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Uprooted, Throne of Glass, Six of Crows

Wednesday, 3 August 2016


Over the past few months, I've been making an effort to read more fantasy. Not necessarily YA fantasy, though my choices might suggest otherwise. The three fantasy books that I have picked up so far this year are Naomi Novik's stand alone Uprooted, Sarah J Maas's series starter Throne of Glass, and the first in Leigh Bardugo's new duology, Six of Crows

The following reviews don't contain any major spoilers, but they aren't really geared towards potential readers either, seeing as the failures of these novels are what I'm going to be focusing on, sadly.

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Uprooted

Uprooted (the UK edition) has one of the most beautiful covers out there. Unsurprisingly, that was what first drew me to it. I simply had to have it on my shelf. That said, the title also intrigued me, and the premise sounded right up my street, so it wasn’t just the cover that won me over. It really did seem like the full package.

So, where did it all go wrong? Initially I thought it was promising. It’s well written, and the book doesn’t hesitate to delve straight into its premise. However, I soon found the characters to be pretty tired. Agnieska, the clumsy-but-intuitive girl. Sarkan, the aloof anti-villain. Their inevitable romance (which I didn’t totally hate, I do love a beauty and the beast / Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester romance).

And then there’s Kasia, who plays the role of ‘friend’ - and that’s it. Her story begins and ends there. I have a lot of pet peeves when it comes to YA, and although this book doesn’t classify itself as YA, it still manages to uphold one of its most annoying tropes - the blind, unconditional best-friendship. I am all for stories about friendship, especially female friendship. But I can’t stand it when books have these extremely hollow friendships where the friends only purpose in life is to be the ‘friend’.



I also struggled with the plot. I ended up skimming through the entire climax. Never a good sign. To me, it felt like the ‘battle’ sequences (the heart tree sequences) were extremely repetitive. It reminded me of a video game, where each ‘boss’ might have the same formula for defeat that gets more difficult and requires more skill as you advance through the game. As an engaged, active player (or, say, a protagonist), this repetition doesn’t become boring because the exponential difficulty levels constantly demand more and more from you. As a passive reader, however, no more is being asked of me. I’m just forced to read about the same characters going through the same motions to achieve the same end. By the time the novel reached its final battle, I was so done with trees.

When I finished Uprooted, I realised that not only had I been seduced by its pretty cover, but that I had also been lied to by it. The style chosen for this edition implies a certain level of subversion - if that makes any sense. The premise is very traditional, almost so much that it clashes with its cover. My descriptive vocabulary is really failing me here, but there’s definitely something very ‘alternative’ about it. In my mind, the cover falsely promises the reader something other than your ordinary fantasy story.

Interestingly enough, the US edition is exceptionally traditional. It’s so by-the-book that it almost looks dated - like it should have been on shelves twenty years ago, if not even earlier. I really disliked the US cover when I first saw it. I almost thought it was ugly, especially in contrast with the gorgeous UK cover. However, in retrospect, it is so much more fitting for the type of story that Uprooted is, which is undeniably ordinary.


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Throne of Glass

Sarah J Maas is a name that seems to be everywhere. I had heard good things about both of her series - Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses. I decided to go with her first, which, according to the little author bio inside the cover, Maas began when she was just sixteen. I was extremely impressed when I read that. As I began to read the actual novel, any notions of a teenage literary prodigy I might have had quickly faded.

Throne of Glass lacks logic. As does its protagonist, Celaena Sardothien. I mentioned this in my goodreads review, but there was one thing in particular that really stood out to me, and that could be seen as emblematic of most of this books downfalls, and that is this: During the course of the tournament Celaena is competing in, many of her fellow champions are brutally murdered - slaughtered, in fact. Torn open, organs removed, claw marks on marble floors - the works. In a later scene, Celaena is informed by a dream-vision-ghost-princess that there is an evil in the castle that she must destroy. Celaena cannot fathom what this could be, and only makes the connection that the monster who has been regularly killing people just might also happen to be the mysterious evil in the castle. Yes, Celaena, 1 + 1 does indeed equal 2.

This is the kind of mistake that any writer at any age could make, admittedly. It’s probably very easy to forget how simple some things are when you’re trying to construct an elaborate mystery. However, for an editor to miss this, and all of the other gaping plot holes and inconsistencies, is unforgivable.



This book suffered from a serious case of what I like to call ‘subplot pretending to be plot’. The tournament, despite its promises of grandeur and violence, was really just background noise, and was often skimmed over. The book’s main concern was romance. There was a scene in which the prince teaches her how to play pool, for crying out loud. The narrative valued flirtatious banter over just about everything else.

I might have enjoyed this book more when I was sixteen, which makes sense, considering Maas’s own age at its conception. At the grand old age of twenty two, however, this was not for me. Love triangles posturing as epic neo-feminist fantasies no longer tick my boxes. It probably goes without saying that I will not be continuing with this series anytime soon. I may pick up A Court of Thorns and Roses one day out of interest to see how Maas has improved over the years, but I’m in no rush to do so.

As an aside, the lovely booktuber Marines did a review of Throne of Glass (here) a while back. We appear to have been on the same wavelength on many of this book’s downfalls, so I would highly recommend her video, and her channel in general, if you’re so inclined.

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Six of Crows

I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up had it not been for the hype. I knew that Leigh Bardugo had a prior trilogy that took place within the same fantasy world, so that initially discouraged me. But there was so much insistence on the fact that this was a new, stand-alone series, so I was soon convinced.

Starting, for once, on a positive note: Six of Crows has fantastic characters. It has a lot of characters, which was difficult at times, especially considering the fact that I read this over the course of more than four weeks, due to college getting in the way. There were a lot of people that I kept forgetting about. But the main ones, the proper #squad of POV characters, were honestly brilliant and so much fun to read about. Bardugo even went into hardcore flashback mode at times, and it was still great, because I actually gave a shit about who these people were. Inej was by far my favourite character, although I can genuinely say that I liked all of them.



I found that, perhaps because I’m unfamiliar with Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy, the worldbuilding was a little lacking. I suppose she didn’t want to repeat an info dump given in a different book (that most readers have likely read), but it ended up leaving me utterly lost on certain points. Description in general is something that I struggled with in this book. I found it hard to visualise the actions and settings being described, especially with regards to the heist sequence.

I initially gave this book a 3/5, due to the fact that I found the plot a little lacking. The characters were a lot more interesting than the heist itself. However, looking back, I feel like I might have been a bit too harsh. Characters are what I read a story for, and Bardugo’s bande à part are just fantastic. They are the reason why I’m excited for the sequel, and why I am absolutely going to read it as soon as it comes out. So, in short, I am hereby changing my rating to a solid 4/5. 


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