Uprooted: the book that makes me say “FIVE FUCKING STARS!!!”

Read This Books! Uprooted by Naomi Novik, the book that makes me say "FIVE FUCKING STARS!!!" | Review and Illustration by Asti @ bit.ly/atypicalnarrative

How did I feel about Naomi Novik’s Uprooted after finishing it? Well, let’s refer to my notes, shall we?

SO FUCKING GOOD! FIVE STARS! I finished with a huge ass smile on my face. I just, ahhh.

Hm… I’m not sure if that really encompasses my feelings. Let’s take a look at my Goodread’s review.

FIVE FUCKING STARS!!!!!!

Is this book perfect? Not necessarily. But I loved every second of it.

Okay then. There’s my thoughts on Uprooted. I gave it five stars and it makes me want to say “fucking”. That’s good enough for those who just want my general thoughts, but for those who want more…

Warning: There is some mild spoilage below. Nothing that I would consider to ruin the plot of the book or anything like that, but if you want to go into it knowing only what the blurb reveals, you may want to turn back now or read the headings but nothing else.

The unlikable but likable characters

I am a character-focused reader so of course I have to start by discussing the characters. And let me say, while I didn’t necessarily like the characters of Uprooted, I loved them. 

Think about that a second. I didn’t like them but I loved them. Seriously, the fact that Novik could make that happen makes her a queen in my book.

You see, the characters definitely had their flaws. The girl who the stories focuses on, Nieshka, was quite annoying and irritating at points with her defiant attitude and reckless actions. She was, in many ways, a Special Snowflake (warning for those who can’t stand the type) and though it was great seeing her stand up for herself and do things of her own accord, it would’ve been nice for her to think about the possible consequences of her actions before running into trouble at every possible moment.

And the Dragon? The guy who lives in a tower and kidnaps a girl from the nearby town once a decade? Well, he was definitely a cranky old man with no patience. There is no limit to the amount of verbal abuse he spews at Nieshka throughout the book and, really, it would’ve done him good at times to break himself free from his traditions.

But hey, you see all that? You see all these issues with these characters? I DIDN’T CARE!

Yeah, Nieshka was stupid at times, but it meant things kept happening! The book kept moving! There was always some nonsense going on because she couldn’t just leave well enough alone.

And sure, the Dragon was a bit of an ass, but I totally understood it! If some girl came in and totally disrupted my way of life after decades of doing what I have to do as the HBIC wizard of the land, I would be pissy and short-tempered with her as well.

For me, there was just a perfect balance for these characters to be unlikable but likable. They had their flaws (don’t we all?), but there was enough understanding on my part to still root them on.

And that’s not even getting into the other characters. Let’s just say for those of you who want strong friendships in a book: Kasia, Kasia, Kasia. I love that girl

That magic stuff

Haha, come on, don’t you remember my Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them review: Fantastic beasts, boys, and magic… It doesn’t take much to win me over? I’m a sucker for magic in stories.

I think my favorite thing about the magic in this story is how… evil it was. (That’s not surprising, huh?) I loved that The Woods was this mysterious place full of dark magic where people would disappear and the trees themselves couldn’t be trusted. And that even when the wizards used magic, it was often to fight (even at times against themselves). It didn’t seem like the magic was just used for the hell of it. It was ruthless and intimidating in many ways, and I think that’s a good thing.

I also liked the contrast that appeared between Nieshka’s and the Dragon’s magic. While it did make her seem a Special Snowflake in some ways, it was quite intriguing and I enjoyed watching their different types of magic come together.

I’d say the only thing that didn’t work for me at times was the consequence of using magic. This was one of those stories in which using magic exhausts the wizard, and using it too much can be deadly. And yet at times it seemed like wizards were using magic after magic after magic with some minor fatigue but nothing as serious of a consequence as one would expect. I mean, obviously I don’t know the daily limit to a wizard’s power, but boy, were they put to work.

Oh, and I would’ve liked Baba Jaga to make an appearance or to dive deeper into her story. I wanted to know more.

The bow-chicka-wow-wow

Lastly, let’s end this review with a word on the romance.

I am not a romance reader. I prefer stories without and will steer away if I know a book focuses heavily on the love with between two MCs. Luckily, this book isn’t like that.

Novik is sort of a tease. She gets you excited about the romance that takes place within this book, but then it pulls it apart… and the puts it back together… and then pulls it apart. I actually found myself disappointed when the romance was separated and excited to see what would come when reunited – such a rare thing for me!

There just seemed to be the perfect balance between allowing some intimacy to form between these characters without pulling away from the action of the story. Things happened, as things do, but they always turned back to the trouble at hand.

Plus, the fact that neither character ever sacrificed their identities for the other? That they were both stubborn and did what they felt needed to be done without letting their love and affection for each other get in the way? Loved it. I feel like it’s needed so much more in the stories I read.

(Though I will say wow, I’m not used to reading adult books. Some of those scenes were a bit intense… haha.)

So that’s it! My long, ramble on Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. Is it a perfect book? Not necessarily. It is sitting high on my favorites shelf? Absolutely. It’s a book it seems readers either love or hate, so hopefully you end up on the love side with me.

And, if nothing else, it’s got a pretty cover. (Well, the UK version anyways.)

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Have you read Uprooted? Let me know what you thought below! Disagree with me on anything? Anything else you loved that you think I missed? And if you haven’t read it yet, do you think you will? What can I do to convince you it’d be a good life decision?

Hey █████ , read The Illuminae Files!

The Illuminae Files by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman || illustration by Asti @ atypicalnarrative

It is time, boys and girls.
It is time for me to sink back into my book blogger ways and discuss a recent favorite of mine.
Aren’t you oh so excited?? (You better be, damnit. I worked hard on this post.)

Today I want to urge you to pick up and read The Illuminae Files by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman (at least the first one). Why?

BECAUSE FUCK

Yes, fuck. I love that there are fucking cuss words in this kick-ass bitch of a book. (Whoa Asti, whoa. I think that’s enough there. Your mom reads these posts.)

I was a teen once and I know it may be shocking to hear, but I cussed. Especially in high-intensity situations. So, as silly as it may sound, I actually love that there is a YA book out there in which cussing is a regular occurrence for the teenage MCs.

But don’t worry! If you’re averse to cussing and rather turn a blind eye, this series does a good job of censoring itself. It’s like watching TV with all the “bleeps”. The cussing is there and you can easily figure out what it is, but if you rather pretend otherwise you can just admire all the random █████ marks blocking those naughty words.

THAT ANTICI… PATION

Books that throw you in the deep of things and remind you that something is always around the corner are my favorite. They keep you on the edge of your seat and that anticipation of just waiting for things to blow up is absolutely delicious to me.

With both Illuminae and Gemina, you get regular countdowns alerting you to what is on its way. Even beyond that though, you get other little indicators of trouble, too, such as the growing blood stain from pages of Hanna’s sketchbook in Gemina. (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler, it is brought to the reader’s attention on page 17.) I found myself reading in anticipation for when it was going to come into play.

Marie Lu's Illustration in Jay Kristoff's and Amie Kaufman's Gemina || Asti @ bit.ly/atypicalnarrative

Page 31 of Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman, Illustrated by Marie Lu

IT’S WHAT IT IS: THE ILLUMINAE FILES

One of the most notable things about this series, and the one thing I think I was a bit apprehensive about going into it, was the fact that this story is told through a file of documents. It’s not just a narrator telling a story. There are chat logs, surveillance footage summaries, unipedia (aka wikipedia) documents, sketchbook pages, maps, and even just pages in which the words themselves flow around the page to illustrate movement or action or something more.

It’s a bit of everything, but I think the authors do a great job in ensuring it all serves a purpose in progressing the story and I really like how much personality is still attached to each file. Even if it’s just some unknown person describing what they’re seeing on camera monitors, there are bits and pieces of attitude here and there that make it a lot of fun to read.

THOSE ATTITUDES

Speaking of attitudes, can I just say I love the characters because they’re spunky? (Wait, does anyone even use that word anymore? Hm.) They’re sarcastic and sassy and inappropriate. And while I think all of that may drive some people crazy, I think it’s actually quite reflective to how ridiculous teens can be. (Add in the fact that it even goes beyond teens to a certain something else in Illuminae and LOVE!!)

Plus their interactions! Some of my favorite parts of these files are reading the interactions between the characters because they don’t hold anything back. For me, it was just so good.

YOU CAN GET OFF HERE

The last thing I’ll tell you in hopes that it’ll convince you to pick up this series is that you really can just stop after the first book. While the two stories published so far are loosely connected, the second book features a different set of characters and scenarios than the first.

It’s not a HUGELY different story, and in fact I feel like that’s where some readers truly struggle with when it comes to the sequel (they feel like it’s just a weak rinse and repeat of the first), but there were enough differences to keep me engaged and in love with this series as I continued.

So there you have it! My review/rave/read-this-now post about The Illuminae Series by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman. Let me know what you think in the comments below. If you haven’t read this book yet, does this sound like something you might like? And if you have, what did you think of the series? 

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PS. In case you missed it, the first issue of my biweekly newsletter in which I share the linkage love around the blogosphere and provide some sneak peaks / insight into my current happenings went live this weekend! If you’d like future issues to be delivered straight to your inbox, be sure to sign up!