Monday, August 17, 2015

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Before I read this book, I read a review in which the reviewer claimed that this book "feels like it's always been with us."
After reading this book I know why; it's Tolkien-based.
Don't get me wrong; it's a very good book.  But I am left with the distinct impression that the author's process went something like this:
Why did Old Man Willow encase the hobbits in the first place?  Why would a tree do that?
What if Tom Bombadil were a sexy, taciturn wizard instead of an immortal hillbilly in yellow boots?
What is Goldberry's story?  And what if she were the daughter of the Old Forest instead of the River's Daughter?
And what if more women in Tolkien besides Eowyn had active roles instead of passive ones?  What if Tolkien weren't so into benevolent patriarchy anyway?
What is the history of The Old Forest?

Answer these questions, throw in Baba Jaga so it doesn't sound all Tolkien, put in some Polish names, and you've got Uprooted.

Although it's not particularly original, it's well done.  It's rather like discovering that pieces from one puzzle can form a different picture if you put them together in a new way.
The characterization is superb, the pacing is good, and the plot works decently (although predictably).
I am most pleased with how good a book this is for girls.  The protagonist (who has a long and unpronounceable name -- why would an author do that?) is a terrific role model for girls.  She's truly a  "strong female character," but not in physical strength.  She matures a great deal in the book.  And better yet, about half of the strong, important characters are women (both for good and for bad!).  I loved this.
Her friendship with Kasia works well, and the book is not JUST about romance with the sexy wizard.

One caution: there is one attempted rape scene, one almost sex scene, and one sex scene.  These are not gratuitous, but are integral to the plot.  However, this book might not be appropriate for very sensitive or young kids.  (I probably wouldn't give it to anyone younger than 12, but that's just my opinion.)  It's also not appropriate for overly-sensitive parents.

But overall, this is a very good book, and I definitely recommend it.

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