Sunday, April 20, 2014

Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan: Week 3

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 11.

1. The Aes Sedai with Elayne and Nynaeve are trying to convince the Seanchan sul'dam that they can channel themselves and then send them back to Seanchan. Do you think this tactic will work to help bring down the Seanchan empire?

This strikes me as a really stupid idea. Surely, the Seanchan will simply execute them to maintain the secret: the first ranking person to encounter them will see the danger they pose to the social order and take action accordingly. Also, they would need to proclaim themselves as channelers in a very public way, which seems like just about the last thing that they would want to do, as they will fear being collared.

Of course, I could be wrong and this revelation could inflict a serious blow to the authority of the Empress. Somehow, I find that unlikely because the Seanchan are not familiar with questioning authority.

2. It seems the Borderlanders are on the borders of Andor. We last saw the leaders making a pact in the Borderlands. What do you think they're up to and what does it have to do with Andor?

If I remember correctly, the pact had something to do with Rand. I would imagine that the Borderlanders think that he might be in Caemlyn, as it is one of the cities that he has captured. Failing that, they may assume that someone in Caemlyn will know where he is and be able to contact him.

However, I would imagine that the heavy snows are proving an issue with their journey, so they might be making camp to wait out the worst of the weather. I can see how Elayne might be able to use them in a similar way to King Roedran’s use of the Band: they pose a potential threat that could be used to unite the wavering Houses behind her claim to the throne.

3. Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne meet in the World of Dreams and there are several people spying on them. Who do you think the multiple eavesdroppers are and what are their plans. Did they hear anything that might be damning to our girls?

The man must be Slayer, who is the only man apart from Perrin who we have seen using Tel’aran’rhiod, although I have no idea why he would be eavesdropping on these three in particular. As for his resemblance to Rand, I seem to recall that his uncle went off into the Blight and then his mother went in search of him (or vice versa), so it could actually be his uncle. This seems very unlikely, but this is a story of amazing coincidences and Rand’s family has certainly been knee-deep in the build up to the Last Battle.

We know that one of the others was Asne, one of the Black Ajah working for Moghedien. I cannot say that I was overly happy to hear that they were in Caemlyn, but it makes sense that the Spider would want them close to Nynaeve. Also, Elayne could stabilize Andor, which would work against Moridin’s plans for chaos. I have no idea who the third person was, assuming that Asne is correct: if we are lucky it would only be one of the Wise Ones, but it could easily be a Forsaken or another Black Sister.

I am not too sure what the eavesdroppers heard, and if it was important or damning. I guess time will tell.

4. Newly captained Mellor is Daved Hanlon! Ahhh! What does this mean? What are he and "Lady" Shiane up to?

This was so obvious that I wanted to slap Elayne, Birgitte and Lan for not being the least bit suspicious that he was there so conveniently. They analyzed the supposed plan and found it very strange and then immediately dismissed their unease and promoted the person who most obviously benefitted from the whole thing. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

I assume that they plan to get as much information from Elayne as they can and then he gets to fulfill his ambition of raping and killing a queen. :(

5. At the end of chapter 11, Nynaeve has a "plan" that neither Rand or Lan are too fond of. What do you think it is? Predictions?

I guess that she is more than happy to go along with Rand’s plan to cleanse Saidin, but has added some terms to her agreement to help. However, I have no idea why the men would not like them: perhaps they will bring her into more danger than they would like.

6. We might finally get Rand, Elayne, Aviendha, and Elayne in the same room together. Predictions?

I am pretty certain that this must be in the first chapter we read for next week, so I will leave my comments until then. :D

Friday, April 18, 2014

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson Read Along: Week 3

You can head over to Dab of Darkness to see what everyone else thinks.

This week we read up to the end of Chapter 28.

1) We have a new character on the scene: Zahel, a swordmaster. What do you think of his interest in Kaladin?

I was most struck by the fact that he is a swordmaster and yet he is darkeyed. It is good to see that Kal is not the only one who can break through the rigid social structure.

I am quite sure that he is very intrigued by Kal and his rise to fame. He obviously sees great potential in him, but the move from spear to sword will require Kal to retrain his brain and inbuilt reflexes. I hope that this is an indication that we will see Kal with a Shardblade in the near future . . . It is also good to see Kal have to work at something and not be prefect all the time. Perhaps I am just mean, but a hero that can do everything perfectly without effort is a little too boring for me.

2) We learned a bit more about Shallan's past. What do you think her brother Heralan was doing all those years ago, coming and going as he did, and where did his Shardblade come from?

Oh, I do love it when I am right about something! :D

I said last week that I could not imagine that it was Shallan that had killed her mother, but that it was much more likely that she witnessed her father doing the deed. He gets increasingly creepy as we learn more of her story, to the point that I keep expecting incest to rear its ugly head. At this point, I cannot imagine anything that will make me condemn Shallan from putting that Shardblade straight through his heart.

Heralan seems to be the only other sibling with a relatively ‘normal’ personality, so I hope that he is doing something relatively good and honest. I guess that the easiest way for him to acquire a Shardblade would be for him to earn it in battle, which might also explain why he is away so much. It seems ironic that he does not use it on their father, but that Shallan is the one to finally end his violent behavior. I wonder now if she uses his Shardblade, or that the family somehow acquires a second one.

3) What do you think of Shallan's recent actions with the caravans? How about her growing friendship with Tyn? And her first interaction with Kaladin?

Jasnah would be so proud of how Shallan has reinvented herself. I have to admit that I was not a great fan of hers in the beginning, what with her plan to steal the fabrial and all that, but she has grown on me quite dramatically. She is showing great presence of mind and leadership skills, which makes me convinced that she is a true heroine.

However, I would prefer her to be much more careful around Tyn. This woman is a self-confessed con artist, which does not seem the best foundation for a trusting relationship. I am fairly certain that she is not being honest with Shallan, but is cultivating her for her own benefit. I hope that this does not prove too costly for Shallan, but she has already caused herself a huge problem by lying about her identity to Kal. She does not know that he is the head of the Kholin family bodyguards, but it is hardly going to be easy to explain her ruse to him when she finally gets to the Shattered Plains and reveals herself to her prospective in-laws.

Having said that, her meeting with Kal was hilarious and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

4) Kaladin took Syl's advice and confided in Dalinar concerning Amaram. What do you think Dalinar will do with this information?

I think that Syl was quite right to get Kal to speak to Dalinar about this issue. I know that he expected his boss to run off and confront Amaram, but that was a rather foolish hope to my mind. This was one of those times when Kal’s youth clouded his good sense and his emotions overwhelmed his ability to think strategically. He has obviously not heard the phrase “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

I am not quite sure what exactly Dalinar will do with the information, but I am quite certain that he has taken it to heart and will keep it in mind whenever he interacts with Amaram from now on. Unlike Kal and Adolin, he is old enough to have learnt how to play the long game and wait to see what happens. I am quite sure that his trust in Amaram has been severely dented by this revelation, but he is hardly likely to rush up to the man and throw around accusations that he cannot substantiate. However, I expect him to be more wary about placing Amaram in positions of trust where he can act alone and unobserved.

5) There has been yet another attempt on the King's life. Do you think this is another faked attempt (as Ehlokar did with the saddle girth in Book 1)? If not, who do you think is the most likely culprit?

I am afraid that I think that this was another fake attempt by Ehlokar. Kal has pretty much worked out how it was done and when, which provides him with a list of zero suspects. However, we know that the King is whiny, immature and not all that bright, so it makes sense that he would use his own Shardblade to cut the railing without considering the storm and how the evidence would look. He is such an idiot! :D

6) Gaz has returned to the story, after having mysteriously dropped out in Book 1. What do you think he isn't telling Shallan? How do you think the men of Bridge 4 will react upon seeing him again?

Sneaky, Mr Sanderson, very sneaky! I loved the way that Gaz has crept back into the story in a very understated way. We now know that he had massive gambling debts, which is probably what led to the blackmail earlier, but I suspect that he ran away after the Sadeas betrayal and Bridge Four’s defection. It would make perfect sense that he would expect to be punished for their behavior and use the confusion to beat a hasty retreat.

I have suspected for quite some time that Gaz is actually a reasonably decent bloke who was given a really nasty job to do. He always seemed to be hesitant about being a total bastard to the bridgecrews, but he knew that he would be replaced if he refused to follow orders. The way that he has flourished under Shallan’s care tends to confirm this for me, and I suspect that he will apologize to the bridgecrews when he meets up with them. I would hope that they can behave with some decorum when they see him.

7) Eshonai and Adolin had a brief chat on the Shattered Plains. What will come of it? How will the Parshendi ever get a messenger to Dalinar?

I hope that they can meet, because it would answer so many questions that we have about the Parshendi, the Voidbringers, the history of this world and the way in which Odium will attack. Looking at that list, I can only assume that the meeting will never happen, because it would resolve far too many issues in only book two of a decalogy. Perhaps I am being pessimistic, but I expect this mess and all the confusion to carry on for quite a lot longer before we get any kind of resolution.

I predict that something will happen to prevent Eshonai from sending the messenger. Perhaps her transformation into stormform will change her mind or make it impossible somehow.

Other Notes

I LOVED the way Zahel had Renarin jumping off the roof to get used to trusting his armor. It had me chortling along as every so often we would get the crunch as the poor lad landed on his face in the dirt! I suspect that I will come to love Zahel for his humor and gruff ways . . . assuming that he survives past the next few chapters. Also, kudos to Renarin for actually doing what he was told: I am not sure that I could go face first off a building! :D

We already saw Nan Balat torturing small animals, and now we know that he killed a young axehound. Is it too much to ask that he also finds his way onto the end of a Shardblade?

Ehlokar mentions seeing figures with strange faces in mirrors: I wonder if he is seeing Cryptics? 

I actually quite like Gaz, although I always picture him as a goblin in my mind’s eye. I have no idea where that came from, but it is stuck now so I have to live with it! :D


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan: Week 2

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 7.

1) What did everyone make of the Shaido's treatment of Faile, Maighdin, Alliandre, Bain, Chiad, Lacile, and Arrela during the march through the snow? Harsh? As expected?

It was pretty much what I expected, considering what we saw of Egwene’s training and the way they treat the ‘loyal’ Aes Sedai. Of course, the added aspect of Sevanna’s craziness could have made a huge difference, but even she cannot help acting like an Aiel for most of the time. However, it makes me wonder how many prisoners die before they can even make it into their white robes.

I was very disappointed with Alliandre, but more so with Morghase: they showed a remarkable amount of stupidity in their display of queenly arrogance and richly deserved the beatings that they received. Considering that Morghase is trying to hide her identity, she is doing a very bad job of it without Lini to keep an eye on her. I am a little concerned about how the group has been split up, with Faile, Alliandre and Morghase becoming Sevanna’s personal slaves. I know that Bain and Chiad will not make any effort to escape, but I would still feel happier knowing that they were close at hand.

2) Faile and crew meet the Shaido Wise Ones (Therava & Someryn) and also the Aes Sedai Galina. What do you think of the Wise Ones speaking so openly of Sevanna's orders? Will Galina be of any help to Faile?

Oh no, there is unhappiness with Sevanna’s leadership! Hang on a minute while I take out the world’s smallest violin to play a sad song for her! :D

I guess my only confusion is over the fact that Sevanna is still alive and not buried in a snowdrift after conveniently ‘falling off her horse’. I am not sure why Therava is waiting, but I suppose it has something to do with the way Aiel society works and the fact that Wise Ones are not really supposed to assassinate their Clan Leaders. As for Galina, I think I can safely say that she has only one person that she is trying to help: herself. She is desperately trying to find a way of breaking the oath that she was forced to swear and then take her revenge on Sevanna and the others. She may help Faile inadvertently, but not intentionally.

3) It seems that Berelain is taking advantage of Faile's absence and Perrin's fatigue. Where do you think her flirtations will take her? Given the chance, what would you do with her at this point?

I would very much like her flirtations to bring her into a rapid meeting with my open palm, because she really needs a good slap across the face. Perrin’s wife has been kidnapped and she is still talking as if they will have some sort of liaison: what a total slut!

I have no idea what Perrin can do to stop her behavior, but I am disgusted by her attempts to make everyone in the camp think that they are sleeping together. When Faile was present it was possible to argue that Berelain was simply enjoying how much she could irritate Faile, but that is no longer the case and her behavior is just sad and despicable.

4) They are on the hunt! Talanvor left on his own to pursue the Shaido hours ahead of Perrin and crew. Perrin had to chastise the Cha Faile for their spying activities. The Asha'men want to lead the charge. Add to that, Masema offering to assist. Will Perrin's anger explode? How can this hunt possibly be derailed?

I think that Perrin is doing rather well, given the situation and all the bad behavior that he has to deal with. I think that he worked out a lot of his despair in Tel’aran’rhiod, so he should be a little more sensible after his encounter with Hopper.

Including Masema in the hunt is a terrible idea, but perhaps better than letting him travel on his own. I am quite sure that we will see treachery from him and his men at some point, but at least they are badly equipped and untrained. In many ways I am more concerned about the Seanchan and the possibility that there is yet another army in the area. All those angry people in a small space can only lead to trouble.

5) The men escorting Naean and Elenia were ambushed and killed outside Caemlyn. What do you think this portends? Will Elayne be able to unite the houses behind her or is this move the first of several by houses against her? Should the ladies be more concerned about defenses instead of clothing?

The political situation here makes my head hurt: I would definitely be no good at Daes Dae’mar. Fortunately, Elayne has a fair idea of what this means so I do not need to worry about her being caught off guard. I assume it means that she has lost some potential support, but they were hardly people she could rely on even if they did swear allegiance to her, so it might be no great loss.

Whilst I doubt that Elayne will suddenly be able to persuade all the Houses to support her claim, I am equally sure that she can mobilize a good enough defense to neutralize their opposition. She seems to have a good grasp on what is needed to protect the city and Birgitte will certainly do what is needed to recruit the necessary forces. We know that there are Darkfriends working against her in the city, and who knows what all those Aes Sedai are up to, but I have faith in Elayne and Birgitte.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson Read Along: Week 2

You can head over to Over The Effing Rainbow to see what everyone else thinks.

This week we read up to the end of Chapter 15.

1. We learn a bit more about Syl and her connection to Kaladin, and that there are more spren out there, " reclaim what was lost". Yet Syl was forbidden to come, and chose to do it anyway. What do you make of this new information?

The whole concept of the spren and how they change a person into a Radiant is truly fascinating and I want to know much more about how the process works. I am eager to learn why the spren had made the decision to remain withdrawn from potential Radiants, but this detail may explain the conflict between the Cryptics and the Honorspren. It seems that Pattern was sent to Shallan by the Cryptics, whilst Syl went against the wishes of the other Honorspren to seek out Kal. This difference in attitude must be based upon some very interesting history and I look forward to discovering why the Honorspren have essentially given up on mankind.

As we have seen from Jasnah and the cobbler in one of the Interludes, there are other spren trying to connect with other Radiants. This suggests that the Cryptics might be in a majority, but we obviously do not know how many other spren groups are refusing to return. The idea of their society being divided along philosophical lines is pure genius.

2. Chapter 10 is brief, but creepy! It looks like Shallan was responsible for her mother's death, among others, when she was young. What are your thoughts on this scene?

That would certainly provide the basis for the huge lies that Pattern refers to: she has had to lie to herself about her own nature in order to survive. However, I was not at all sure that she had killed her mother, but perhaps she saw it happen and hid herself somehow, possibly using her Illusion skill. I think that it is much more likely that she witnessed her father killing them: Shallan as murderer in this scenario seems too obvious to me, and Mr Sanderson usually does not chose an obvious route.

3. Highlord Amaram is back, and still has Kaladin's Shardblade. He also seems to be close friends with Dalinar. Do you think Kaladin will tell Dalinar what really happened between him and Amaram? If so, what do you think might happen?

Whilst I hope that Amaram comes a to rather unpleasant end because of his treatment of Kaladin, I am not sure that we will see this happen. Something like that seems overly straightforward, and, therefore, not likely to appeal to Mr Sanderson’s devious and twisted imagination. There is also far more drama to be extracted from forcing Kal to work with this man and deal with the inner conflict caused by his dilemma of whether or not to tell Dalinar. Strangely, I am pretty sure that Kal will try not to expose Amaram’s lie, but I am equally sure that Dalinar would believe him if the truth were forced out.

If Amaram’s deception is revealed, then the consequences will depend very largely upon who learns about it. If it becomes common knowledge then there will be all sorts of political ramifications possible between the lighteyes and darkeyes. However, if only Dalinar knows, it could be simply a matter of him no longer trusting a man that has been revealed as a liar and a murderer. I suspect that Amaram may try to remove Kal once he discovers that he is in the camp, but that will not prove to be an easy task.

4. We get an Interlude, and more, with one of the Parshendi - the Shardbearer who fought Dalinar, a woman named Eshonai. We finally get a real look at the Parshendi and learn a bit about what they're doing on the Shattered Plains. What are your thoughts on this?

Just when we thought that the Parshendi could not possibly get more interesting, we find out all about their different rhythms of singing to convey emotion and their different physical forms. We knew that music was important to them, but this has taken the concept to a whole new level of sophistication and societal importance. There ability to change forms by using spren sounds amazing, although it does make me wonder what happens to the spren in the process. I love the way that it is a subtly different version of the spren bonding that we see in the Radiants.

I was most interested to read about their break from the gods. It seems that Jasnah may have been right in concluding that the Parshendi were the Voidbringers, although it seems as if they were unwilling warriors fighting because of their gods. This certainly suggests that they worship Odium in one of his forms, but I love the way that we now have an ‘enemy’ that is essentially good and fighting for a reason other than simple malice. I was a little confused by their logic about why they had to kill Gavilar, but I had already concluded that they did not really want the war and that it served another purpose entirely.

We also learnt that the Parshmen are their ‘Dull’ form, which seems to be incomplete in some way. However, there are definitely spies amongst the other nations, who I can only assume look very similar to the dullform . . . which makes me wonder if we might have an answer to Shen’s identity.

5. We also learn that Eshonai wants to speak with Dalinar and sue for peace. Do you think that's likely to happen?

Whilst I think that Dalinar would be open to a discussion with her, I seriously doubt that a peace could be negotiated. Unfortunately, I think the Parshendi were very naive when they began this war, because there is little hope of a peaceful resolution. Also, it seems as if the Parshendi numbers are shrinking rapidly, so this might be the end for them in any case.

6. Adolin's first duel doesn't exactly go as anyone expected... What did you make of how it was won? Do you think it will force people to take Adolin, and by extension Dalinar, more seriously?

I thought that it embodied all the Alethi principles of ‘might is right’. He beat his opponent in the most brutally efficient way possible, with no regard for dignity or fairness. This seems eminently Alethi to me.

I think it will be a huge eye-opener for many. They have come to rely upon Dalinar’s sense of honor and fair play to protect them from his superior military mind and abilities. Adolin has shown that he has a free hand to be as brutal as needed and that he holds the other shardbearers in complete comtempt. If that does not make them stop and think, then they are truly stupid.

Other Notes

I was so excited when it became clear that Shallan had been saved by the giant sea creature. I think I mentioned that possibility in my comments somewhere last week, although I was being facetious at the time. It was a cool moment, and made me want to know even more about this amazing world.

I was absurdly happy that Jasnah’s notes had survived the shipwreck, although I shared Shallan’s grief about the loss of all her sketches and notes.

There are bands of humans seeking out possible Radiants and killing them. This seems like a Very Bad Thing to me, especially when they are kindly old cobblers who give street children free shoes! :(

Living islands!!!! Mr Sanderson, yet again you had me giggling in delight at your wonderful imagination.

Rysn is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. I loved her inner monologue on the island when she was struggling with the concept of the female ‘king’! :D

The Parshendi Interludes gave us a little more information about spren. It seems that some of them may be derived from Odium and are, therefore, evil. Spren can also be imprisoned in gems, which seems cruel, but we do not know if it is a temporary process or not.

Lopen stuck to a wall: priceless! :D

Adolin is actually intrigued by Shallan and is keen to meet her. This might prove very interesting!

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