I really, really, enjoyed reading this book! However I read several reviews of Uprooted and noticed that a lot of people complained about certain things in the book. However I found that the things that were complained about actually made a lot of sense upon further refection.
The most common thing that was complained about was that the relationship between Nieshka and Sarkaan was abusive.
if you think back to the beginning of the book to the way her parents treated her. You might notice that while, they were not abusive, they very rarely complimented her, instead they often criticized her. To the reader it seemed to be very insulting. However both Nieshka and her family knew that to be criticized for flaws was actually a good thing! Her mother would criticize her for doing something wrong and then sigh, or smile and love on her.
You could say, that she was never truly disciplined or punished for her failures & mistakes. And you could even go as far to say that she was probably never really told the word no! She was allowed to get away with most anything, because it meant she was flawed and would not be taken by the dragon. So her parents took solace in the fact that she was unruly. She was encouraged, by her parents, to be the flawed person that she was. That’s how she was raised. That’s how she perceived love. In Neishka’s mind, criticism was an act of the truest love and affection. She knew that the meaning behind the harsh criticizing words was motivated by complete love and total acceptance.
Now fast forward a bit, Neishka spends all day with the Dragon wizard who criticizes her, and flat out insults her, rather than say anything kind. Why does he do this, you ask? Reason 1, he is very disconnected from relationships. And 2, He loves order, rules and needs for everything to fit nicely in place. He loves cleanliness and always maintains a high level of order. Order to him means everything. (You could even say that he has a touch of O.C.D.) So the dragon finds it quite difficult, when he discovers that his new apprentice is unruly, undisciplined, headstrong, never ever follows the rules and simply does what she wants! He believes magic (and society) cannot exist without order. Where as Neishka is the opposite and does whatever she wants, when she wants, with no thought of how it might affect the future. So although he does seem to appreciate her passion and tenacity, he can’t stand her lack of discipline and disdain for the rules. In his mind, magic can not be learned without strict adherence to proper procedure. But of course she proves him wrong, (that there is more than one way to do magic).
Now lets look at how she reacts to his insults and criticism,
she finds it very familiar, something she understands. (Something comforting even.) She senses the good intentions behind the words. During her time with him, she doesn’t let his words bother her too much. (Although she does purposefully get messy, just to spite him, because she likes pestering him.) When she first is trapped in the tower, She questions his true intentions, but is rarely bothered by his harsh words. Very quickly she realizes that he is protecting her and cares for her, and realizes that her suspicions of him were correct.
So she enters the same dynamic of relationship she had with her parents. Looking up to and loving someone who criticizes her, while meaning it in a loving and accepting and protecting way. She believes the dragon means well in spite of his insults. She ignores his harsh words and appreciates that behind it all he loves her too.
Some people have complained that the time at the castle was slow and uninteresting. To that I say, yes it was slow, but vital to the story. I will explain….. When Neishka makes a new friend who is continually saying over the top compliments, she doesn’t know how to respond, almost no one has ever complimented her! But when she realizes that it was all mocking her, she is hurt. That’s when she realizes that she’d rather be insulted by the dragon (or her parents) and know that they love her, rather than be around people (like Solya or Marek) who say nice things to her but do not mean it at all. It is a pivotal moment for her, and part of what makes her want Sarkaan so badly. Also during her time at the castle we see her struggle with who to trust. Alosha? Father Ballo? Solya? Who can she believe in? This is why she is constantly longing to be around the Dragon, because he was always upfront about the things he disliked about her and never tried to flatter her or trick her. This is comforting to her, because it’s somewhere she feels safe and accustomed to. Hence she is drawn to the safety of Sarkaan. I think this time at the castle, while slow was important so that, we could get to know what Neishka was like without the influence of a man. (And so that she could discover it too.) Neishka had to experience life without him in the tower. Or else the reader would have been biased by her choosing to be with him! The reader would simply say, “Neishka had stockholm syndrom, because she never got to experience life on her own!” During this “slow” time we get to see her realize that she doesn’t care for the politics and dances. that what she really longs for is the relational familiarity of Sarkaan and her home by the woods. So while these two may not have great chemistry, I understand why she fell for him. She chose him because had no hidden agenda for her, he wanted to protect her, and the dynamic of his relationship is deeply familiar, AND because he is safe place for her to land. Anyways, I would have been shocked if she didn’t end up with him. Now, will it really last? Is it “real” love?
Who freaking knows…
The other complaint I have heard is that the Magic was unbelievable and unexplained!
I also didn’t like that the magic was never really explained. But I would argue that it is because we experienced the story thru the eyes of someone who refused to learn the rules about magic, and didn’t much care about how the magic worked. Sarkaan, continually tries to teach her the rules of magic and how it works, the science of it. The Dragon is all about following the rules and learning everything about magic, but Neishka doesn’t care, she is someone who feels deeply and is always moved to act on these feelings. Magic explanations and rules are meaningless to her. She feels the magic and therefore she uses it. She needs no explanation or understanding of it. This is why she never explains it to us, the reader. She is extremly intuitive and believes easily in the magic, without questioning it. (Even if the reader doesn’t.) Neishka feels the magic and uses it as an expression of her will and emotions, rather than the orderly (and more scientific way ) way that Sarkaan does. If Neishka was more like Sarkaan and learned more about how magic worked she would have explained it to the reader. But she instead she relied on intuition and feeling to guide her thru the use of magic.
Also I have heard is that she was the typical damsel in distress, always needing to be rescued!
To this I must disagree. The reason she always seems to be the damsel in distress needing rescue is because she ignores all the wizards warnings that she should only use so much magic at a time. Because Neishka feels so deeply, when the people she cares about need help, she gathers all the magic she has at her disposal, with little regard to how it will affect her! She draws out so much strength that it usually knocks her unconcious. Compare this to Sarkaan, who uses his strength, but regulates it so it will last him, so that he will not over exert herself. Sarkan tries to teach her how to do this, and even though she understands, when her loved ones are in trouble she uses every bit of strength she has! This totally exhausts and wipes her out. So that when she does become a damsel in distress, it is of her own intentional doing.
Some might say that the plot was confusing, or not fully explained: So it comes down to this, he tree people fed off the Spindle, it somehow gave them strength, but also rooted the inhabitants to the area. The tree people wanted to relearn to be human, so an alliance is formed between a tree woman and human king. The humans however betray the tree people by killing the king and many of the tree people and imprisoning the queen. She of course breaks out to find that the rest of her people turned back into trees. When she tries to turn, she realizes she can’t. She is alone, immortal, and fueled by rage. So she connects to her sisters heart-tree and controls the forrest. For years she takes out her anger on the nearby village, constantly plotting her revenge. She corrupts the man that Queen Hanna runs away with, and corrupts her too. She takes more people and binds them to the heart tree, and their terror corrupts the woods even further. She uses Kasia to lure Neishka into the woods, so she can absorb her power. When that doesn’t work, she uses Queen Hanna to further her agenda. She keeps the channel open to the Hanna, but doesn’t use her in any way, until she has passed all the trials and declared free of corruption. Then she resumes using Queen Hanna and has her manipulate the court so that they will all go to war and kill each other off. When Neishka goes into the Woods she discovers all this and helps the Wood Queen to return to her to being a tree so that she can forever be with her sister. I hope that helps you make sense of it all!
My only complaint would be that Kasia should have had more of a role! She experienced so much! and yet she rarely spoke! And didn’t seem to have much of a personality at all. However, if we again go back to the beginning of the book and see how she was raised, we see that her mother forced her to learn to hide her feelings (something Nieshka can never do). Kasia hides her true self and true feelings behind a mask. Her mother force her to become tough, hard and strong. Her mother taught her to smile and be strong even when she was dying inside. She taught her to hold her tongue and be respectful. Her mother taught her everything she thought she would need to be a brave and respectful servant to the dragon. But she of course never goes to the dragon, instead she goes thru a terribly traumatic experience and has to be brave and unflinching. She has learned to keep her feelings out of the way so she can continue on.
After she is free of the woods corruption, and then put on trial, I always expected her to react, to cry, scream, run away, have a mental break down or just say something!! But she wouldn’t, because she was raised to bare her pain and hide it well behind an impenetrable mask of strength.Perhaps somewhere deep down she may have wanted to react in some ways. But she was raised to bury it all down deep, so she could hold her head high and keep going. It would have been out of character for her to open up and share what she was truly feeling. (Which is why we only ever glimpse her true feelings during the summing, when truth cannot be hidden.)
That being said, I still want to know more about what was going on in her mind! What must it have been like to be so tormented and have to be so strong all the time? To always have to be the one for Nieshka to lean on and to not only bear your own pain, but the pain of others? What was she really feeling? I would love it if the author wrote something from her perspective!!