„No, I didn’t! U did!“
Sorry. I had to do that.
Why, you ask? Well, because I just finished
and I also thought it might be nice to have a short blogpost for a change. So here is it:
This is not a review, as such. This is just a brief comment. Uprooted is written by a woman, and it has a woman for its protagonist. It’s also included in many lists recommending feminist fantasy stories. So one might think it could possibly be a feminist fantasy story. I hoped this when I started. I was quickly corrected.
The story is about a young woman living in a village near an evil wood, protected by a wizard in a tower. Every 10 years (if I remember correctly; this warning is valid through everything else I’m about to say. I didn’t double-check any of it, because I’m lazy) the wizard takes a young woman from the village into his tower and then releases her again, educated and … a bit changed. Of course, today he picks our protagonist. He makes her cook his dinner, he makes her clean his tower, all the while berating her for being ugly, for being stupid, and for not knowing stuff she had no way of knowing because he would have needed to tell her. It turns out she has magic of her own, and he tries to teach her. This proves difficult, because – you won’t believe this baffling twist – while his magic is very strict, rational, mathematical and structured, hers is more intuitive, emotional and wild. She learns that he is not actually a bad person and in the end, she likes him and even has sex with him.
There are about two instances of intercourse in the book that I remember. The first is the a prince of the realm trying to rape her. It doesn’t come to that, though, because she puts a spell on him to defend herself, and of course the wizard shouts at her for this. They then hatch a scheme to plant a false memory in the prince’s mind to make him think he actually raped her, and so all is well. (He later almost finds out or something as a small plot point, but they somehow salvage the situation.) There is no actual intercourse, but since she made the wrong memory, she still feels humiliated by it.
The second is her having sex with the wizard. In both cases, the (attempted) intercourse is initiated by a man, very surprising and unexpected to her, although she at least wants and enjoys it with the wizard.
In the end, she leaves his tower and pursues her own magical career, so there’s that.
But otherwise: Why? What are those people thinking? Can’t we even in feminist literature have a plot that’s not completely dominated by the usual sexist clichés and careless misogyny? Can you recommend better examples of feminist Fantasy literature? Carrie Summers‘ Stonehaven series might be the closest coming to my mind. I wouldn’t call it actively feminist, but it is much better than Uprooted by being, for one, far less rapey. And I’m having real difficulty accepting that this is enough for a book to be exceptionally feminist.