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Uprooted (Inglês) Capa Comum – 29 fev 2016
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Sobre o Autor
Fascinated with both history and legends, Novik is a first-generation American raised on Polish fairy tales and stories of Baba Yaga. Her own adventures include pillaging degrees in English literature and computer science from various ivory towers, designing computer games, and helping to build the Archive of Our Own for fanfiction and other fanworks. Novik is a co-founder of the Organization for Transformative Works.
She lives in New York City with her husband, Charles Ardai, the founder of Hard Case Crime, and their daughter, Evidence, surrounded by an excessive number of purring computers.
From the Hardcover edition.
Trecho. © Reimpressão autorizada. Todos os direitos reservados
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.
He doesn’t devour them really; it only feels that way. He takes a girl to his tower, and ten years later he lets her go, but by then she’s someone different. Her clothes are too fine and she talks like a courtier and she’s been living alone with a man for ten years, so of course she’s ruined, even though the girls all say he never puts a hand on them. What else could they say? And that’s not the worst of it—after all, the Dragon gives them a purse full of silver for their dowry when he lets them go, so anyone would be happy to marry them, ruined or not.
But they don’t want to marry anyone. They don’t want to stay at all.
“They forget how to live here,” my father said to me once, unexpectedly. I was riding next to him on the seat of the big empty wagon, on our way home after delivering the week’s firewood. We lived in Dvernik, which wasn’t the biggest village in the valley or the smallest, or the one nearest the Wood: we were seven miles away. The road took us up over a big hill, though, and at the top on a clear day you could see along the river all the way to the pale grey strip of burned earth at the leading edge, and the solid dark wall of trees beyond. The Dragon’s tower was a long way in the other direction, a piece of white chalk stuck in the base of the western mountains.
I was still very small—not more than five, I think. But I already knew that we didn’t talk about the Dragon, or the girls he took, so it stuck in my head when my father broke the rule.
“They remember to be afraid,” my father said. That was all. Then he clucked to the horses and they pulled on, down the hill and back into the trees.
It didn’t make much sense to me. We were all afraid of the Wood. But our valley was home. How could you leave your home? And yet the girls never came back to stay. The Dragon let them out of the tower, and they came back to their families for a little while—for a week, or sometimes a month, never much more. Then they took their dowry-silver and left. Mostly they would go to Kralia and go to the University. Often as not they married some city man, and otherwise they became scholars or shopkeepers, although some people did whisper about Jadwiga Bach, who’d been taken sixty years ago, that she became a courtesan and the mistress of a baron and a duke. But by the time I was born, she was just a rich old woman who sent splendid presents to all her grand-nieces and nephews, and never came for a visit.
So that’s hardly like handing your daughter over to be eaten, but it’s not a happy thing, either. There aren’t so many villages in the valley that the chances are very low—he takes only a girl of seventeen, born between one October and the next. There were eleven girls to choose from in my year, and that’s worse odds than dice. Everyone says you love a Dragon-born girl differently as she gets older; you can’t help it, knowing you so easily might lose her. But it wasn’t like that for me, for my parents. By the time I was old enough to understand that I might be taken, we all knew he would take Kasia.
Only travelers passing through, who didn’t know, ever complimented Kasia’s parents or told them how beautiful their daughter was, or how clever, or how nice. The Dragon didn’t always take the prettiest girl, but he always took the most special one, somehow: if there was one girl who was far and away the prettiest, or the most bright, or the best dancer, or especially kind, somehow he always picked her out, even though he scarcely exchanged a word with the girls before he made his choice.
And Kasia was all those things. She had thick wheat-golden hair that she kept in a braid to her waist, and her eyes were warm brown, and her laugh was like a song that made you want to sing it. She thought of all the best games, and could make up stories and new dances out of her head; she could cook fit for a feast, and when she spun the wool from her father’s sheep, the thread came off the wheel smooth and even without a single knot or snarl.
I know I’m making her sound like something out of a story. But it was the other way around. When my mother told me stories about the spinning princess or the brave goose-girl or the river-maiden, in my head I imagined them all a little like Kasia; that was how I thought of her. And I wasn’t old enough to be wise, so I loved her more, not less, because I knew she would be taken from me soon.
She didn’t mind it, she said. She was fearless, too: her mother Wensa saw to that. “She’ll have to be brave,” I remember hearing her say to my mother once, while she prodded Kasia to climb a tree she’d hung back from, and my mother hugging her, with tears.
We lived only three houses from one another, and I didn’t have a sister of my own, only three brothers much older than me. Kasia was my dearest. We played together from our cradles, first in our mothers’ kitchens keeping out from underfoot and then in the streets before our houses, until we were old enough to go running wild in the woods. I never wanted to be anywhere inside when we could be running hand-in-hand beneath the branches. I imagined the trees bending their arms down to shelter us. I didn’t know how I would bear it, when the Dragon took her.
My parents wouldn’t have feared for me, very much, even if there hadn’t been Kasia. At seventeen I was still a too-skinny colt of a girl with big feet and tangled dirt-brown hair, and my only gift, if you could call it that, was I would tear or stain or lose anything put on me between the hours of one day. My mother despaired of me by the time I was twelve and let me run around in castoffs from my older brothers, except for feast days, when I was obliged to change only twenty minutes before we left the house, and then sit on the bench before our door until we walked to church. It was still even odds whether I’d make it to the village green without catching on some branch, or spattering myself with mud.
“You’ll have to marry a tailor, my little Agnieszka,” my father would say, laughing, when he came home from the forest at night and I went running to meet him, grubby-faced, with at least one hole about me, and no kerchief. He swung me up anyway and kissed me; my mother only sighed a little: what parent could really be sorry, to have a few faults in a Dragon-born girl?
Our last summer before the taking was long and warm and full of tears. Kasia didn’t weep, but I did. We’d linger out late in the woods, stretching each golden day as long as it would go, and then I would come home hungry and tired and go straight to lie down in the dark. My mother would come in and stroke my head, singing softly while I cried myself to sleep, and leave a plate of food by my bed for when I woke up in the middle of the night with hunger. She didn’t try to comfort me otherwise: how could she? We both knew that no matter how much she loved Kasia, and Kasia’s mother Wensa, she couldn’t help but have a small glad knot in her belly—not my daughter, not my only one. And of course, I wouldn’t really have wanted her to feel any other way.
It was just me and Kasia together, nearly all that summer. It had been that way for a long time. We’d run with the crowd of village children when we were young, but as we got older, and Kasia more beautiful, her mother had said to her, “It’s best if you don’t see much of the boys, for you and them.” But I clung to her, and my mother did love Kasia and Wensa enough not to try and pry me loose, even though she knew that it would hurt me more in the end.
On the last day, I found us a clearing in the woods where the trees still had their leaves, golden and flame-red rustling all above us, with ripe chestnuts all over the ground. We made a little fire out of twigs and dry leaves to roast a handful. Tomorrow was the first of October, and the great feast would be held to show honor to our patron and lord. Tomorrow, the Dragon would come.
“It would be nice to be a troubadour,” Kasia said, lying on her back with her eyes closed. She hummed a little: a traveling singer had come for the festival, and he’d been practicing his songs on the green that morning. The tribute wagons had been arriving all week. “To go all over Polnya, and sing for the king.”
She said it thoughtfully, not like a child spinning clouds; she said it like someone really thinking about leaving the valley, going away forever. I put my hand out and gripped hers. “And you’d come home every Midwinter,” I said, “and sing us all the songs you’d learned.” We held on tight, and I didn’t let myself remember that the girls the Dragon took never wanted to come back.
Of course at that moment I only hated him ferociously. But he wasn’t a bad lord. On the other side of the northern mountains, the Baron of the Yellow Marshes kept an army of five thousand men to take to Polnya’s wars, and a castle with four towers, and a wife who wore jewels the color of blood and a white fox-fur cloak, all on a domain no richer than our valley. The men had to give one day a week of work to the baron’s fields, which were the best land, and he’d take likely sons for his army, and with all the soldiers wandering around, girls had to stay indoors and in company once they got to be women. And even he wasn’t a bad lord.
The Dragon only had his one tower, and not a single man-at-arms, or even a servant, besides the one girl he took. He didn’t have to keep an army: the service he owed the king was his own labor, his magic. He had to go to court sometimes, to renew his oath of loyalty, and I suppose the king could have called him to war, but for the most part his duty was to stay here and watch the Wood, and protect the kingdom from its malice.
His only extravagance was books. We were well read by the standards of villagers, because he would pay gold for a single great tome, and so the book-peddlers came all this way, even though our valley was at the very edge of Polnya. And as long as they were coming, they filled up the saddlebags of their mules with whatever worn-out or cheaper stock of books they had and sold them to us for our pennies. It was a poor house in the valley that didn’t have at least two or three books proudly displayed upon the walls.
These might all seem like small and petty things, little enough cause to give up a daughter, to anyone who didn’t live near enough the Wood to understand. But I had lived through the Green Summer, when a hot wind carried pollen from the Wood west a long way into the valley, into our fields and gardens. The crops grew furiously lush, but also strange and misshapen. Anyone who ate of them grew sick with anger, struck at their families, and in the end ran into the Wood and vanished, if they weren’t tied down.
I was six years old at the time. My parents tried to shelter me as much as they could, but even so I remembered vividly the cold clammy sense of dread everywhere, everyone afraid, and the never-ending bite of hunger in my belly. We had eaten through all our last year’s stores by then, counting on the spring. One of our neighbors ate a few green beans, driven foolish by hunger. I remember the screams from his house that night, and peering out the window to see my father running to help, taking the pitchfork from where it leaned against our barn.
One day that summer, too young to understand the danger properly, I escaped my tired, thin mother’s watch and ran into the forest. I found a half-dead bramble, in a nook sheltered from the wind. I pushed through the hard dead branches to the protected heart and dug out a miraculous handful of blackberries, not misshapen at all, whole and juicy and perfect. Every one was a burst of joy in my mouth. I ate two handfuls and filled my skirt; I hurried home with them soaking purple stains through my dress and my mother wept with horror when she saw my smeared face. I didn’t sicken: the bramble had somehow escaped the Wood’s curse, and the blackberries were good. But her tears frightened me badly; I shied from blackberries for years after.
The Dragon had been called to court that year. He came back early and rode straight to the fields and called down magic fire to burn all that tainted harvest, every poisoned crop. That much was his duty, but afterwards he went to every house where anyone had sickened, and he gave them a taste of a magic cordial that cleared their minds. He gave orders that the villages farther west, which had escaped the blight, should share their harvest with us, and he even gave up his own tribute that year entirely so none of us would starve. The next spring, just before the planting season, he went through the fields again to burn out the few corrupted remnants before they could take fresh root.
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Lots of misteries: why does the Dragon (a sorcerer) chooses a girl each ten years to live wih him in the tower. And, why these girls, after this time, just come back to say goodbye and never more come back ?
Would Agnieszka and the Dragon be able to beat the corruption ?
What is the Wood ? Where does it strength comes from ?
Lots of questions and all answered in the end :-) A book to read and reread to reinterpret some passages ...
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So now comes this new novel and my bottom line verdict is that it is fantastic. It’s straight fantasy but absolutely reminds one of that nostalgic feeling of fairy tales you read (or were read to you) from childhood. After reading the opening two chapters I thought I was on my way into just such a fairy tale, but it wasn’t long before any ideas I had about predicting where this was going were thrown out of the proverbial window. The plot begins as a twist in the age-old concept of a young maiden being picked every ten years by the village elders to sacrifice to the dragon in order to buy its protection. The twist is that this time it’s not an actual dragon but a renowned wizard who requires the sacrifice. And he doesn’t select the pretty young maiden that everybody was planning on but instead chooses Agneieszka, our protagonist, and it is though her eyes that we see the story unfold.
OK…interesting twist but I still thought I knew where the plot was going. I was wrong.
No spoilers from me but suffice it to say that this novel kept me turning the pages way past my bedtime. Ms. Novik is a masterful storyteller and knows how to pace a book to keep the reader hooked all the way through. Her use of language is perfect for this type of tale, combining the lighter fairy tale elements but also taking a deep dive into battle scenes with a hard grittiness that, frankly, surprised me. And the world building…this is how it should be done. It’s obviously fully developed but we aren’t bombarded with extraneous details that we don’t need. We can understand everything and how all the characters fit together but don’t spend much time with info dumps.
I understand this book is being marketed as YA although I confess to not really understanding the distinction anymore. The only thing remotely YA about this is the fact that Agneieszka is seventeen years old at the beginning of the story. Rest assured there is no “dumbing down” of the plot, the rich characterization, or the language/word choice. True, there is no swearing to speak of but there is violence aplenty. Lots of fighting action and violent deaths, plenty of creative use of well-imagined magic, and a tasteful but on-stage sex scene all combine to make this one a keeper. And the plot about the woods…the intelligent life force of the dark woods and how it consumes people…oh yeah…no spoilers. You’ll have to read that yourself.
This book is complete in and of itself. I could see how there may be a sequel or two (or seven) but there may never be more.
Well done Ms. Novik. Highly recommended!
My second complaint is that at times the main character feels very Mary Sue. Yeah, sure in the beginning she is bumbling about and all, but the way she learns magic so quickly and seems to have a spell that works perfectly for just about every situation is a bit much. She solves problems no one else ever has and does spells people think are impossible. I would have liked to see her fail a bit more often.
Still, overall it was a fun book to read and I went through it quite quickly. The parts in the Wood, in particular, are very well done. You really get a sense of fear and dread from the Wood. If the author made another book with these characters I would certainly pick it up.
The overall plot is quite interesting as is the magic system. Those plus the excellent writing are what kept me reading this book even though I didn't care one lick for any of the characters and did find any of the relationships to be believable. The "romance" was so excruciatingly contrived that I wish the author had just left it out entirely because the book would not have been any less for it. The pacing in the second half of the book was almost too fast. You are thrown from one problem to other bigger ones with people dying left and right in such quick succession that the characters (and the reader) just do not have time to process it. This is where character growth happens, where we learn to care about this people. Instead, we have no idea what they are thinking most of the time or even what they are saying to each other because there is so little actual dialogue. Most frustrating of all is when the narrator appears to be talking to herself yet another character responds aloud. It happens often as is jarring each time.
Despite all my complaints, I did enjoy this story. The world building, story line, and wonderful writing make up for its shortcomings enough that I would seriously consider giving future novels in this world a read. Part of that, too, is due to the fact that I actually do want to get to know these characters better and would welcome the opportunity to do so in future books.
This starts an epic straight out of fairytales - in some ways literally, since Uprooted borrows from Slavic folklore. It's a story of finding power from within you, of the meaning of co-operation, at places even of love and romance.
It's also a story full of familiar tropes. There's a young woman who is special in some unseen manner. There's an old man who's grumpy and dismissive. There's a clash of personalities, an exasperated teacher, scheming in the court, eventually romance - even if the only way the main characters seem to be able to communicate is through anger. The plot has its twists and turns, but it's built of familiar components and everything seems just too... simple.
The character development is lacking: there's some for the main character, and her best friend Kasia is transformed physically as well as mentally, but other than that, there's nothing worth mentioning. Dragon transforms from a master of his domain into an obedient sidekick, but he still stays the same grumpy, hurtful old man throughout the book. Short bouts of lust don't change his overall demeanor. Other characters are paper thin.
Maybe I'm expecting too much, but I would've liked to see more layers. In characters, in development, in everything.
The one layer I did notice - and it's altogether possible I'm reading it wrong - is about gender roles of the magic wielders. The traditional magic wielders are all males, except for Alosha, who's then masculinized by making her a swordsmith and having her act very coldly towards Agnieszka.
That traditional magic is orderly, precise, measurable, and so are the wizards: if something can't be measured, it doesn't exist. This goes so far that some books are removed from library because they don't seem to have value, and (Baba) Yaga, even though having been described as real earlier, is labeled as a folk tale by one scholarly wizard.
The opposite of this is the magic the main character wields. There doesn't seem to be any rules to how that works - she just follows her intuition and everything flows according to her will. Instead of force she uses gentle powers of persuasion to bend elements, people, everything.
You can also read this in a positive way: the magic seems to be the most effective when it's Agnieszka and Dragon working in collaboration, complementing each other. But did it really have to be hard, scientific, enforcing, masculine magic complementing soft, intuitive, persuasive (or manipulative) feminine magic?
The author doesn't seem to set limits on how the magic works in the book. Agnieszka is warned that you can burn yourself out if you use too much of magic, but there's not a moment in the book when that seems to be a real danger, even though particularly the main character seems to use her magic for everything from mundane to earth-shattering. There are no rules, either - she just comes up with all kinds of ideas that just happen to work. As a weird detail, her constant untidiness is plugged to be a manifestation, or a side effect, of her magic abilities. Why?
The way the main character uses her magic also smells of anti-intellectuality. She's partly unwilling and partly unable to learn magic. That doesn't matter, though, since all she has to do is follow her intuition, throw things together, sing a little song, and magnificent feats get accomplished.
If it seems like I'm complaining, that's because I expected more of the book. It's a multiple award winner book with apparently movie on the way. That's as far as my expectations went, though - I didn't even read the back cover.
I did end up wolfing it down, so I can't say that I disliked it. But I expected a fine dinner. Instead, I got bubble and squeak
One moment someone wants to help you, another moment they want to hurt you, then they want to help you again. There's no deep or dramatic connection to any of these characters. Even the best friend, Kasia, is dull and uncharacterized - she just follows the protagonist around and does her bidding and serves basically as a bodyguard, but provides the bare minimum for advice or emotional support. Some best friend. Even the protagonist, Agnieszka... you're not even sure what she's here to do. What does she want? What is she trying to achieve? She is driven purely on situational impulse. Things just... happen to her. There is no thinking, planning behind anything, only impulse and intuition, which while it makes for one steamy bed scene, doesn't make up for a whole book of pretty much stringing together random events. In fact, the way the plot goes, basically she's probably destined to be tangled and just go along with it - that's probably why the queen was drawn to her in the first place. She becomes less of an actor and more of a reactor; the fact that she achieved anything in this book is pretty much dumbfounded sheer luck (I'd be annoyed too if I were Sarkan/Dragon and always had to save her skin). It's like she's running around humming "ah ah ah ah stayin alive". In the beginning, I liked Agnieszka's spunk and the Dragon's irritation and their weird Jane Eyre dynamic, but toward the middle and end I'm not even sure I liked any of the characters at all, many of them, immortal as they may be, were just pieces on a chessboard without feelings and loyalties and lacking some element of humanity. Honestly the Woods could have taken them, Prince, Falcon/Stoya, and everyone else, and the world would have been better off for it. Agnieszka's defining emotions in latter half of the book were mainly of guilt, pity, and desperation. The absence of sorrow or horror made it unreadable, to draw from all situations this condescension, to think you can do anything because you feel like it and don't consider the consequences because it'll most of the time turn out all right. She hardly makes a compelling noble protagonist. I didn't feel attached to any of the characters except perhaps the Dragon, though he didn't end up playing a huge role in the second half of the book at all, just tagging along and trying to survive.
I literally am just bursting with questions. Many scenes are described in a hurried and half-comprehensible way, where you're not sure what's going on or who died or why or even sometimes where Agnieszka's allegiances lie. It's fine when things are all scenic and serene, but awful in a battle scene (which there are many of). Like the Wood Queen - one minute it says she had a sword in her "and then she was gone" and the next minute "she escaped". Very ambiguous. And the slow ballroom and library scenes (anything in the capital really) were entirely useless, adding to nothing in the plot except making Agnieszka seem cluelessly blonde and inept at socialization. How did Agnieszka break her bond on the valley and leave? Also, why didn't Agnieszka receive a nickname like Dragon or Falcon? How is it that no one takes Agnieszka seriously but then suddenly they do and she's making decisions and not explaining anything everyone's just ok with it? What was the Wood Queen actually trying to achieve with all these slow traps and plots between Rosya and their kingdom when she has the power (and definitely has the rage) to obliterate entire armies? Why didn't the corruption show in the Wood Queen earlier but showed up later? Who are these tree people and are they still alive? Nothing is explained well. It's so frustrating to have to go back and read only to have no idea what you just read.
This could have been much better executed with a plot of this caliber, with this many twists and turns. Unfortunately most of them can leave the reader spinning and confused.
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