“Uprooted” by Naomi Novik

Uprooted

After reading Uprooted for the second time this year, I still stand firmly behind my opinion that this novel is one of the best that I’ve read in the genre. This isn’t one of your innocent YA fantasies which are basically some ridiculous love triangle with a hint of something that resembles fantasy world-building.

The novel has length and the author has given much effort to world-building and the magic system. There’s a typical medieval setting with a bonus of blood, gore and scary stuff. The only thing that I would’ve appreciated more would be a map at the beginning to show us the true size of the corrupted Wood. Perhaps it was in editions other than the one I had.

The thing that I enjoyed the most was that the motivation our heroine for acting was her love for her best friend and her drive to save her. Agnieszka isn’t perfect and she admits to being jealous of Kasia. She isn’t a typical main character that can’t make mistakes. She makes them often but she takes the blame.

The author borrows a lot of her ideas from Slavic folklore, which isn’t very common in fiction. Other than vampires, the creatures from Slavic mythology aren’t very popular. Here we have a different version of the old story of Baba Yaga who is usually depicted as a fearsome witch with chicken legs and iron teeth. Here though, she is a powerful forest witch who helps people and whose spells and charms have a homely feel. Also, the names of all of the characters are Polish. Being Slavic myself it’s a refreshing sight after reading many western novels that have mostly Anglophone names and mythology.

Other than that, the writing style is very fluent and easy to read (even though the fact that the author used the word vomited more than I was comfortable with; I really hate that word) and I wasn’t able to notice any major plot holes. The characters were very lovable, if not relatable because there isn’t a lot of character growth.

The romantic relationship between Sarkan and Agnieszka wasn’t explored enough. It felt like the author added it to the story just because it was expected, as this is a retelling of the classic Beauty and the beast in a way, and not because she wanted them to fall in love.

There will be a film adaptation of Uprooted in the years to come and it will be produced by Ellen DeGeneres, which is pretty exciting.

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“The Handmaid’s tale” by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale
“The Handmaid’s Tale” made me feel scared.

I am a woman, certainly. I’m about 160cm(~5’4”) tall and I weigh about 46kg(~100lbs). There is not a single part of me that is physically intimidating. I have a working set of ovaries which one day might provide the half of my future children. I believe that at that point all differences between me and any random man on the street stop.

If I hadn’t been a feminist prior to reading this novel, I certainly am one now, because I am a great fan of being able to choose, be a man or a woman or whatever in between that you want to be. Whether you want to be a stay at home mom(or dad) or a struggling artist or an inventor or work an office job, it should be your choice, without any external factors such as your gender determining your eligibility to do so. This novel shows us a reality where there’s not a lot of choice for you if you happen to be born with female genitals.

Much like in her other novel, “Oryx and Crake”, the author tells us about themes that are anti-human from a very human perspective, in such a way that it makes you believe that the events described in her stories can happen and will happen if we aren’t careful enough, as we are living in some interesting times, to say the least. We are starting to experience the global warming on the daily, there was a Nazi rally in the US this weekend which probably means others will soon follow and other things that are currently happening are making me feel like the choices we make collectively in the next 10-15 year will be the determinants of the course of our civilisation.

To say more about the book and show less of my terror about the future of humankind, “The Handmaid’s Tale” isn’t a perfect novel by any means, but it is good for its intended purpose: telling a possible future, a possible way we can go as humanity. Told from the first person point of view of one of the women in red, we experience the pain and suffering of being removed from the life she was used to and more importantly, her family and then put into this insane reality of losing all individuality she possessed before.

Moira was my favourite character, perhaps because she reminds me of my best friend so much. She is brave, adventurous and wants to be free from all the pressures of society. I am nothing like her. She has a sharp sense of humour, the kind that you have to get used to and she is a fighter for her freedom and what she believes in. But, she is the proof that even the freest of spirits can be caged and broken.

While this book isn’t exactly for everyone’s tastes (and a whole lot of books aren’t), it is an interesting read in any case. I will certainly include more of Atwood’s work on my to-read list, not just because she is good at writing but because she understands and is capable of saying what it is to be a woman, while not focusing on stereotypical themes that usually are included in works about the female experience.

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