Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Eye on New Releases for September 1, 2015


 (B&N, Amazon)

Synopsis:
"Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings -- cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite ompany of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.

Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings' laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha'ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings' mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings' power...if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don't find her first."


 (B&N, Amazon)

Synopsis:
"The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…"



Synopsis:
"A SHIVERING OF WORLDSDeep in the Chalk, something is stirring. ¬The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.
This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.
As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.
There will be a reckoning. . . ."


 (B&N, Amazon)

Synopsis:
"Kirit Densira cannot wait to pass her wingtest and begin flying as a trader by her mother's side, being in service to her beloved home tower and exploring the skies beyond. When Kirit inadvertently breaks Tower Law, the city's secretive governing body, the Singers, demand that she become one of them instead. In an attempt to save her family from greater censure, Kirit must give up her dreams to throw herself into the dangerous training at the Spire, the tallest, most forbidding tower, deep at the heart of the City.

As she grows in knowledge and power, she starts to uncover the depths of Spire secrets. Kirit begins to doubt her world and its unassailable Laws, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to a haunting choice, and may well change the city forever-if it isn't destroyed outright."


(Note: this is the first of the Tor.com novellas. They will mainly be available in e-book, but also in print and for order through your local bookstore.)

Synopsis:
"The alien gods and angels left long ago, but their workings and their descendants remain, mingling with low-tech human cultures. Compassionate, lonely Demane is one of the gods’ great-grandchildren, a Storm Bird working as a guard for a merchant caravan. The man he follows, the enigmatic and tortured Captain, also has celestial blood. Demane must strike a balance between his unofficial role as the so-called sorcerer for the caravan and his inescapable heritage, building friendships with his young and ignorant fellow guards while sneaking in brief, tender trysts with the Captain. The Wildeeps is a jungle where the only safe passage is on the magically warded Road. But a man-eating monster is able to evade the wards, and Demane will need the Captain’s help to defeat it."


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Eye on New Releases for August 18



Synopsis:
"In the late twentieth century, the streets of Paris are lined with haunted ruins, the aftermath of a Great War between arcane powers. The Grand Magasins have been reduced to piles of debris, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine has turned black with ashes and rubble and the remnants of the spells that tore the city apart. But those that survived still retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.
 
Once the most powerful and formidable, House Silverspires now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen angel; an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction; and a resentful young man wielding spells of unknown origin. They may be Silverspires’ salvation—or the architects of its last, irreversible fall. And if Silverspires falls, so may the city itself."


Monday, August 17, 2015

Review: Sorcerer to the Crown


Sorcerer to the Crown
by Zen Cho

Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Publisher: Ace
Cover Art: TK
Release Date: September 1, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0425283370



(I received an Advanced Reader Copy in a Goodreads giveaway.)


"The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…"
_______________________________________

Sorcerer to the Crown is the debut novel of Zen Cho.  She's published some short fiction, and I've been hearing some good things about her so I decided to give this book a try after winning an ARC in the Goodreads giveaway contest.  It also has an eye-catching cover.

There's a lot to like about this book.  Both the magic and world-building, with their ties with the world and court of the fae, are very intriguing.  This is essentially Victorian-era Britain with magic.  It features a bit of diversity with both main characters being people of color who struggle to overcome the prejudices against them. 

Unfortunately, the novel didn't work for me.  There some small issues with pacing and plotting, but the big one for me was that this book is not only set in Victorian Britain, but it's also written in imitation of the Victorian Regency style.  So it's Victorian magic with manners.  This is hardly the first book with this style that I've read before, but this time I was really not in the mood for it.  I wish there had been more evidence for this in the blurb. 

So while the writing style didn't work for me, I gave it a decent rating because I know it should appeal to some readers. I probably won't rule out reading more by this author, perhaps some of her short stories.  It's also obvious this is the first book in a series so I may give the next book a try too.

Rating: 7/10.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Eye on New Releases for August 11, 2015


 (B&N, Amazon)

Synopsis:
"In Dark Forest, Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion-in just four centuries' time. The aliens' human collaborators may have been defeated, but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access to all human information, means that Earth's defense plans are totally exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret. This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies, hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists, but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he's the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead."



Synopsis:
"It’s a fable-like story of a house in the small German town of Weissenfels—a house that was the home of 19th-century German Romantic poet Novalis. Solidly built on a pleasant street, by the mid-19th century it is a boarding house run by the efficient Madame Helena. Gorodischer inhabits the minds of various residents—the general refighting past wars, the tea salon manager dreaming of travel, a retired opera singer and her sullen daughter, a man obsessed with miniature figures, and the cook and maids—around the time a Japanese pearl seller moves in. Although short, the book reads slowly: long, complicated sentences unfurl, mixing prosaic detail about meals (heavy and delicious sounding) with dreams and dread. Despite the house’s many comforts, hauntings penetrate its quotidian world—not witches or ghosts, exactly, but the past, the imagined future, and a kind of unease that stems from being alive, fearful, guilty, human."


 (B&N, Amazon)

Synopsis:
"Humans expanded into space...only to find a universe populated with multiple alien species bent on their destruction. Thus was the Colonial Union formed, to help protect us from a hostile universe. The Colonial Union used the Earth and its excess population for colonists and soldiers. It was a good arrangement...for the Colonial Union. Then the Earth said: no more.

Now the Colonial Union is living on borrowed time-a couple of decades at most, before the ranks of the Colonial Defense Forces are depleted and the struggling human colonies are vulnerable to the alien species who have been waiting for the first sign of weakness, to drive humanity to ruin. And there's another problem: A group, lurking in the darkness of space, playing human and alien against each other-and against their own kind -for their own unknown reasons.

In this collapsing universe, CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson and the Colonial Union diplomats he works with race against the clock to discover who is behind attacks on the Union and on alien races, to seek peace with a suspicious, angry Earth, and keep humanity's union intact...or else risk oblivion, and extinction-and the end of all things."



Synopsis:
"In the distant future, Surplus arrives in China dressed as a Mongolian shaman, leading a yak which carries the corpse of his friend, Darger. The old high-tech world has long since collapsed, and the artificial intelligences that ran it are outlawed and destroyed. Or so it seems.

Darger and Surplus, a human and a genetically engineered dog with human intelligence who walks upright, are a pair of con men and the heroes of a series of prior Swanwick stories. They travel to what was once China and invent a scam to become rich and powerful. Pretending to have limited super-powers, they aid an ambitious local warlord who dreams of conquest and once again reuniting China under one ruler. And, against all odds, it begins to work, but it seems as if there are other forces at work behind the scenes"

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Review: The Just City and The Philosopher Kings


The Just City
by Jo Walton



Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Publisher: Tor
Cover Art: The School of Athens (detail) by Raphael
Release Date: January 13, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0765332660




"Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future--all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

There are three points of view in the novel.  The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer's daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge, ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects.  And finally, the god Apollo comes to the city as one of the children in order to live a full mortal life and learn more about what it means to be human.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect."

______________________________________

Like Plato's original work, this novel is a bit of a thought experiment.  It attempts to see just how the Just City might actually work.  It succeeds and fails in many different ways, which is to be expected whenever ideals mix with human nature.  Some adjustments have to be made even to get it to work in the first place.  This book is chock-full of philosophy as the characters have tons of debates and moral arguments, and it was fascinating reading it.  I really liked all the ideas and was never bored with it all.

Because of the novel's content, there is understandably little in the way of plot making this a character-based story with the City itself practically a character as well.  There is a "climax", which is, quite appropriately, a debate: one between Athena and Socrates.

Rating: 8/10.

The Philosopher Kings
by Jo Walton


Format: Hardcover, 348 pages
Publisher: Tor
Cover Art: The School of Athens (detail) by Raphael
Release Date: June 30, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0765332677





The sequel to The Just City picks up almost twenty years after The Just City, where the City has split into five and conflict is not unheard of.  After a tragic loss, Apollo in his mortal form, swears revenge and sets out with several of his children to seek justice. 

The sequel to The Just City does not have many of the debates and moral arguments of the first book.  Rather it is a more straightforward exploration and revenge plot about how Apollo deals with his grief and his children learn about their godly heritage.  There is still some philosophy, mainly as the crew from the City explore and encounter the other cities.  Each of the other cities have different setups so we see how some of the different philosophies are working on a larger scale.  But that also means I didn't enjoy this book quite as much.  The climax of this one is a little out of left field and ties things off too neatly, but ultimately it's satisfactorily. 

For anyone who is even remotely interested in the philosophical and ethical ideas present I would heartily recommend these two books.

Rating: 7.5/10.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Eye on New Releases for August 4, 2015



 (B&N, Amazon)

Synopsis:
"Thirty thousand years ago, ice was storming the planet. Among the species forced out of the trees and onto the steppes by the advancing cold was modern man, who was both predator and prey.

No stranger to the experiences that make us human-a mother's love and a father's betrayal, tribal war and increasing famine, political intrigue and forbidden love, joy and hope and devastating loss-our ancestors competed for scant resources in a brutal landscape.

Mankind stood on the cold brink of extinction...but they had a unique advantage over other species, a new technology-domesticated wolves.

Only a set of extraordinary circumstances could have transformed one of these fierce creatures into a hunting companion, a bodyguard, a soldier, and a friend."




 (B&N, Amazon)

Synopsis:
"A season of endings has begun.  It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.  It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.  It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.  This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy."


 (B&N, Amazon)

Synopsis:
"London awakes one morning to find itself besieged by a sky full of floating icebergs. Destroyed oil rigs, mysteriously reborn, clamber from the sea and onto the land, driven by an obscure but violent purpose. An anatomy student cuts open a cadaver to discover impossibly intricate designs carved into a corpse’s bones—designs clearly present from birth, bearing mute testimony to . . . what?

Of such concepts and unforgettable images are made the twenty-eight stories in this collection—many published here for the first time. By turns speculative, satirical, and heart-wrenching, fresh in form and language, and featuring a cast of damaged yet hopeful seekers who come face-to-face with the deep weirdness of the world—and at times the deeper weirdness of themselves—Three Moments of an Explosion is a fitting showcase for one of literature’s most original voices."



Synopsis:
"A grief-struck man finds the truth he needs in a Wild Blue Yonder purchased from a back alley grief counselor. A Kentucky veteran freshly home from Iraq juggles a trailer-park Thanksgiving and zombie apocalypse. A disillusioned pastor and a disgraced security officer in the not-so-distant future face down a domestic terror cell bent on bringing about Armageddon. These are just a few of the stops in Ken Scholes’s latest pass through his Imagination Forest. 

Blue Yonders, Grateful Pies and Other Fanciful Feasts is a potluck of words gathered together just in time to celebrate 15 years logging stories for fun and profit. So grab your plate and fork, find yourself a place at the table, and get ready to dig in!"



Synopsis:
"It's all come down to this, following the discoveries made by Cormac in Low Midnight, Kitty and her allies are ready to strike. But, when their assassination attempt on the evil vampire Dux Bellorum fails, Kitty finds herself running out of time. The elusive vampire lord has begun his apocalyptic end game, and Kitty still doesn't know where he will strike.
Meanwhile, pressure mounts in Denver as Kitty and her pack begin to experience the true reach of Dux Bellorum's cult. Outnumbered and outgunned at every turn, the stakes have never been higher for Kitty. She will have to call on allies both old and new in order to save not just her family and friends, but the rest of the world as well."


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Eye on New Releases for July 28, 2015


 (B&N, Amazon)

Synopsis:
"Words are weapons.  Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. If she is to reclaim her birthright, she must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge.

Only half a war is fought with swords.  The deeply cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head—a man who worships only Death.

Sometimes one must fight evil with evil.  Some — like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith — are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others — like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver—would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her irons wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness."



Synopsis:
"A world made by the Eight Creators on which to play out their games of passion and power, Paradise is a sprawling, diverse, often brutal place. Men and women live on Paradise as do dogs, cats, ferrets, goats, and horses. But dinosaurs predominate: wildlife, monsters, beasts of burden-and of war. Colossal plant-eaters like Brachiosaurus; terrifying meat-eaters like Allosaurus, and the most feared of all, Tyrannosaurus rex. Giant lizards swim warm seas. Birds (some with teeth) share the sky with flying reptiles that range in size from bat-sized insectivores to majestic and deadly Dragons.

Thus we are plunged into Victor Milán's splendidly weird world of The Dinosaur Lords, a place that for all purposes mirrors 14th century Europe with its dynastic rivalries, religious wars, and byzantine politics…except the weapons of choice are dinosaurs. Where vast armies of dinosaur-mounted knights engage in battle. During the course of one of these epic battles, the enigmatic mercenary Dinosaur Lord Karyl Bogomirsky is defeated through betrayal and left for dead. He wakes, naked, wounded, partially amnesiac-and hunted. And embarks upon a journey that will shake his world."

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Review: Aurora


Aurora
by Kim Stanley Robinson


Format: Hardcover, 471 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Cover Art: Kirk Benshoff
Release Date: July 7, 2015
ISBN-13: 9780316098106





"A major new novel from one of science fiction's most powerful voices, AURORA tells the incredible story of our first voyage beyond the solar system.  Brilliantly imagined and beautifully told, it is the work of a writer at the height of his powers.

Our voyage from Earth began generations ago.   Now, we approach our destination.  A new home.  AURORA.".
_____________________________________
As you may infer from the blurb, Earth sends a colony ship carrying about two thousand people and assorted plants and animals to the star Tau Ceti.  The ship manages to get up to a tenth of the speed of light and since Tau Ceti is just under 12 light-years away it takes about 180 years to get there.  The story starts just before the colonists arrive.

The story mainly follows the life of Freya, daughter of the main engineer, however it is narrated by the ship's artificial intelligence.  If you think that sounds bland, you would be right, but only at first. The A.I. gets better as it learns and becomes perhaps something more.  In a way, the story is almost as much about the A.I. as it is about the people. 

Like many of KSR's previous books, the importance of the story is less about the individuals than about the broader issues regarding technology, biology, and sociology.  The most obvious is of course what happens when we try to colonize an alien world.  The colonists come prepared, but in the end there's no way to be completely prepared for a different planet.  There is also what happens when locked inside a small biosphere like a ship.  The biology aspect is a big part of it, but also how a small society might work or not socially and politically. 

While I really enjoyed this book, I did end up docking it half a rating point because I disagree with KSR on what he seems to be saying about human exploration and colonization.  Basically, that...
*
VERY MINOR SPOILERS
*
*
*
humans probably shouldn't be going out into space.  It seems like he's saying that any spread out from our home world will be difficult if not impossible given that Earth's biosphere is unique and being cut off from it, especially on another planet, means any venture might be doomed to fail.  I don't agree with that because we won't know until we actually try.  I do agree though we do need to work on fixing the problems here at home, but that doesn't mean we can't also explore.

So, like Dark Eden this book takes a fascinating, and perhaps timely, concept and runs with it to see what happens.  I may not agree with what KSR is ultimately saying, but Aurora was certainly a very enjoyable read.  Strongly recommended.

Rating: 8.5/10.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New Releases for July 14, 2015


 (B&N, Amazon)

Synopsis:
"In the first century A.D., during Domitian's reign, Flavia Albia is ready for a short break from her family. So despite the oppressive July heat, she returns to Rome, leaving them at their place on the coast. Albia, daughter of Marcus Didius Falco, the famed private informer (now retired), has taken up her father's former profession, and it's time to get back to work. The first order of business, however, is the corpse that was found in a chest sent as part of a large lot to be sold by the Falco family auction house. As the senior family representative in Rome, it falls upon Albia to identify the corpse, find out why he was killed, who killed him, and, most important, how did it end up in the chest.

At the same time, her potential young man, Faustus, comes looking for help with his friend Sextus's political campaign. Between the auction business and Roman politics, it's not quite clear which one is the more underhanded and duplicitous. Both, however, are tied together by the mysterious body in the chest, and if Albia isn't able to solve that mystery, it won't be the only body to drop."


 (B&N, Amazon)

Synopsis:
"Reports of a strange, new habitable planet have reached the Twenty Planets of human civilization. When a team of scientists is assembled to investigate this world, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is recruited to keep an eye on an unstable crewmate. Thora was once a member of the interplanetary elite, but since her prophetic delusions helped mobilize a revolt on Orem, she's been banished to the farthest reaches of space, because of the risk that her very presence could revive unrest.

Upon arrival, the team finds an extraordinary crystalline planet, laden with dark matter. Then a crew member is murdered and Thora mysteriously disappears. Thought to be uninhabited, the planet is in fact home to a blind, sentient species whose members navigate their world with a bizarre vocabulary and extrasensory perceptions.

Lost in the deep crevasses of the planet among these people, Thora must battle her demons and learn to comprehend the native inhabitants in order to find her crewmates and warn them of an impending danger. But her most difficult task may lie in persuading the crew that some powers lie beyond the boundaries of science"


 (B&N, Amazon)

Synopsis:
"Forty years after the God Wars, Dresediel Lex bears the scars of liberation-especially in the Skittersill, a poor district still bound by the fallen gods' decaying edicts. As long as the gods' wards last, they strangle development; when they fail, demons will be loosed upon the city. The King in Red hires Elayne Kevarian of the Craft firm Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao to fix the wards, but the Skittersill's people have their own ideas. A protest rises against Elayne's work, led by Temoc, a warrior-priest turned community organizer who wants to build a peaceful future for his city, his wife, and his young son.

As Elayne drags Temoc and the King in Red to the bargaining table, old wounds reopen, old gods stir in their graves, civil blood breaks to new mutiny, and profiteers circle in the desert sky. Elayne and Temoc must fight conspiracy, dark magic, and their own demons to save the peace-or failing that, to save as many people as they can."


 (B&N, Amazon)

Synopsis:
"Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014.

Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her."


 (B&N, Amazon)

Synopsis:
"Fraternal twins Nels and Suvi move beyond their royal heritage and into military and magical dominion in this flintlock epic fantasy debut from a two-time Campbell Award finalist.

Prince Nels is the scholarly runt of the ancient Kainen royal family of Eledore, disregarded as flawed by the king and many others. Only Suvi, his fraternal twin sister, supports him. When Nels is ambushed by an Acrasian scouting party, he does the forbidden for a member of the ruling family: He picks up a fallen sword and defends himself.

Disowned and dismissed to the military, Nels establishes himself as a leader as Eledore begins to shatter under the attack of the Acrasians, who the Kainen had previously dismissed as barbarians. But Nels knows differently, and with the aid of Suvi, who has allied with pirates, he mounts a military offensive with sword, canon, and what little magic is left in the world."



Synopsis:
"It’s up to a famous rapper, a biologist, and a rogue soldier to handle humanity’s first contact with an alien ambassador—and prevent mass extinction—in this novel that blends magical realism with high-stakes action.

After word gets out on the Internet that aliens have landed in the waters outside of the world’s fifth most populous city, chaos ensues. Soon the military, religious leaders, thieves, and crackpots are trying to control the message on YouTube and on the streets. Meanwhile, the earth’s political superpowers are considering a preemptive nuclear launch to eradicate the intruders. All that stands between 17 million anarchic residents and death is an alien ambassador, a biologist, a rapper, a soldier, and a myth that may be the size of a giant spider, or a god revealed."

Note: I reviewed the UK version of this book a while back.  The review is here.

 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Review: Uprooted


Uprooted
by Naomi Novik



Format: Hardcover, 439 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Cover Art: Scott McKowen
Release Date: May 19, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0804179034




"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 ten 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."
_________________________________

Uprooted is a fairly well written and compelling fairytale story.  The world is compelling as well, and seems to be derived from the author's Polish ancestry instead of the usual Western European tradition. 

One of the interesting things about this novel is that while the story is basically a fairytale, the author gives the characters complexity to make it much interesting.  With the exception of the Wood, no one in this story is black and white.  And nowhere is this more evident than in the relationship between the main character and her best friend.  Their friendship is probably the core of the novel and it remains strong despite how much the two of them change.  

For all the praise this novel has been getting, I ended up not liking this as nearly as much as everyone else seemed to.  I had two big problems with Uprooted.  First was the plot.  A fairytale benefits from a single, straightforward structure, and while Uprooted does keep to the single plot of the struggle against the Wood, there are numerous sub-plots that bog the story down.  This book is nearly 440 pages and it feels way too long.  Also, the basis for the Wood's corrupting influence feels a bit out of left field, though I suppose it works.  

Secondly, the magic doesn't make much sense.  I could never figure how it was suppose to work.  My personal opinion is that a magic system should have some kind of rules and it does after a fashion, but it feels like Novik never uses it consistently. 

The main character's use of magic is another problem.  A big deal is made about how the main character can't be trained to use magic like everyone else because she can only go by instinct and intuition.  A lot of people liked this bit, but it really annoyed me.  Especially when she blithely ignores centuries of accumulated magical knowledge on the basis that most of it is useless to her.  It just feels like another excuse to make the character special. 

So, while Uprooted was only a decent read for me, I always give a book points because I can acknowledge that it works for others. In fact, I seem to be much in the minority on this one and that's fine.  Maybe Novik no longer works for me as an author, but plenty of people do seem to enjoy this book so on that basis I can recommend it.

Rating: 7/10.