This is the first of a new type of post we’ll be doing—DNF reviews. For the uninitiated, or those who have never given up on a book, DNF stands for Did Not Finish. A DNF review should be taken with a grain of salt, for obvious reasons. In these posts, we will talk about what we didn’t like about a book and why, and we will challenge you to prove our perceptions wrong and possibly encourage us to press onward!
It takes more energy to like something than to dislike something, and “DNFing” a book doesn’t mean it was bad—sometimes you’re just not in the right mood or the right place for a book, and coming back to it in the future could be worthwhile!
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
120 pages of 456
Del Rey (Penguin Random House), 2015
In a Brothers-Grimm-esque village that site next to the dangerous Woods, a wizard known as The Dragon takes a seventeen-year-old girl from the town and keeps her in his tower for ten years. The Wizard protects the village from the dark magic of the Woods, and no one knows for sure what happens to the women in his tower, but they are never the same when they return.
Main Character, whose name is mentioned maybe twice in the first quarter of the book, didn’t expect to be chosen by The Dragon, but she is. I’ll be referring to her as “Main Character” because I couldn’t find her name while flipping through the book, and at no point did her name stick in my mind.
In the tower, she is subjected to… housework. And The Dragon is kind of mean. He makes her say spells that turn her grubby clothes into beautiful gowns, and the spells don’t make her feel very good.
There is one primary reason that I struggle to get into a book: character motivations. Main character’s motivations make sense: she wants to get out of the tower. To escape the tower, she leaves. This bothered me, and took away a lot of the tension, and made her character motivations completely unclear.
Main Character doesn’t have any qualities or weaknesses beyond loyalty, determination, and vapidness. She is almost a reader stand-in because you can just fill in whatever qualities you want and pretend she is you. Except she doesn’t possess any of those qualities or any skills aside from an innate talent for magic. Aside from her loyalty to her friends and family, Main Character is a blank slate, and she bored me.
When I learned that the book’s premise was that a thousand-year-old man takes young women into his secret tower, I was really hoping that one thing didn’t happen. That one thing was hinted at heavily in the first 120 pages. After I decided I would give up on the book, I read other reviews to see if that one thing happens.
It does. And that isn’t something I have any interest in reading about.