The Sword and Laser discussion

Uprooted
This topic is about Uprooted
283 views
2015 Reads > Uprooted: Manic Pixie Dream Witch (full spoilers)

Comments Showing 1-34 of 34 (34 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Rob Secundus (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments I want to say up front that I loved this book. It was enchanting, fun, immersive, had a great, strong female friendship at the heart of the narrative, and overall just felt real and true in a way that's rare in fiction. In my mind it places Novik up there with Gaiman and Rothfuss. And I’d never read Novik before, so I was expecting standard mediocre fantasy workmanlike prose, and was so pleasantly surprised to have my expectations [sorry] uprooted.

BUT. There was one element that really bothered me. It felt like Nieshka was very much a straightforward Manic Pixie Dream Witch in her relationship with the Dragon. She’s a girl that’s not like the other girls of the village, always getting dirty, climbing trees, etc etc. She’s not prim and proper! She’ll splash in mud! What’s more, she just can’t wrap her mind around the Dragon’s academic, intellectual magic— but that’s a *good* thing, because her Free Spirited Magic breaks through his limitations and shows him a world of magic he’d never expected to reach before! (and, in the end, a world of social interaction!)The fact that their sexual relationship is tied up in this magical relationship only strengthens my discomfort.

I think the fact that the narrative puts the romantic subplot on the backburner, instead emphasizing Nieshka’s female friendships as the primary relationship of the novel, really saves it. And again, I love this book. I really, really love it. But this one Manic Pixie Dream Witch thing still bothers me. I wonder if anyone else picked up on this, or if Novik employed it intentionally, for some specific purpose?

(I also should probably mention the other possibly problematic aspect of the relationship-- it's a May/December romance. Honestly though, I thought it avoided the typical Woody Allen pitfalls of a portrayal of such a relationship, especially because Nieshka retains her agency throughout the entire subplot)


message 2: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 07, 2015 07:09PM) (new)

The "chosen one" who's "not like the others of their gender" is a long lasting side effect of the epic fantasy genre that I want to slowly fade out.

But sometimes, I'm in the mood for protagonists to escape into. :)

There was a big debacle with the Lara Croft game where Lara Croft became a victim at one point in the game. Fans were upset, because she was supposed to be the female Indiana Jones and unstoppable.

I think that in general, Naomi is aiming for that audience. Her book has a lot more depth than the average escapist fantasy, but at its crux it is escapist fantasy. : ) It's why the book is labelled "YA". Because of the "YA style" heroine even if there are steamier parts.

I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. It's just a different thing. It's for a specific mood. Female readers need their Indiana Joneses too.

(I do agree though with you that I find flawed protagonists infinitely more interesting. I only read protagonists like Nieshka in specific moods. I just think its important to put the book in the context of the audience demographic it was aimed for.)


Lindsay | 593 comments I had a think about the May/December thing at the time too, but I'm not sure it applies. Yes, the Dragon is really old compared to Agnieshka, but they're both essentially immortal. In a couple of hundred years, their age difference isn't going to seem that much.

And what's the alternative? Either a lonely immortality, or you watch the person you love age and die and then all your kids do the same as well. I'm not sure that a romantic relationship is sustainable for centuries, but it seems like the best of a bad bunch of options.


Michele | 1154 comments So Agnieszka should be played by Zooey Deschanel, is what you're saying.

Isn't the Manic Pixie Dream Girl(tm) a male fantasy - I mean, an ideal woman who comes along and shakes things up for a boring guy? Do women aspire to be one?

I guess she fits, but aren't MPDGs usually just so cute and wacky and loveable you could spit? Agnieszka really isn't. He doesn't think she's cute - she just annoys the crap out of him for about 75% of the story.


message 5: by Jan (last edited Aug 08, 2015 12:00AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan | 380 comments The MPDG is "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures."

So, if Nieshka's sole narrative purpose had been to save the Dragon - she may have been a MPDG. Because the MPDG is not a fully realized character but a one dimensional plot device to further the story of the male protagonist. BUT Nieshka has very much her own story besides the Dragon, it isn't even the main aspect. She has her own goals, fears and relationships.

In this context I recommend an article by the creator of the term: I’m sorry for coining the phrase Manic Pixie Dream Girl where he said he coined the phrase to expose sexist views of women not to discredit well-loved female characters -- as nuanced characters cannot or should not be classified in such a restricted nature.


Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments Also, consider the fact that, at the end of the book, Sarkan is basically back to his old habits. He's only unbent a tiny, tiny fraction. They're not really a couple. Or, at least, not a traditional couple. I feel like they came together for comfort and a sort of mutual magical attraction moreso than straight-up love. Which I thought was neat and different. I like how independent she was at the end regarding him. Like she could take his company or leave it.


message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 08, 2015 07:01AM) (new)

Oh no, definitely the "manic pixie dream girl" trope does not apply here. She's not a "manic pixie dream girl" as in a "male fantasy". I thought Rob was using the term to make a pun and that he meant more that she feels like a "Mary Sue".


message 8: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Jan wrote: "Because the MPDG is not a fully realized character but a one dimensional plot device to further the story of the male protagonist."

That sounds to me like, "She can't be a manic pixie dream girl because I like the story." I could argue that Kate Hudson's character in Almost Famous isn't an MPDG because she's a three dimensional character with her own story arc, but when you come down to it, she's the same character as Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown, with the only difference being that Cameron Crowe was having an off day when he wrote the latter.


message 9: by Jan (last edited Aug 08, 2015 09:46AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan | 380 comments Sean wrote: That sounds to me like, "She can't be a manic pixie dream girl because I like the story."

It's not. The MPDG is explicitly the feminist critique of a sexist female character that solely exists to rescue the male protagonist. If this is applied to strong female protagonists written by a woman, it does nothing else but robbing us all of positive female characters that only on a surface level resemble those sexist stereotypes. In the end, wielding the MPDG as a blunt weapon against those other characters only strengthens the sexist narrative that female characters are less than male characters.

Because she is just a MPDG.


message 10: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 08, 2015 12:28PM) (new)

Jan wrote: "Sean wrote: That sounds to me like, "She can't be a manic pixie dream girl because I like the story."

It's not. The MPDG is explicitly the feminist critique of a sexist female character that solel..."


She's not a MPDG because she does not exist to further a male protagonists story. She has her own story, dreams and motivations that exist beyond him. The term was misused, I think Rob meant "Mary Sue" based on the argument he wrote.

Also, I'd love it if literary criticism can develop a gender neutral term for discussions of "perfect" characters with only quirky flaws. Because it is not just female characters that fall into this trap. I see a lot of male characters. E.g. Paul from Dune.


Rob Secundus (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments So, I did mean it in the way Jan describes (and I did mean it as a pun, but the pun being shifting the relationship in question from a romance-one to a magical one). I think I disagree with the limitation that Michele and Jan both reference that the MPDG is necessarily a fantasy for the protagonist soley-- the MPDG can be very much a fantasy for the reader. Plenty of these kinds of stories involve a reluctant male protagonist. I'm also not too sure that we should abandon a term just because the ignorant use it so bluntly. We can and should talk about how sexist tropes appear in strong characters/stories, about how an author may employ them specifically to subvert them, or about how they may creep in and weaken a narrative. Just because idiots use something as a sledgehammer doesn't mean we can't use it as a scalpel. Their nonsense doesn't limit us to saying "this is a great female author and a strong female character-- and we should leave it at that, no more commentary necessary."

Anyway. These are my problems with Nieshka's magic (and maybe the following doesn't consistently adhere to the MPDG narrative, but I'd say the following is still problematic):

First of all, she is defined by being not-like-other-girls. Her rejection of traditional femininity is not just a strong point, it's connected to her magical power. She's not just "not very ladylike," she's not-very-lady-like specifically because she's a powerful witch. This really becomes troubling in the city-sections-- everyone/anyone who is at all traditionally feminine is vapid and childish. Kasia is, of course, a great character, but she's only traditionally feminine in the backstory. In the present she's no longer even human, but an animated wooden thing that runs around stabbing and/or breaking things. She's a fantastic character, but she still contributes to this not-being-like-other-girls-is-powerful narrative. (and the MPDG is often herself "Not very ladylike"-- see Zooey D shouting "PENIS!" in a park).

Second of all, her relationship with the Dragon syncs up completely with the standard MPDG narrative if you replace "romance" with magic. He is a stuffy, intellectual magician that can only perform orderly, intellectual magic. She's a free-spirit that manages to break through his gruff exterior and show him a new world, not restricted to his rhyme and meter, a world where you can make up magic to fit whatever you feel as right. Importantly, she is incapable of performing any intellectual magic beyond a certain complexity. The academic stuff is simply beyond her. (and in the MPDG narrative the dichotomy between the two is often intellectual vs anti-intellectual-- see again 500 Days of Summer, Woody Allen, Paper Towns, etc etc. Also, I know that 500 Days and Paper Towns are both ultimately subversions of the narrative, but still, they play things pretty straight for most of the movies).

But by joining her magic to his, not is the mutual desire for sexy sex times instigated, but she allows him to accomplish feats of magic he'd never dreamed of. Sometimes she is the active agent in these feats, but extremely often her role is just to keep him going/ feed him magic.

Of course, she doesn't always need to feed him magic-- at the end of the book, he's able to perform the major feat that previously required her assistance on his own-- because he needs to rescue her.

And, in the end, their relationship does indeed change him. He's no longer the cold distant lord-- he chills with peasants and dances and crap. Their relationship solely benefits him, not just magically, but socially.

Anyway. This could probably use an edit or four but I have to run. TLDR: Nieshka is powerful because she's not-like-other-girls and because she's incapable of being intellectual. Her magical relationship with the Dragon is indeed to boost him up, make him more capable, etc etc, narratively she boosts his magic at the climax of the novel not by her own power but by being damselled, forcing him to rise to the challenge and cast Truthiness all by his lonesome, and finally in the end she exists to break him out of his loner-lord state and get him a social life.

I think the book is saved because this problematic relationship is shoved to the side for the extreme majority of the narrative, not because of any saving grace in the relationship itself.


message 12: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Jan wrote: "It's not. The MPDG is explicitly the feminist critique of a sexist female character that solely exists to rescue the male protagonist. If this is applied to strong female protagonists written by a woman, it does nothing else but robbing us all of positive female characters that only on a surface level resemble those sexist stereotypes."

The problem is, such distinctions are subjective. The guy who coined the term may not have meant to include Annie Hall, but other people look at the character and think, "Yup, she fits the definition perfectly."

The best thing to do would be to acknowledge that, like all tropes, it's something that can be used well or badly, and while the bad uses can be problematic, that doesn't negate the fact that Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's, Susan from Bringing up Baby and Penny from Almost Famous are examples of the trope done well.


message 13: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Anja wrote: "Also, I'd love it if literary criticism can develop a gender neutral term for discussions of "perfect" characters with only quirky flaws. Because it is not just female characters that fall into this trap. I see a lot of male characters. E.g. Paul from Dune."

"Gary Stu" is in common usage for excessively perfect male heroes. See, for instance, pretty much every review of Sword Art Online.

As for Dune, you apparently have a different version of the book from me. In mine Paul Atreides is an anti-hero who unleashes a horrible storm of religious warfare upon the galaxy. Herbert was very deliberately questioning the concept of the heroic superman found in Golden Age SF. In one of the sequels he even explicitly states that Paul killed several times more people than Hitler.


message 14: by Alex (new)

Alex (asato) enlightening discussion. thx!


Michelle (stemshell) | 24 comments Rob Secundus wrote: "Importantly, she is incapable of performing any intellectual magic beyond a certain complexity. The academic stuff is simply beyond her. (and in the MPDG narrative the dichotomy between the two is often intellectual vs anti-intellectual-- see again 500 Days of Summer, Woody Allen, Paper Towns, etc etc. Also, I know that 500 Days and Paper Towns are both ultimately subversions of the narrative, but still, they play things pretty straight for most of the movies)."

THIS. This bothered me so much. I too loved the book and I even loved the character...mostly. It really really bothered me that she was completely incapable of performing any intellectual magic beyond the level of a cantrip. Also, she was just kind of thick in the head in general, like when she didn't even realize she was doing magic for the first couple of weeks. However, I complain when characters are too perfect so I suppose take this with a grain of salt. I just prefer intelligent characters and as I myself am a scientist, I get extremely tired of the intellectual-as-a-villian trope and the intellectual-needing-to-find-the-power-of-emotion trope.


message 16: by Jan (last edited Aug 09, 2015 06:19PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan | 380 comments OK, I would suggest to put the discussion on the classification as a MPDG aside and concentrate on the actual critique of the story elements, because with those I do very much agree, especially those things brought up by Rob and Michelle in the last few posts (while I still oppose the MPDG moniker).

I would agree that there are deeply problematic elements in how the magic in Uprooted works, especially how the contrast between intellectual and intuitive magic is presented. But I do not think that the problem is that Nieshka is presented as a not very lady-like or unusual female character. The problem is on the contrary that the most prominent female character doesn't comprehend scientific/intellectual magic - basically positioning women as intuitive without being able to think scientifically.

As I said elsewhere, I was quite annoyed when I thought this was going to be a male vs female view of magic thing. And I felt only OK with Nieshka's magic when I realized there were other female "intellectual" magic users. So for me, if Nieshka had fitted a more traditional feminine portrayal, this failure to understand intellectual magic would have been worse, as it would have strengthened the binary male vs female world view.

And yes, I was also annoyed that Nieshka seemed a little thick and didn't realize she was the one doing the cantrip magic at the beginning, but more from the standpoint that the characters in a story in most cases shouldn't be so much less savvy than the reader, because in general we want our heroes to be clever.

But the worst thing is one Rob brought up: While I don't think that the Dragon has come to a better understanding of magic through Nieshka at the end - I do think it's problematic if the exclusively female magic is often presented as just a support function to the intellectual magic and that Nieashka's main task for the most important spells seems to be to bring in more magic for the Dragon to use, going even so far that the river can simply take over her function when the Dragon tries to rescue her. That is not a very empowering image.

I do have the suspicion that this last aspect may come from Novik writing herself into a corner, where at the end the Dragon needed to somehow be able to rescue her without her magic.

In the end I would say Nieshka's tomboy characterstics are actually helping the story to be less problematic. To a degree.


Lindsay | 593 comments I dislike the description of "intellectual" magic. I would describe it as structured, as opposed to Agnieshka's more fluid magic. I didn't see her inability to perform structured magic as a lack of intelligence at all - certainly all the structured magic users could not perform her sort of magic either.


message 18: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3910 comments Rob Secundus wrote: "I also should probably mention the other possibly problematic aspect of the relationship-- it's a May/December romance"

About a third of the way through the book I started thinking, "we should have a rule that century old men romancing seventeen year old girls should all be called 'Edward Cullen.'" For a while this did feel in spots like a better written version of Twilight. Not for long, though. The ending was fantastic, and I liked how Sarkan was going to have to do it her way if he wanted to be with her. Which he most definitely did.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

I agree with Lindsay.


Michele | 1154 comments But, he didn't "rescue" her at the end, did he? I thought he was holding the "door" open with the Truth spell while she went in and dealt with the Wood Queen and then she came back out on her own - she lets him do the heavy lifting while she is doing the intricate, fiddly stuff that takes time but not raw power.

She is actually doing more, because he starts the spell, she joins it, then she lets him control the flow of their powers while she is hunting down lost souls and getting them to come back. He just chants and keeps the power going.

I think there is a good balance between who is doing what, if you don't base strength on "amount of power used." Together they are much more than apart - both of them benefit when they work together, not just the Dragon.


David | 67 comments Lindsay wrote: "I dislike the description of "intellectual" magic. I would describe it as structured, as opposed to Agnieshka's more fluid magic. I didn't see her inability to perform structured magic as a lack of..."

I'm with you on the difference being "structured" vs. "fluid". And I think Novik covered the ground that it wasn't a male vs. female in both directions - that there were female witches in the capital doing structured magic, and that there had been male wizards in the valley doing fluid (for want of a better word) magic.

My read on it was that people in the valley were predisposed to a more fluid type of magic, involved in their ties to the location. At one point Agnieshka (sorry if the spelling is wrong, I don't have the book in front of me) wonders if Yaga was from the valley, and at another finds spells written for the more fluid style that were from the valley.

And it's not that people predisposed to one type can't do the other - it just comes with difficulty. From the "structured" side, they haven't had much exposure to the "fluid" side (since it's largely/entirely from the valley), and so don't believe that it can work. I think this ends up being their primary stop - it doesn't come natural for them, it doesn't work like their other magic, so they believe it can't work. Remember that the tales of Yaga include her surprising works wandering through a palace, and the dismissal of her as a real entity.

I'm inclined to think that the wood people would have practiced a magic more closely associated with the "fluid" type. It's a magic more comfortable to people tied to the region.


Garrett I think I'd add that I think one of the nuances with magic is that it's not just a difference in the level of structure, but that one kind of magic is an institutional standard, and the other is non-standard. The one is supported by an academic institution -- which is why it's easy to get the impression that it's intellectual.

It's... it's kind of like Standard English, which is perceived entirely artificially as "correct" or "good" or "intellectual" English, which is only the case because it has systemic institutional support (to the point that people unthinkingly value rigid, imposed written standards over any variations that develop orally, you know, by SPEAKING, over time).

The Dragon's magic has this kind of systemic institutional support. It's supported by the social, political, and academic systems of the world they live in (to the point that the people who were raised in that system unthinkingly assume things like "there is no other way!").

Agniezka's magic developed on its own for years outside of those political or academic institutions, out on the margins, so it's absolutely no surprise that -- just like a non-Standard English speaker doesn't easily acclimate to what often ends up being a hostile academic environment for them -- she doesn't do well when she's expected to use a magical grammar she's never participated in.


message 23: by Olga (new) - added it

Olga (meluse) | 24 comments Jan wrote: „The problem is on the contrary that the most prominent female character doesn't comprehend scientific/intellectual magic - basically positioning women as intuitive without being able to think scientifically.“

I think we should be a little careful with reading sexism into the story. Does Agnieszka struggle with „intellectual“/„institutional“/„structured“ magic because she is a girl or because Novic knows that most readers prefer „intuitive“ characters“? It’s actually quite interesting that this topic came up here in the first place. If Agnieszka had been male we wouldn't be having this discussion. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a main character who isn’t able to think scientifically. We DO want our heroes to be clever but not TOO clever. This way it makes it easier for the reader to identify with them. Harry Potter for example is such an „intuitive wizard“ who isn’t really able to think scientifically but there we don’t notice anything wrong because he’s male. I’m not saying that you’re entirely wrong. Novic could have made her an intellectual, „empowered“ (whatever it means this context) women who would have been a role model for all her female readers, teaching them feminist ideals etc. but she didn’t and there’s nothing wrong with it. The fact that we so easily see Agnieszka’s character as a sexist representation of women is not ONLY because of the way the story is written but also due to the prejudices in our society. After all we would never think of reading Harry Potter and then saying „because the most prominent male character sucks at scientific thinking and the most prominent female character doesn’t, the novel suggest that men can’t think scientifically“.

Rob wrote: „But by joining her magic to his, not is the mutual desire for sexy sex times instigated, but she allows him to accomplish feats of magic he'd never dreamed of. Sometimes she is the active agent in these feats, but extremely often her role is just to keep him going/ feed him magic.“

Well she is his apprentice. I really don’t think she lacks agency. E.g. The first times she actually does something is when the Dragon is gone and she goes to burn the corrupted cattle. In the end he rescues her but she „destroys“ the Wood. Even when they have sex she is the one who goes to his bedroom and starts everything.

But I actually agree with you that she has something of a MPDG and it was annoying me throughout the book. She is still not a flat character but she definitely has some MPDG qualities.


message 24: by Jan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan | 380 comments Meluse wrote: "I think we should be a little careful with reading sexism into the story. Does Agnieszka struggle with „intellectual“/„institutional“/„structured“ magic because she is a girl or because Novic knows that most readers prefer „intuitive“ characters“?"

Please keep in mind that my post continues with *g* :
As I said elsewhere, I was quite annoyed when I thought this was going to be a male vs female view of magic thing. And I felt only OK with Nieshka's magic when I realized there were other female "intellectual" magic users. So for me, if Nieshka had fitted a more traditional feminine portrayal, this failure to understand intellectual magic would have been worse, as it would have strengthened the binary male vs female world view.

So I agree this is not intended to be male vs female. But personally, I would have preferred to get to know this earlier, because I had a rather large patch of story where I rolled my eyes in my head a little.

Michele wrote: "But, he didn't "rescue" her at the end, did he? I thought he was holding the "door" open with the Truth spell while she went in and dealt with the Wood Queen and then she came back out on her own -..."

I actually have to relisten to that part. Maybe I got the wrong impression.


Garrett To clarify, I didn't mean to imply that Agniezka was bad at institutionally supported magic because she's a woman. I don't think there's much good evidence that the magical system here is sexist.

What I meant was that Novik is showing us one of the ways systemic discrimination works. The book isn't discriminatory; it's critiquing discrimination. The culture around Agniezka, trained to think of "correct" magic as a single thing, makes things harder for her when she doesn't conform to that. And I think it's clearly more of a regional or class-based discrimination than a gendered one (they don't look down on her because she's a woman, but because they think she's a bumpkin). And we see quite clearly that their assumptions about her class of magic are wrong.

But the book is also critiquing discrimination by subverting our expectations about it. I think Novik wants us to think for a while that Agniezka's magic is gendered, because it's a sexist trope she's playing with, before she pulls the rug out from under it. She wants us to wonder why we jumped to that assumption in the first place.


Rob Secundus (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments W/r/t the Intellectual/Non-intellectual distinction: yeah, probably a bad way of dividing them. In my mind the closest thing to the reality of the book is Gregorian Chant vs Folk Music. Maybe Academic vs Folk is a good way of summing that up.

Overall, Jan and Garrett have kind of won me over. I still have problems with the ending, but overall I've been swayed.

W/r/t Meluse's argument, however: this book does not exist in a vacuum.

"If Agnieszka had been male we wouldn't be having this discussion."

Correct, because there aren't awful, oppressive stereotypes about men being stupid and/or only incapable of intuitive/emotional thinking rather than rational/logical. Further, one doesn't need to turn a character into pure on the nose feminist allegory, some empowered Lioness Aslan, in order to have a feminist character/ a character that avoids sexist tropes, contrary to what you seem to believe. City of Stairs, Annihilation, The Night Circus, Alif the Unseen, Dawn, and A Natural History of Dragons are all S&L picks that had great, complex, interesting, I'd say even Feminist female main characters without becoming the flat Allegory For Empowerment that you're describing.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

That would be true if Agniezka was the only female wizard in the story or if there were multiple female wizards and they were all driven by emotional magic.

I agree with Garret. I think this is more complicated than being a gender distinction. I think there's class stuff involved her as well. Where the wizards came from and what kind of people they want to be.

There's Alosha who is academic and the Willow who is academic. And the Dragon and the Falcon are very much not "logical" creatures even if their approach to magic is fairly academic. Also, Baba Jaga wasn't the only folksy wizard. Agniezka read from books written by an ancient group of wizards, amongst whom there may have been men.

This seems to be linked to where the wizards came from/their origins. Or where their goals and desires are. I.e. Agniezka's driven by protecting her village. The Dragon and Falcon very much want to be creatures of the capital city. Alosha wants power and control as a result of her background of not having power. Etc.


message 28: by Olga (new) - added it

Olga (meluse) | 24 comments Rob: "Further, one doesn't need to turn a character into pure on the nose feminist allegory, some empowered Lioness Aslan, in order to have a feminist character/ a character that avoids sexist tropes, contrary to what you seem to believe."

Well that's actually exactly what I meant. As I said, I don't think there's anything wrong with Agnieszka not being a "flat allegory for empowerment". I was trying to be ironic when I wrote that she could have turned her into one :).

Garrett: "I think it's clearly more of a regional or class-based discrimination than a gendered one (they don't look down on her because she's a woman, but because they think she's a bumpkin). And we see quite clearly that their assumptions about her class of magic are wrong."

I definitely agree with you. Especially, when you think about how she was treated by that one girl in the capital (I forgot her name, the one that pretended to be her friend just to make fun of her).


message 29: by Leah (new) - rated it 5 stars

Leah | 2 comments Jan wrote: "I do think it's problematic if the exclusively female magic is often presented as just a support function to the intellectual magic and that Nieashka's main task for the most important spells seems to be to bring in more magic for the Dragon to use..."

Yes, Agnieszka's fluid magic was often used as a support to the Dragon's spells, but this doesn't bother me because she was so new to performing magic and didn't yet have the knowledge or experience to cast spells that were situationally appropriate. She had only been practicing magic for less than a year whereas the Dragon had been at it for centuries.

I think it's natural to infer that once the urgency to cleanse the Wood's corruption dissipates, Agnieszka would be able to hone her abilities and shine just as brightly as the Dragon.


Darren I think she's a Mary Sue more than an MPDG. She's much too confrontational and unhappy with the men in the book to qualify as one of the latter.

I generally have no problems with the Mary Sue. Batman is one. So's Sherlock Holmes. Both characters I enjoy. But in general I feel much less sympathy for wizards of any stripe who learn their art without real study. That just seems fundamentally wrong to me.

It's become common in fantasy for the protagonist to be the best wizard through genetic blessing while others who work harder flounder and fall short. It irks me to my nerd core. One of the reasons I love the Harry Potter books is that the best wizard is not Harry Potter, despite his lineage, his history, and all the opportunity thrown his way, but rather Hermione, who succeeds through study you see throughout the story.


David | 67 comments Darren wrote: "But in general I feel much less sympathy for wizards of any stripe who learn their art without real study. That just seems fundamentally wrong to me..."

I think that's a misstatement with regards to Agnieszka, due to two factors: first, we're told she's subconsciously been practicing magic pretty much her whole life. This isn't studying, but it's a style of use that complements her magic. Second, she actually does spend time studying. The book doesn't devote much in the way of time to it, but she puts in a lot of painful time working on the "technical" magic, and then puts in an intense amount of time figuring out how to cleanse Kasia of corruption.


Darren Did you seriously write "I think that's a misstatement" and then follow it up with "this isn't studying"?

A's magic is intuitive magic, throughout the story. That subconscious magic she practiced throughout her life was her doing what felt right to her, because she always understood magic. Same with how she figured out the Baba Yaga's journals. She does read books, but does not study them. She just figures them out almost on opening or discards them. When she meets the other court wizards, she learns how many years are the minimum of study for one to take the naming ceremony. She's been living with the Dragon at that point for what, a season? And how much of that time not even aware she was doing magic at all? Yes, she does put in some painful time, as you say, but compared to the other wizards, it's barely time at all.

Genetic blessing, not study.


David | 67 comments Darren wrote: "She's been living with the Dragon at that point for what, a season? And how much of that time not even aware she was doing magic at all? ..."

Just as a note, by this point it's been longer than a season. Can't remember how long exactly, but somewhere between 6 months and a year. By the time she sees other wizards, she had both the phase of studying without wanting to, and the phase of obsessive studying while trying to free Kasia. And I don't think you can discount the magic of her childhood, since other wizards aren't practicing magic at all until they start their apprenticeship.


message 34: by Darren (last edited Sep 02, 2015 04:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Darren David wrote: "Just as a note, by this point it's been longer than a season. Can't remember how long exactly, but somewhere between 6 months and a year."

"Tell me, my dear, how long have you been studying under your master?"
"Since the harvest," I said, and stared back at their incredulous eyes.

-

Sarkan hadn't mentioned that wizards ordinarily took seven years of study before asking to be admitted to the list.

(Page 246, in my Kindle version)

Not a year, then. Not sure where you decided it couldn't possibly be under 6 months, but even if you're correct at 6 months, still well outside of any expectation.

In any case, you're deliberately not reading my point.


back to top