I decided to review the #COYER book club reads together in one post. These are our March 2021 picks – Fantasy month. I LOVED both of these books and while both were extremely long, I’m also incredibly grateful that book club put them in my path. Technically Addie La Rue was our adult pick and Uprooted was our Young Adult pick. Personally, I think that Uprooted‘s content is a bit mature for YA. I wouldn’t give it to just any teenager to read. Now for the reviews:Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Published by Del Rey on May 19, 2015
“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.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
When I first started Uprooted, I could instantly tell it was the sort of book I would like. It pulled me in immediately and yet… it took me a couple days to finish the 1st chapter!! To be fair, I was reading before bed both days and was very tired. But also – Uprooted is a LONG book and it’s chapter’s follow suit. I think it’s worth it to dig in and go for the ride, but be prepared – this is a time investment.
The plot, the world, and the characters are all fantastic and well developed (they better be, when the book is this long), but the world forms the roots (pun intended) of this story. The Wood is a sentient, evil place, that haunts and actively tries to take over the nearby villages. If someone wanders into the Wood they are unlikely to be seen again… if they do return they are corrupted and dangerous – turned into tools of the Wood to take over more people. The craftiness, plotting, viciousness of the Wood kept the story fascinating.
I also really loved the characters – most especially Agnieszka. She is messy and defies every attempt at taming her. There are moments where I would almost shout at her… At least clean yourself up so people will take you seriously!… but no, that’s not who she is. She is mud stained, food splattered, tangled hair Agnieszka. And they will learn to take her seriously because she is so much more than she appears. Loved that about her. And then there’s the Dragon – the wizard who she is forced to stay with at the start of the book as part of the local villagers tribute to him for their protection from the Wood. He is everything she is not… and he tries, with rather epic failure to tame her. I loved watching their battle of wills as they go from master and tribute to wizard and apprentice to friends and allies.
There are so many more characters that I grew to love and appreciate – but I feel like going too much further in the review with the characters would peel away perhaps too much of the experience of reading. There are kings, queens, princes, wizards, priests, villagers, and so much more.
This is a fairly epic fantasy tale of a simple woodcutter’s daughter whose whole life changes on her quest to save her people for the menacing Wood. There is magic, love, loss and so much action (this would make a pretty fantastic movie BTW). I am very glad it was selected for bookclub and that I was able to read it.
Side note: I had intended to read this in audio… less than 2 minutes in, I gave up that venture. I HATED the narration terribly. Perhaps it was an effort to be as authentic as possible to the culture this is coming out of (Polish fairy tales), but for me it was too much. I couldn’t understand without great focus… and that’s the opposite of a good audiobook experience for me. I like to do other things – clean, cook, drive, garden, walk, etc. I could only sit and listen to understand- so why not just read?
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Published by Macmillan Audio on October 6, 2020
Length: 17 hours 10 minutes
A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.
Every now and then I finish a book and I find it so spectacular I wish I could share it with everyone. Addie LaRue is one of those books. Sometimes I find myself wishing the book were a movie or a TV show so that I could share it with my husband (a non-reader, sadly). Addie LaRue is not one of those books. As much as I would like to share it with him, making this into a movie would undeniably leave me disappointed. I was too touched by the WAY the story was told and by Julia Whelan’s narration to want to see it tarnished by any other medium.
Yes. I loved it that much. (As and aside… This is my 4th read by VE Schwab – I also read the Darker Shade of Magic trilogy and she is officially on my favorite author’s/auto-buy list now. I will be trying to read everything she’s ever written shortly)
I think it hit me in all the right places. First of all, I am a historian deep down (and by training). So when a book drips with so much history – and not historical “facts” but imagined, lived experiences of moments, common people and they every day mixed with the special – it soothes a piece of my soul. This book did that splendidly.
And then there’s the way it just makes you FEEL. For a good portion of the book I was just so sad, but in a hopeful way. And then there was the shock, the elation, the nervous happiness, the despair, the crying, the laughing, the hope. It made me feel the full spectrum of emotions. Because when a girl,desperate to escape a life of tedium and obligatory marriage, makes a deal that leaves her more alone than you could possibly imagine, how can you not hurt with and for her? And yet, you hope that the point of this book is to find her happily ever after, all the while remembering this is not a romance novel, but a fantasy and you are guaranteed no such thing.
It was a 17+ hour read (well I listened at 2x like I do most books) and I devoured it in 3 days. I take longer than that to read most 5 hours books. But I found myself sitting on the balcony in the sun to listen. And then again at the end of the day, back out again with a glass of wine to listen. The narration brought me in and the story held me there.
I have gushed so much and yet I realize I’ve said so little.The characters are few but complex. The story is about life and death and pain and love and art. And you should read it. I’m pretty sure I’ve found my best read of 2021 – in March. We shall see, but I think it will be hard for any other book to measure up.