Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson Read Along: Week 9

You can head over to Musings on Fantasia to see what everyone else thinks.

This week we read up to the end of Chapter 65.

1. Andolin has a change of heart, not only about his father, but about how he views the war. How do you think this will affect the story going forward?

I feel as though Adolin has shown quite a lot of maturity in his thinking. Rather than simply throwing his rattle out of the pram and behaving like a spoilt child, he has spent considerable time examining the situation and has come to some the conclusion that his father is probably right. I had thought that his Calling as a Duelist could have been due to a shallow understanding of warfare, but I see that is not true. Obviously he is being influenced by his father, but Renarin seems like a level-headed chap and even Adolin’s friends are not as fixated on excitement as I might have feared.

I am glad that House Kholin will present a united front to the other Highprinces and that we will not be subjected to the depressing father-son conflict that seemed to be brewing. Somehow I think that Dalinar will have enough trouble with the other Houses.

2. Elhokar reveals that he sees figures with symbol heads, which sound suspiciously like the ones Shallan keeps drawing. What do you make of this?

That was my first thought: these figures sound an awful lot like the ones that Shallan has been drawing. It is interesting to note that he only sees them in reflections, and not directly. For some reason these figures are not normally seen, so what makes these two people special? Of course, seeing figures that are invisible to everyone else would make anyone paranoid, so I wonder if these are responsible for all the people that he thinks are trying to assassinate him.

I actually find it heartening that Elhokar might have some interesting talent that we had not previously suspected. So far he has been fairly ineffectual and weak, but the rest of his family is rather extraordinary, and we know that Jasnah can Soulcast without a fabrial . . .

3. What do you make of Dalivar's most recent vision? Was the king he talked to really Nohadon, author of The Way of Kings? If so, what do you think the timeline is? What happened before and after what Dalinar saw? Were the strange, rock-like corpses really Voidbringers?

Each of these visions is so tantalizing and yet so frustrating! It would seem that the name Desolation is very fitting for an event that can kill almost all of the people as we see here. I sincerely hope that this is the very end of the Desolation, as I cannot begin to imagine how the people will continue to fight in their weakened state. However, I am intrigued by Nohadon’s comments about mankind being weakened by each Desolation rather than strengthened and his frustration about the infighting that preoccupies his men. This seems like a very good reason to write the Way of Kings once he has them time, and also mirrors Dalinar’s frustration in the present. It makes me even more curious to learn why the Radiants stopped fighting.

It would seem that this vision came before the last one, when Dalinar saw the Knights Radiant laying down their shards. However, that is about as close to a guess as I can come. As for the corpses being Voidbringers: it is entirely possible, as they certainly seem unlike anything else we have heard described so far.

4. Dalivar and Navani finally share a passionate kiss, and then start conducting a covert romance. What are your impressions of the relationship? Has your opinion of Navani changed at all?

I find the Romance element here more distracting than anything else, but it does seem to be progressing in a sensible fashion, so I can forgive Mr Sanderson for including it! :D

One thing that I do like about their relationship is all the back-story. There is no doubt in my mind that these two would have married if Dalinar had not stepped back to allow Gavilar to claim Navani. This has led Dalinar to cut her out of his heart in order to live with that choice and still continue to interact with her. For Navani, I can see how she might have been very disappointed that Dalinar did not choose to fight for her: as she says, he appeared somewhat fickle to her. The weight of their previous lives is very obvious in everything that has happened between them so far and yet they seem destined to be together. Can they just get married so that we can ignore all this Romance twaddle from now on?

I think that I have come to understand Navani a lot more as we have learnt more of her past with Dalinar. There has to be some awkwardness in trying to resume a relationship that has been so strained for so many years. I think that her initial approaches were somewhat misguided, driven by her own feelings of loneliness and the hope that he would simply revert to his boyhood character if she showed some interest. She quickly learnt that he could not do that, but modified her behavior to win his approval, which shows not only that she has very deep feelings for him, but also that she is a thoughtful and emotionally controlled character.

5. Kaladin's decoy plan works almost miraculously well. How do you see this affecting the story going forward, and in what way? Address the issue both for Kaladin and his men, and for the war at large.

We have seen Kal and Bridge Four surviving more runs than anyone would think possible, especially now that they all have the armor. However, this was counteracted pretty quickly by them being placed on permanent run duty, so I am not sure that they will stick around for long. Whilst it seems like a very good way to protect the bridgemen, it drastically affects the Parshendi battle strategy. If this proves to be beneficial to the overall battle plan then I cannot see any good reason to stop using the armor. However, anything that sensible seems beyond the Alethi Highprinces . . .

6. So Moash wants to kill someone out of vengeance. Any guesses who or why?

I do not think that he has mentioned anyone specifically. I would imagine that it could be the person responsible for selling him into slavery, but I could be mistaken. Whoever it is must be outside the Warcamps, because it is only now that he has some chance of leaving that he has decided to exact his revenge.

7. Why do you think Sadeas abandoned Dalivar as he did? Was this done intentionally? Was it planned in advance? What are your thoughts?

I knew that Sadeas was Evil! :(

This was most certainly planned, because Sadeas really pushed Dalinar to leave all his own bridges in camp and take all his force with him. This allows Sadeas to destroy the entire force in one easy move by leaving them to the Parshendi and withdrawing his bridges. By taking all his forces, Dalinar has left himself with no forces to mount a rescue mission.

Although it seems that all is lost, I believe that we have now reached the critical moment that we have all been waiting for: Kal is going to save Dalinar by taking his bridge back to the Tower plateau. No doubt Sadeas will be a touch upset about this, but we will finally see the two Heroes joining forces.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Sadeas! :P

Other Notes

In Dalinar’s vision it is clear that men can read and write! Shock, horror! I still want to know where this silly idea came from, but at least we know that it is fairly recent.

Poor Shen: how is he going to cope with everyone wearing bits of dead Parshendi?

Just when you think you have something worked out, Mr Sanderson smacks you in the face: what is Dalinar is correct that the Parshendi are part of the people that he is supposed to unite?


Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan: Week 1

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 4

1) The major players of the Borderlands all have a pow-wow at the start of the prologue. Other than the obvious, stated goal of finding Rand, what do you think they're up to?

If they were simply going to swear fealty, then I do not understand all this need for secrecy and a blood pact. It seems that it could be something that gets them all killed, so I have to worry about what they will do once they find Rand. Perhaps they need him to undergo some sort of rite of passage before they will acknowledge him as the Dragon Reborn and follow him.

On a side note: it is interesting to note that Tenobia seems as crazy as her cousin Faile! I do like the way that the different societies create people with wildly differing mindsets. This does not mean that I can understand all of their attitudes, but I can certainly appreciate the world building.

2) What do you make of Verin's covert work? What is her endgame?

Again, I am really unclear about what she is doing. We see her applying the Compulsion to the Sisters captured at Dumai’s Wells. This suggests that she is trying to make them more open to accepting Rand as the Dragon Reborn and also to letting him remain free to wield his influence on the world. I can understand why she feels the need to do this: we can safely assume that Elaida chose Sisters who were most adamant that he needed to be taken and held prisoner to be used as the Tower saw fit in the Last Battle. We have already seen that he is needed to unite the nations, and I doubt that he could do that stuck in Tar Valon in a prison cell.

However, I feel as if there is something not quite right about what Verin is doing. We know that Sisters are not supposed to harm one another, and Verin’s own thoughts about how Compulsion is beaten out of Novices in the White Tower show that it is not an acceptable thing to do to another Aes Sedai. This makes me wonder if it actually goes against the Three Oaths in some way, or is just against the Tower’s rules. So far, Verin has shown that she can lie, which makes me very suspicious that she is Black Ajah, and yet she always seems to be working in Rand’s best interest, which seems completely at odds with that deduction. 

3) We get yet another jaunt in Moridin's twisted head. What do you make of him at this point? Does he have things as well in hand as he seems to believe?

He seems to be a few sandwiches short of a picnic, although that does not really make him stand out amongst the Forsaken. We know that he has been raised above the others by being given access to the True Power, but I am not sure that he is any more likely to succeed. To be quite honest, the Dark One seems to be truly awful at selecting his lieutenants: they are all massively overconfident and narcissistic. I always find it funny that they look down on each other and are critical of others’ faults . . . which are the very ones that they share. This makes them seem very human and not at all invincible, but makes me wonder about how the Dark One expects to win! :D

4) Aviendha picked a weave apart. Do you think we'll see this in the story again? In what capacity? Do you think Moridin will find them before they use the Bowl? How about the gholam?

I always enjoy reading Aviendha’s point of view, because she is so alien in the way she thinks.

If the other Aes Sedai have anything to say about it, I assume that Aviendha will be discouraged from doing this too often: I thought that Merilille was going to have kittens when she saw what our favorite grumpy Aiel was doing. However, as Aviendha says, this is the only way to stop other channelers following them by reading the fading weaves, so I can see how it might be something they need to do again. The close proximity of the invading Seanchan army might provide a very good reason to want to escape through a Gateway that nobody can follow.

As I said above, Moridin shares the overconfidence that seems to characterize the Forsaken, although he is seeing evidence of the resourcefulness of the modern channelers and the development of skills and Talents that were unknown in the Golden Age. Surely, he must see that he needs to respect these people, rather than just despising them as inferior? Unlike the gholam, he has no way of directly finding the women, so I suspect that they will use the bowl before he can interfere. As for the gholam: I sincerely hope that he does not follow the women because they have no way to protect themselves from him.

5) Elayne discovers many objects of the One Power from the stash brought out of the Rahad. Any guesses as to what might be their intended uses?

We know that the shape of the object usually bears little relationship to its function, so it is very difficult to make any guesses. We know what the angreals can be used for, but with the ter’angreals it could be anything. The jewelry set could produce a field around the wearer that projects a false image, or a shield of protection . . . but equally it could be used to make potatoes cook perfectly.

One thing that did worry me was that some of the objects could have been aligned to men and Elayne might not have been able to detect them and was discarding them in a pile of rubbish in the middle of nowhere.

6) We finally learn the details of Nynaeve and Elayne's bargain with the Seafolk--Aes Sedai required to teach Windfinders and even live among them for a period of time, among other things. Will this bargain work out? Will our girls be in big trouble for making it? Do you see all these different groups and cultures of women ever being able to get along?

For goodness sake! The way they were moaning about this deal, I had expected that they would each be required to hand over their first born child or something massively important. So, the Aes Sedai have to send ten Sisters to teach the Windfinders: shock, horror! If the Bowl does what we expect, this seems like a pretty fair bargain to me. Plus, it is likely that the Windfinders will do plenty of teaching in return, so it is a win-win situation.

I really think that it is about time that the Aes Sedai pulled their heads out of the sand and realized that they need any and all allies to have any hope of surviving the Last Battle. The Aiel Wise Ones, the Kin and the Windfinders all have skills that the Aes Sedai do not: some exchange of information would seem to be a very good idea. However, they are so stuck in the past and prejudiced against any women who have not attained the ring, that I can foresee a huge amount of friction as this deal moves forward.

7) Sounds like they're about to use the Bowl of Winds. Predictions as to what will happen when they do?

I sincerely hope that they manage to break the eternal summer, because I am getting rather tired of hearing all about everyone sweating all the time! :D

On a slightly more serious note: we are constantly told about the devastation that this heat has caused and I do worry that the environment is close to reaching the point of no return. We have seen a lot of dead and dying plants, and that could only continue for so long before starvation would effectively remove all opposition to the Dark One. Of course, then he would be King of an empty world, but I doubt that he would be too worried about that.

The breaking of the unnatural weather will surely make many more people accept the truth of Rand’s identity, because nobody can possibly believe that the present situation is natural. It will also undermine Elaida in a huge way (oh dear, what a shame!) because the White Tower will be clearly shown to have had nothing to do with it. I predict much ranting from the Amyrlin! :D

Sue's Saturday Suggestions #87

Interesting Books

Arcanum by Simon Morden, review at Bookworm Blues

Rome was the center of the most powerful empire the world had ever seen, but that didn't stop it falling to Alaric the Goth, his horde of barbarian tribesmen and their wild spell-casting shamans. Having split the walls with their sorcery and slaughtered the inhabitants with their axes, the victors carved up the empire into a series of bickering states which were never more than an insult away from war.

A thousand years later, and Europe has become an almost civilized place. The rulers of the old Roman palatinates confine their warfare to the short summer months, trade flourishes along the rivers and roads, and farming has become less back-breaking, all due to the magic, bestowed by gods, that infuses daily life.Even the barbarians' gods have been tamed: where once human sacrifices poured their blood onto the ground, there are parties and picnics, drinking and singing, fit for decent people and their children.But it looks like the gods are going to have the last laugh before they slip quietly into ill-remembered obscurity...

Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen, review at Fangs For The Fantasy

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

I have listed these titles in earlier SSS posts: check out my SSS Books Page for links to more reviews:

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, reviews at Graeme’s SFF & the Little Red Reviewer

Cress by Marissa Meyer, review at Vampire Book Club

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, review at A Dribble of Ink

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, review at Bookworm Blues

Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas, review at Rabid Reads


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson Read Along: Week 8

You can head over to Caffeinated Life to see what everyone else thinks.

Remember to enter the Massive Giveaway, which still has plenty of time to run.

This week we read up to the end of Chapter 57.

1. What do you think of Dalinar's latest vision concerning the Radiants? Can you make sense of them? Do you think Jasnah will prove or disprove Dalinar's visions? And what did you think of Dalinar and Navani's almost moment? ;)

I really want to know why the Radiants laid down their shards and walked away from the conflict. Was this due to the nine Heralds breaking the Oathpact or something else? Also, I want to know where they went and if their powers faded afterwards, like the glow fading from their shards. Plus, what happened to all those shards: Dalinar realizes that the ones he sees are far more than all the ones known in modern Rosahr. As always, this was an awesome scene, but it left me with many more questions than it answered.

I am certain that Jasnah will prove that the visions are real. They seem far too detailed and pointed to be delusions or random hallucinations. They are obviously trying to communicate important pieces of history to Dalinar for some reason that is not entirely clear at the moment. However, it seems that a Desolation is coming, perhaps the True Desolation that the Radiant in the vision mentioned.

To be quite honest, I could do without the hints at romance that we are seeing between these two. Dalinar has more than enough to deal with and does not need the added complication of all this emotional turmoil as well. I hope that Navani realizes this pretty soon and stops trying to push his buttons.

2. Dalinar proposes a military alliance with Sadeas. Given what we've read of their relationship and of Sadeas' character, did Dalinar make the right move? How long do you think this alliance will last? Has Dalinar finally gotten Sadeas on his side by using Sadeas' interests (gemhearts, the Shardblade, etc.) as incentive or does Dalinar have something else up his sleeve?

I still find it very difficult to trust Sadeas, so I have to believe that Dalinar’s need to trust him has a reason that we cannot see yet. Perhaps it will lead to some important event that is necessary for Dalinar to convince the Highprinces to fight together. However, it makes me uneasy, and Sadeas’ apparent good will over the saddle strap just makes me more suspicious. I am pretty sure that Sadeas will betray Dalinar without a second thought and I was rather hoping that he had been finished off by the Parshendi.

3. This is the first time we've read in detail what it's like to be a Shardbearer fighting with Shardblades in battle through Dalinar. What did you think of it?

As I said last week, it reminded me a great deal of Sauron smashing the ranks of elves and humans and sending them flying with his mace. It also reminded me a little of reading Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, which includes characters fighting in powered suits.

The power that Dalinar displays makes me wonder what the hundreds of Knights Radiant were up against. If they were needed in such numbers, the voidbringers must be truly terrible.

4. We get a big reveal about what's happening with Kaladin this week regarding the Stormlight as well as a revelation regarding Syl's nature. What did you think of it? Given what we know now, what else do you think he is capable of?

This really just confirmed what we have all been piecing together over the last few weeks. It particularly confirmed our suggestions that he had similar abilities to those that we see Szeth use. We definitely saw him ‘lashing’ objects, such as the medical pack and the stone, although he does it in an unconscious way.

Again, I think we had all pretty much decided that Syl was not a normal windspren, if she was one. It now seems that her role in life is to bind to a warrior, attracted by and enhancing his ability to manipulate Stormlight. I suspect that this binding is a fundamental step in the process of becoming a Knight Radiant. Of course, this makes me wonder why Szeth does not have his own spren. We know that Syl is unhappy about the need to kill, so perhaps Szeth’s work as an assassin has made him repellent to her type of spren.

I see no reason why Kal cannot become as skilled as Szeth, perhaps even more so because he has his bond with Syl.

5. Kaladin initially blames his curse as the reason why people around him keep dying. Is there some truth to his claims, that this binding ability has some correlation with the casualty count around him, or is Kaladin simply grieving over recent losses? If the former, do you think this might have any connection to what the Radiants are and whatever happened to them?

No, Kal’s ability has not caused the men around him to die at a higher rate. In fact, they seem to survive much longer because of his skill and ability. However, he has a very skewed view of what has happened because he has survived far more fighting than he should have. A normal soldier would have seen much less death because he would not have Kal’s ability to survive for so long in such dangerous situations.

I think the real problem is that Kal holds himself responsible for everybody else. He has a rather adolescent and arrogant worldview that gives him the duty of caring for everyone. Obviously, this is an impossible task and so he constantly fails to keep them all alive and then he sulks and moans about the unfairness of the world. I know that this sounds rather harsh, but he has not yet learnt the wisdom to allow others to take responsibility for themselves. I think he is almost about to make that break through, and it will give him a great deal of peace to know that he can only do so much.

6. Wit/Hoid is turning out to be more than just the life of the party and a thorn on the sides of the other highprinces. As we've seen, he's not very playful with Dalinar and is quite sober, even ominous, with Kaladin. What did you think of his conversations with Dalinar and with Kaladin? What do you think he's up to? How does he factor in with everything else that's going on at the moment (or what's to come)?

Hoid is a character who can hop between the worlds in the Cosmere, although we do not know how if does this. From some of the things he said to Kal, I got the impression that he had travelled to Roshar in pursuit of Odium, which suggests that he is either another of the Sixteen Shards or a similarly powerful being. He is most certainly not just a wandering bard.

I am fairly sure that he is linked to the visions that both men are receiving. Although I am not sure how he could be involved, it is certainly far too much of a coincidence that he speaks to these two so differently from everyone else. It seemed as if he was waiting to speak to Kal before leaving, which also adds to the impression that he knows something of their fates / destinies.

Other Notes

I was sadly disappointed to find out that my guess was correct: Amaram was a total dirtbag and stole the shards that Kal had won. In some way, I wish he had simply been honest about it rather than making up a pathetic excuse about it being for the good of the army. What a sad specimen of a man! Leaving Kal alive was such a generous action . . . grumble, grumble, grumble . . . grrrr! :(

I loved the interlude with Baxil, but it opened up so many more questions! Why was their mistress so determined to break into houses and smash up works of art? We also got a little more of an idea about the Old Magic and how it works. I was a little surprised to read that the Nightwatcher could be a spren. This suggests that some spren have quite a significant magical ability all of their own. It also seems to answer the questions about what happened to Dalinar’s memories of his wife: although we do not know if that was the curse or the boon.

So, flamespren become fixed once you measure them? Just when I thought that this world could not get any more cool! The fact that they would only do it if you wrote the number down was even more astounding. This suggests that words, or writing, have power in this world so perhaps the burning of prayer glyphs is not so pointless after all.

Poor Szeth! His mind is being totally warped by all this killing, especially when he has to take so many innocent lives. I am beginning to wonder why he does not allow himself to be killed by one of his intended victims so that he can end his suffering.

What is wrong with Renarin: what are his fits of weakness?

I loved the idea of the watch kept over the latrines to make sure that the bridgecrews were not swallowing shards during chasm duty. It also made me feel very sorry for the poor Parshmen who had to check afterwards . . . :(

I am intrigued to learn what Kal has in mind for Shen. It was certainly a shock to see the little Parshman become so agitated about the Parshendi corpses. There is so much more to him than meets the eye.

I was very pleased to see Dalinar finally taking some notice of the Parshedi warriors and asking himself about them and their society. There are so many strange things going on with this war: someone needs to start finding answers!

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