Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson Read Along: Week 5

You can follow the links at the bottom of this post to see what everyone else thinks.

This week we read up to the end of Chapter 48.

1. Sebarial and Palona seem to be quite good fun. Do you accept them at face value, or are they playing a much deeper political game? Are you concerned that Jasnah’s intelligence on them seems to have been wrong?

At the moment I am enjoying this pair a great deal: they seem so normal in comparison to all the other highborn Alethi that we have met. I am very impressed by Sebarial’s liberal attitudes to darkeyes, although it is a shame that he cannot actually marry Palona. I assume he has a suitably pale-eyed wife back home that he married for her connections so Palona can only hope to continue as his mistress.

We know that we cannot rely on our first, second or even third impressions of characters in this world, so I am willing to accept that we are only seeing one facet of Sebarial’s personality. However, I am very hopeful that his only deceit is that he pretends to be an obnoxious, lazy slob whilst screwing the other Highprinces for as much money as possible. I am a little concerned about his woeful bookkeeping, but that may be a way to prevent spies, and possibly the Alethi version of the IRS, from seeing how well his plans are working. He certainly seems to have been successful in deceiving the Highprinces and Jasnah. Whilst I am a little disappointed to learn that she is not infallible, Jasnah’s information might have been gathered by spies and so may not indicate any gullibility on her part. It also makes me wonder if Shallan’s abilities, and connection to Pattern, give her an ability to see the truth of any situation.

2. When Kal finally works out how to alter gravity, he sees a shadowy world with a distant sun. Is this Shadesmar, or do you think that there is yet another parallel world in this universe?

I cannot remember if a third world has been mentioned already, but I suppose that it is entirely possible. Let’s face it, this world has people who can reverse gravity and turn boats into stone, so numerous parallel universes would be pretty tame in comparison! Although he seemed to see a similar sky to the one in Shadesmar, there was no suggestion of all the beads that Jasnah and Shallan describe, which makes me think that it could be yet another plane of existence.

Just as this world begins to make sense Mr Sanderson throws in another layer of complexity! :)

3. Renarin has demanded to be trained with the other Bridgecrews. Am I the only one to find him unbearably cute? Do you think that Kal can eventually train him to be partially competent with his Shards?

Renarin is growing into a rather adorable character, in my opinion. He is weak and puny, with glasses and a condition that stops him from following the ‘ideal’ route of being a warrior . . . but he does not allow all of this to defeat him. We have already seen him face-planting the dirt of the practice yard in his Shardplate, so this determination to improve his defensive capability seems entirely in character and very admirable. I suspect that he has been denied the opportunity to do very much because of his epilepsy, so he is quite willing to do the most menial tasks in order to feel useful. He certainly seems to feel a huge weight of responsibility towards his family and the kingdom.

At the moment he has not shown any signs of being a potential Radiant, but I sincerely hope that he is: the poor lad deserves to feel useful. I suspect that he will work very hard at his training, both with and without his Shards. However, I am not sure if he will ever develop sufficient skill or strength to be much use without them. I find it ironic that he has gone to Kal for training and essentially wants to become a member of the Bridgecrew, which is made up of former slaves and people seen as useless and disposable. I suspect that he will earn their respect eventually by being the decent human being that we know him to be.

4. Shallan has learnt how to use her Surgebinding to adopt disguises. What did you think of her meeting with the Ghostbloods? Do you think that she can fool them successfully long enough to discover anything? Any ideas on why they want to remove Amaram?

I was very nervous throughout the whole meeting, and the woman with the strange mask only made things worse. I think that she took a massive risk, and could very easily have ended up dead. However, she was quite right to see the meeting as a unique opportunity to gather information. Unfortunately, she has no idea if their information is any better than hers, or if she will even be able to discover it before they rip her into tiny pieces, but I suppose it is worth the risk.

It seems as if Amaram is trying to smooth the way for Dalinar and Sadeas to reconcile and work together. If so, I can see why the Ghostbloods would want to remove him and maintain the chaos on the Shattered Plains. Other than this, I cannot see any good reason for them to remove him, but I am not too sure that I will be sorry to see him go.

5. Ok, so I was wrong: sorry, Elhokar, for assuming that you had made another rubbish attempt at a fake assassination. Were you surprised that Moash was involved in such an organized conspiracy? Do you agree with the ‘patriots’ and what do you think Kal should do about them?

I think one thing that we can all agree about is that Elhokar is rubbish at being king. He shows no self-control or maturity and I am continually amazed that he is even related to Jasnah, Dalinar and Navani. Even Adolin seems wise and sensible in comparison! However, I was surprised that Moash would feel so strongly about his spineless behavior. It was very clear from his story that it was the wealthy merchant who was the real reason for his grandparents’ deaths, but he has channeled all his hatred at Elhokar, possibly because the King is now accessible.

I suspect that the ‘patriots’ have other, more personal reasons for their determination to kill the King, but have convinced themselves that they are doing it for the common good. Even though Elhokar is mostly useless at the moment, removing him would be the trigger of a massive war between the Highprinces as they scramble to seize control. Whilst I agree that Dalinar would do a much better job as King, there is no guarantee that he would gain overall control, and it could plunge the nation into a protracted conflict just as the Desolation approaches, which I have to assume would be A Very Bad Thing! I am not sure that Kal will do anything in particular, but I seriously doubt that Moash will get to stand guard on Elhokar ever again.

6. We are seeing much more of Shallan’s family life. Can someone explain why nobody has killed her father yet? Also, is anyone concerned about the girl that Nan Balat has his eye on: will he become a wife-beater himself?

I suspect that the children’s lack of action is an indication of how their father’s behavior has conditioned them to be submissive. I was hopeful that we would see some change when the Highprince took an interest into his wife’s death, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside. However, we can see how the extreme pressure is building in the household and there is no doubt that Shallan will be completely justified when she finally snaps and kills him. I find it interesting that she is the only one who seems capable of action apart from the eldest brother, although he has simply removed himself from danger and abandoned his siblings. This speaks to her strength of character, and is perhaps an early indication of why she will become a Radiant.

I find Nan Balat very worrying, even though I understand why he exhibits the behavior that he does. I sincerely hope that he will exert more control over himself than their father, but I worry that he will follow the same path. However, he does seem to genuinely love the girl, which might be enough to stay his hand.

7. Any guesses about the identity of the messenger who speaks to Shallan at the fair? Also, what do you make from the sections of the Words of Radiance that are included at the beginning of the chapters?

I am going to stick my neck out here and say that he sounded an awful lot like Wit. Also, we know that he came from the Shattered Plains so it is entirely possible that he could have dropped by whilst travelling on another mission for the King. However, the biggest hint seems to be his familiarity with the Radiants, Shallan’s innate skills and a general air of knowing far more than any normal mortal should. Wit is somehow connected to the Heralds in a very fundamental way and stands in opposition to Odium, so this all seems to fit together. Of course, I am probably wrong! :D

The quotes from the Words of Radiance are so tantalizing that they are irritating me quite a lot. They drop so many hints and suggestions that I feel as if they are revealing far more than I can actually understand at the moment. I suspect that I will finally reread this series once it is all published and spend most of the time slapping my head at the massive clues contained in these snippets. Argh! Mr Sanderson: I love you and hate you in equal measure!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan: Week 4

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 17.

1. Elayne gets to ‘entertain’ the worst looking man in the universe, at least as far as her bodyguards know. Do you think that they will actually prove to be any protection against assassins and what did you make of Hanlon’s hints to them that Elayne likes rough men?

Although it was very funny that Rand was disguised as possibly the ugliest man in the world, I did have to wonder about the guards letting him stay alone with Elayne. If they were so unhappy about his appearance, why would they leave the two alone for so long without contacting Birgitte or Hanlon? They could easily have sent a messenger to get someone to check him out: even if it was only to say that they were correct to be worried. Their lack of action suggests to me that they are not really thinking carefully enough about how to protect Elayne, even from herself.

However, having said all that, it seems that Hanlon had told them that she preferred her men on the rough side. This might have made them more open to accepting her orders in this case without questioning them too thoroughly. Ironically, this has worked against Hanlon’s interests, as I am quite sure that he planted that hint as a way to make it easier to gain access to the Queen’s bedroom himself. I think I just threw up in my mouth a bit at that thought! :(

2. Any suggestions about what Elayne and Rand were doing to make Birgitte seek solace in a bottle of strong liquor? Do you think it was so shocking that it put Alanna into her coma?

Elayne: you filthy-minded strumpet! Imagine corrupting that poor, innocent farm boy like that! :D

I was rather amused by how Min and Aviendha reacted, even though they were almost prepared for it. However, poor Birgitte had the whole experience dumped on her with no warning, which would have been very disturbing after Elayne blanked out for a few moments. I know that she is very worldly, and has had a massive amount of experience with men, but that is somewhat different to suddenly being aware of someone else having rampant sex. The idea of not being able to switch it off makes it even worse! :D

I doubt that the sexual acts themselves were enough to push Alanna over the edge, especially as she is a Green who has already had several Warders. However, Elayne is told that taking another Warder should not affect Birgitte, so I am not sure why Alanna has had this reaction. Perhaps it is because the triple-bond is highly unusual and somehow overloaded his existing link. Maybe Aes Sedai do not usually hold these types of multiple bonds for a very good reason.

3. Cadsuane seems to have her hands full with angry Sea Folk and strangely subdued Aes Sedai. What do you make of the Sisters’ sudden decision to support Rand, even the Reds? How angry will Nynaeve be to discover that she is not the only one to be able to Heal Stilling?

I am rapidly becoming a great fan of Cadsuane: she is so brutal in the way that she deals with people! :D

I have to assume that the Sisters’ sudden conversion to supporting Rand is linked to all that Compulsion that Verin was doing in the Aiel camp earlier. Somehow, I find it difficult to believe that they all made the decision independently, especially the Reds. Assuming that Verin’s weaves work properly, these women will certainly uphold their oaths, but I would agree with Sorilea and Cadsuane that they are not massively trustworthy.

One thing that was not mentioned during the report about his Healing, was the strength of the woman afterwards. This makes me wonder if her strength was much the same as it was before the Healing, because otherwise it would have been remarked upon. It is never mentioned that Logain is weaker now than he was before, so it seems that to regain your entire strength a person must be Healed of their Stilling by a person of the opposite sex. This seems remarkably unfair for Siuan and Leane, but I guess that they are stuck with their present levels and would not want to try being Stilled and then Healed by Flinn to see if that helped. Somehow, I think that Nynaeve will have  grudging respect for the man who has managed to Heal the impossible, even if this feat matches her own.

4. When Cyndane popped up I assumed that she was our good old friend, Lanfear, reincarnated. However, she seems to be too weak in the One Power. Any thoughts about this?

Everything else about Cyndane points to her being Lanfear: her knowledge of the Age of Legends and obvious familiarity with Rand and his understanding of the Choedan Kal. She even speaks with the same arrogance as Lanfear. I can only assume that this arrogance caused the Dark One to reincarnate her with diminished capabilities. Being less powerful than she was would certainly be a suitable punishment for her as is her position as a mind-trapped slave to Moridin.

5. We finally get to meet the Daughter of the Nine Moons. Is she what you expected? What about Anath: was anyone else very suspicious that Tuon’s previous Truthspeaker died suddenly and was replaced by this unlikely candidate?

I was expecting someone slightly older, but otherwise I had no real expectations about her personality. The fact that she is strong-willed is hardly a surprise, as the Seanchan hierarchy would surely weed out weak characters at quite an early age. Her sense of fun is somewhat unexpected, but should make her match with Mat even more entertaining.

Whilst I can see the necessity of a Truthspeaker, there is something about Anath that feels wrong to me. I am trying to work out if she could be one of the Forsaken in disguise, and it seems that Semirhage is not really accounted for, so that is a distinct possibility. It makes sense that at least one of them would attach themselves to the Seanchan royal family because it is so powerful. The ‘she fell down the stairs’ story seems far to close to the one that Halima spun about the Aes Sedai that she claimed to know, who I believe also ‘died in a fall’.

6. It seems that we were right to suspect that the Gholam would feel a personal need to kill Mat. Do you see any way that Mat can get rid of it? What about Noal: is he only an old man who happened to be in the right place at the right time?

I have to admit that the Gholam gives me the shivers, especially as I cannot see how Mat can actually kill it. The only thing that even damages it is his medallion, but I am not sure how that can be used to destroy it. Perhaps Elayne can copy it and enough of them used together might be able to do a great deal of damage, but can it actually die? We know that it had been contained in a stasis box, so perhaps they can herd it back into one of those.

I got the impression that Noal was speaking in the Old Tongue when he called out for help, because he specifically says that the people around them probably would not understand him. This in itself strikes me as very suspicious and ominous, as does his apparent dexterity with knarly hands. However, I do not get a negative vibe from him, so I am prepared to think of him as a good guy at the moment. He seems to have something of Thom Merrilin about him, so perhaps he is Thom’s long lost brother.

7. Mat meets Tuon and his dice stop thundering. Any ideas of how he is going to end up married to this woman, or will she simply ‘borrow’ him permanently from Tylin?

This was a lovely scene, with Mat covered in dirt and Tuon treating like livestock. The poor lad seemed thunder-struck, but she did not show much obvious reaction to his sudden appearance in her life. Yet again he is treated as a nice piece of male crumpet and not the important ta’veren that he truly is. A small part of me quite likes the way that the young guys get treated like eye candy, because it is a nice change from the objectification of women, but it is getting a little wearing, especially with Mat. Other than letting her buy him, I am not sure how he will even get Tuon to recognize that he is alive, but I am sure that he will think of something.

I am looking forward to Tylin bowing out of the picture soon: her treatment of Mat is disrespectful and annoying. In many ways, I am sure that Tuon will be fair more suitable as a partner for him, and might even calm him down a little. Of course, poor Mat does not yet know that she is his future wife. I am sure that his face will be an amazing picture of slack-jawed denial when he finally finds out! :D

Other Thoughts

So, Elayne will become pregnant with twins and Aviendha will have quadruplets . . . does this mean that Min is destined to be the Octomum? :D

I am still very uneasy about the Ogier that fight with the Seanchan. I hope that we will get to hear what they think about their violent role in the army and how it came about.

It would seem that all and sundry have had the pleasure of snuggling up to Riselle’s amazing bosom . . . I wonder if she is just a maid, or if she ‘supplements’ her income! :D

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