Poor The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
. It only had half a year as my favourite book before it was, well, uprooted.
THE BOOKENING TITLE #11: Uprooted
, Naomi Novik.
I read this book alongside a handful of other people on my flist, which was sort of hilarious because they were going 'nooooo, why is this happening, none of this is what I wanted' while I was going 'oh my God, this is INCREDIBLE, this is EVERYTHING I COULD EVER WANT.' Apparently this book is rather divisive!
One chapter into Uprooted
, I stopped and scribbled down an excited list of all the things it contained - just in that one chapter! - that I loved:
- close relationships between women
- a person being thrown from her familiar life into an entirely new environment where she doesn't know any of the rules
- people who don't really like each other forced to spend an extended period of time around each other
- weird uncomfortable sexual tension between people who don't really like each other
This book won me over very, very quickly. I also love that the blurb gave so little away; one chapter in, you're already past everything that the blurb describes, and the rest of the plot is a complete mystery. It was a lot of fun to read with that sense of 'anything could happen! I have no idea where this is going!'
In order to preserve that mystery for future readers, my other thoughts on this book are under the cut! Spoilers, but not for anything past chapter 11.
In a way, Uprooted
feels like the opposite of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
, a book I also adored fiercely. In Small Angry Planet
, I loved the characters; I didn't particularly care about what actually happened, so long as I got to watch these guys do things. In Uprooted
, I have no huge investment in the characters themselves, but I love everything that's happening so much that I don't care.
Although I did become considerably more invested in Nieshka and Kasia as characters when they stared into each other's souls and saw all their petty resentment laid bare. Kasia hadn't really felt real to me before that. There are some really beautiful moments between them.
But, predictably, the relationship I'm here for isn't the lovely one between close friends; it's the weird, unsettling one where a man abducts a woman and treats her with scorn and then GRADUALLY STARTS TO CARE ABOUT HER and there's more than a century's age difference. Screw healthy relationship dynamics in fiction. Healthy relationships are for real life.
(I don't mean that. I still love Nate/Elena. And... probably other healthy pairings too. I just can't think of any of them right now.)
When the Dragon kissed Nieshka, I felt
it. I physically felt it, as a jolt in my heart. It's not unheard of for me to have that sort of reaction to fiction, but it's very unusual: it tends to come when I really, really
want something to happen and yet it manages to take me by surprise. Not that I couldn't see the romance coming (although there was a while when I was going 'wait, is this book building towards Nieshka/Dragon or is it building towards Nieshka/Kasia? Or Nieshka/Dragon/Kasia?'), but I wasn't expecting it to happen then, so suddenly.
Nieshka and the Dragon have a certain amount in common with Rose Tyler and the Ninth Doctor, the first het 'ship I seriously fell for. A teenage girl meets a centuries-old being. He's a bit grumpy, but he fiercely loves what he does. He whisks her away from her normal life and into his strange, frightening, beautiful world. It was probably inevitable that I'd get invested.
My complaints, in decreasing order of validity:
- certain plot elements could have been introduced earlier.
- we didn't need quite so much 'I put on a fresh dress, but by the time I reached the other side of the room it had been cut to mud-saturated ribbons and it would take me three hours to pick all the twigs out of my hair.'
- there was a point where I thought Nieshka was going to do a sexy joint working with Alosha and I'm sad she didn't.
- a part of me just wanted endless uncomfortable Nieshka/Dragon tension and instead all this stupid INTERESTING PLOT kept getting in the way.
But I'm not here to complain, because I enjoyed this book enormously
. Here's a more important list: miscellaneous things I loved.
- the girl who was imprisoned before trying to leave behind some help for her successor, and Nieshka taking comfort in these kindnesses from a person she's never met.
- the way magic works in this universe, the way you can call on it in different ways and with different levels of precision, the way it can be benevolent or malicious. It really feels like a living thing.
- after the unexpected intimacy of ~holding haaaaands~ for their first joint working, the Dragon is wearing gloves for the next one.
- the way the Dragon stumbles in his spellcasting, disconcerted by the realisation that Kasia had been afraid he'd assault her.
- the conversation afterwards, where the Dragon goes 'for God's sake, does everyone
think I sexually assault my servants?' and Nieshka goes 'well, yes, obviously, try not locking young women up in your tower if you don't like it.' And he listens!
What a great book. It's really nice to read a single, self-contained story, too, when everything seems to be part of a series.