Reviewing a gothic, fantasy fairy-tale retelling

Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Publication: May 19th, 2015
Publisher: Del Ray
Source: Bought it
Series: No, I believe this is a stand alone!

Rating: 3.5/4 out 5 stars

Synopsis: "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 ten 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 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.

-From Goodreads

Review: This book has had quite a bit of hype, and I'm afraid that the hype got to me a bit. I heard so many people talk about it, a few said it was about dragons, and some said that it was best to go into blind, without reading the synopsis. So I went into it thinking it was about dragons (which it's clearly not, after reading it..and it says its not in the synopsis) and didn't even read the synopsis because I heard it was best to into blind. I expected this one to blow me away, but it didn't quite meet that level for me. However, I still enjoyed it and thought it had some wonderful elements to it.

This book is different than any other one that I've read. It's fantasy, but at the same time a fairytale retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It's gothic-toned and has some beautiful language, descriptions and settings. I loved these aspects. I loved reading about the village, the Wood, the world that these characters live in. The writing was also stunning, I couldn't get enough of the writing and the world. 

The tale is very character driven in the first half and I just couldn't quite connect to any of the characters in the first half of the book. They were entertaining, and I enjoyed reading about them, but I had a rather empathetic approach to them and their situation. Despite that, I did like the strong will that Agnieszka had and the actions that she took to follow what she believed was the right thing to do in situations. She was much more of a strong female character than I anticipated she would be. 

I also love the friendship dynamic. I SO appreciate seeing solid, strong, and supportive female friendships, and this book definitely has one of those. 

This story was pretty divided for me, the first half I found rather boring and confusing and would have really brought the book down for me had it not picked up in the second half. The second half I finally started to learn about everything I had questions about and diving into the deep and beautiful tale that the story tells. That made this book very hard to rate for me. I really appreciated it, and loved some aspects, but at the same time there were some points that really bothered me. And the first half, I really struggled to get through. Therefore I'm not sure if this is quite a 4 star read for me, but maybe more of a 3.5. 

I'd say go into this one reading the synopsis and being aware that there are no dragons, just a wizard that is called a Dragon. If you like fantasy, or fairy-tale retellings give this one a shot, I think you'll like it and if you don't, I think it'll still be something different from what you've read before. 

Also, shout out to the UK edition, because the cover is STUNNING.

Have you read this one and if so, what did you think of it? What did you think of the world? Have you read any other fairy-tale retellings, and what are your favorites?