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Late to the Party ARC Review – Uprooted by Naomi Novik

22544764Title: Uprooted

Author: Naomi Novik

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: 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.

Huge thank you to the publisher for providing me an ARC of this book!

Sam’s Review:

I am a huge Naomi Novik fan, especially since His Majesty’s Dragon released years ago. Her books do an amazing job of blending alternative history an the fantastical together to create a gripping world that is always interesting to embark in. Her latest novel, Uprooted, is a departure in this regard, as it’s still fantasy, there still be dragons, but is much more traditional in nature. And it’s perfect.

What I love about Uprooted is that in a lot of cases, the book is not entirely what it seems. We have a “Dragon” abducting women and “sacrificing them,” we have a wood that is much more alive than those realize, and a heroine by the name of Agnieszka who must learn magic as a means to push the malevolent woods back, before it destroys everything in the valley and all the people she has sworn to protect.

This is a gorgeously written book that oozes wonderful and raw description. Moreover, Novik uses her skills to craft this very sinister world, one which feels disjointed and suffocating. The Woods are as much of a character in the story than one would notice at first, and it’s a testament to Novik’s skill that we are given a Woods that is very much alive and out to destroy the world. Oddly, the Woods was my favourite character, and I loved the way in which its described, and the way it has the power to foil the characters in the story. That’s not to say I didn’t love the heroine,
Agnieszka, who really is a character that begins as a slow burn and then blossoms into this wise, tough individual who knows there’s so much riding on her success. Agnieszka struggles with failure, she’s sympathetic, and she’s someone who wants to do and see good in everyone and everything. I loved her for it.

And that’s really it: all the characters in this book have a great amount of depth and complexity to them. Agnieszka takes Kasia’s place, you know in that instance their relationship changes in a way that isn’t necessarily for the better. The Dragon is such a gruff guy, and yet he does show care and compassion towards Agnieszka, even if it’s somewhat digressive in nature. The characters and their dynamics work wonderfully, and the story is gripping from start to finish. I cared about these characters and the world they are living in.

If you’ve never read a Naomi Novik novel or you’re intimidated by the size of the Temeraire series, then I implore you to give Uprooted a go. It’s delicious dark, but it’ll scratch the itch of any fantasy fan who loves deep description and wonderfully fleshed out characters. This is easily a new favourite novel by her for me!

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ARC Review – Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

18666047Title:  Half a King

Author: Joe Abercrombie

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
 
The deceived will become the deceiver.
 
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
 
The betrayed will become the betrayer.
 
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
 
Will the usurped become the usurper?
 
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

Huge thank you to Del Rey and Netgalley/Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

When my fiancée told me that Joe Abercrombie was writing a YA fantasy novel, I told him to his face that he was full of crap. Colour me surprised when it was actually the truth. Joe Abercrombie is best known for a lot of black humor and gore, and this book continued all his signatures, and it really didn’t feel like a young adult novel at any point for me.

If there is one thing Abercrombie is the master of, it’s writing awful people. Sinister, malicious, selfish, and yet every character has justification as to why these traits are employed in the first place. he also writes some of my favourite women in fantasy, and the woman in Half A King are some of the most brutally honest ladies I’ve seen in fantasy for a long while. They know their world is a mess and yet they do their best to make the best of a bad situation, and they do it without anyone telling them what to do.

The world-building in this book is fantastic as well, and it feels very much like someone’s journey from start to finish. Yarvi is surprisingly well-rounded as a character, and he’s someone who is easy to engage with despite the situations he’s thrown into. Some of the other male characters were quite terrifying, particularly Trigg, who most of the time gave me the willies. Every time I turned a page in this book, I always felt like I was on the outside looking in on a world that is ready to collapse but has a tiny bit of strength and that’s just enough.

I loved the ending as well and I felt it suited the story. If you haven’t read a book by Joe Abercrombie, this one actually might be a great place to start because it ease you into the world and its characters and you always have just enough information (but not all) to keep you afloat.