know her!
This book is a Hugo finalist this year, and it thoroughly deserves to be. Highly recommended.
I bought this book.
13 of 14 people found this review helpful
Uprooted is an incredible story, completely absorbing and not at all what I expected. It feels like the real story that a thousand grim fairytales were based on. Surprisingly real, unpredictable and without the simplistic morality.
The narration is brilliant. The accent and the narrator's performance really brings the story alive. It made me feel as though Agnieszka herself was telling her story to me. It must have felt like a bit of a gamble, to use someone with an authentic accent, but it was very effective.
I cannot think of another novel to compare this to, but it did put me a bit in mind of the movie Pan's Labrynth - at times beautiful, charming and genuinely creepy.
This is hands down the best fantasy novel I have experienced in a long time, it's reawakened my love of the genre.
11 of 12 people found this review helpful
I don't usually like to post bad reviews. Maybe its just the narration, but this just feels like I'm trying to finish a tedious chore instead of engaging in an enchanted escape. I am not usually that hard to please but the last few audios have not worked out for me and this book has been my least favorite so far.
The accent is making it hard for me to get lost in the story because I end up focusing on the task of trying to understand what most of the sentences are that she is speaking. I don't think I am going to finish. I am on chapter five and it has taken way to long for me to get that far. I will sleep on the decision of finishing it not. However, if I don't read further, I will ask for a refund of my credit.
I suggest that potential readers of this book should listen to the sample before buying. If the narrators accent doesn't bother you, then perhaps you will enjoy the story as well.
Thank you and good luck!!
72 of 84 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to Uprooted the most enjoyable?
I loved the story. I thought it was a nice dark fairytale set in creepy woods.
What didn’t you like about Julia Emelin’s performance?
I couldn't stand it. I truly couldn't. She has a thick almost Russian accept and after a while it gave me a headache. I don't think she did a bad job reading the book itself. The accent was simply way thick and, after a while, even the pronunciations of the words bothered me. Like saying 'rivah' instead of 'river.'I've listened to hundreds of audio books and I can say that this is the only one that I hated simply for the accent. It feels odd to say that too. There've been bad readers. The little better than a robot kind and even the American readers who decide to narrator in an English accent but this was different. I feel really bad down rating a book simply because of an accent. I think I'm rambling because of that guilt,
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Yes. But I couldn't. The reader gave me a headache.
Any additional comments?
I listen to books on tape at work so I listen to them in large chunks of time. Perhaps that's my issue with the reader. Preview the book and ask yourself if you can stand 17 hours of it before you buy it. The book is good enough that I'd reread it again if it was redone.
47 of 55 people found this review helpful
Though Uprooted has an interesting setup and seems to be well-loved by readers, I found this fantasy novel to be pretty middling. The premise is that there's a kingdom threatened by an evil, corrupting forest, which is warded off by a solitary wizard called the Dragon. Every ten years, the Dragon selects a peasant girl from one village to serve him for the same amount of time. Nobody really knows what he does with the girls, but when they return to the world, they aren't the same and soon leave the village.
The protagonist is a girl named Agnieszka, who, to her own surprise, is chosen. The wizard proves to be an irritable, difficult man whose social graces have worn off over decades (sort of like me after too long of a coding session), and treats her like a scullery maid. As the reader might expect in a story like this, Agnieszka turns out to have some latent magical abilities, and the Dragon turns out to have a heart under his crusty outer layer.
The plot is fairly standard stuff for fantasy, with a bit of romance novel thrown in. There's an arrogant, dangerous prince; a queen taken by the evil wood; a loyal best friend; a cold, scheming king; an oily rival wizard; nasty magical monsters, and an ancient people whose uncovered secrets are instrumental to the plot. Unsurprisingly, Agnieszka realizes that her talents are superior to the Dragon's in some ways, and the two of them discover that they must collaborate to fight The Wood. Also, they discover that they have the hots for each other (I had a bad "wood" pun in mind, but thought better).
If you've read a lot of fantasy novels, especially ones with a folkloric basis, there's nothing surprising here. I didn't find the writing very compelling or the characters very complex, though I was engaged enough to keep listening. It's really not a bad book, and I think that readers who haven't become jaded to the tropes of fantasy might like it, but it's not a very heavyweight entry to the genre.
There have been complaints about the audiobook reader. While I didn't find her performance terrible and didn't mind her accent itself, she speaks with a weird cadence that gets a little irritating. Imagine some text-to-speech software that reads in a Polish accent, and you'll have a sense of the way that some passages and bits of dialogue sound. Voice actors, you don't have to make foreign accents THAT exotic, especially if it's the protagonist's own inner voice.
If you really want to read this book, don't let my three stars discourage you, but it might be one to get on sale.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up Uprooted in three words, what would they be?
magical, depth, adventure
Who was your favorite character and why?
the wood- great adversary
How could the performance have been better?
The accent was perfect- the fluidity was horrible. The character was talking in her native tongue, so why all the stops and starts? I found the choppiness of the narrative distracting.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
no, just made me happy to have found the author
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Listen to the into and decide for yourself how particular you are about how things are pronounced. Some of the comments of the reviewers are accurate; the narrator has a very distinct accent and cadence that will either flow for you or fall flat. For me, I thought that her rhythm and imperfections were perfect for the character she was portraying. She brought the story to life in a way that someone with a standard American or English accent wouldn't have done. She was passionate, earnest and earthy...very much like Agnieszka herself was telling you her story. If you don't like her reading style then grab the hard cover because this is a great book, but I am glad I took a chance with the audio version. My husband agrees.
36 of 45 people found this review helpful