Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan Read Along: Week 6

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? You can find links to everyone else’s thoughts at On Starships and Dragonwings

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 42.

1. We got to see a lot more Ogier in this section. What did you think of them and their village?

I would to live in a Stedding: it would be so peaceful! It would also be great to live amongst people who really appreciate nature and do not take it for granted. Although I find botany a lot less interesting than zoology as an academic subject, I love growing plants and trees in particular. I am constantly amazed by the beauty and sophistication of nature, so I think I would fit right in with the Ogier! Plus I would love to see the Great Trees and watch a treesinger doing his or her craft.

I knew that Loial was going to find the whole experience difficult and I had forgotten the whole thing about the poor males being chosen by girls and their mothers, so that had me chuckling away. It is difficult to think of him as a highly desirable stud muffin, but it seems like he is a prize catch. It was so cute how he was instantly smitten with Erith: I wonder if she will hunt him down and force him to get married . . .

2. There were some suspicions about what the Aiel women were really doing. Do you think they are looking for Rand or that it was a coincidence?

I am sure that they were looking for Rand, just like the Aiel that Ingtar and the others met up with earlier. I assume that there are countless Aiel wandering the countryside hunting for him, but that 99% of them have not ben spotted yet as they are rather good at remaining hidden.

I would love to know what they were doing in the Stedding and what their relationship with the Ogier is like. Were they there to ask questions, or for some other purpose?

3. When Rand was trying to use the Portal stone, everyone got a glimpse at possible lives. What did you think of Rand's other possibilities? What do you think were Verin and Ingtar's?

Rand’s were really depressing because they showed how highly unlikely it is that he will be happy and die a peaceful death, and it seemed like the Dark One got his way each and every time.

I guess that Verin and Ingtar had similar experiences, as they are both warriors who are unlikely to live into old age, especially with the Last Battle looming. From her comment, I assume that some of Verin’s showed her a life with a husband and children, but I could be mistaken. I was most disturbed by Loial’s reaction, as I hate to think of anything nasty happening to him.

4. Liandrin has finally shown her true colors! How do you think her betrayal will turn out for her and the rest of the Aes Sedai? Do you think she'll get away with it?

Hands up everyone who was shocked when she was revealed to be an evil, evil Black Ajah cowbag . . . What? No one?

I was SO cross with Nynaeve and Egwene for being na├»ve enough to just accept all the rubbish spewing from her mouth, and I kept hoping that they would come to their senses . . . especially when she said that she had made arrangements for Elayne and Min to be ‘taken care of’. To me that reads as ‘killed’.

I hope that she receives the same treatment as the stupid Aes Sedai who invented the a’dam: and I will laugh until I pee myself as she screams when that collar closes around her throat. However, I have no doubt that she will avoid any problems in the near future: I imagine that the men that she bribed will all vanish rather suddenly once she returns to Tar Valon and there is nothing else to link her to the girls’ disappearance.

Of course, she now runs the risk of Egwene being freed and she is very, very stupid if she thinks that Nynaeve will ever forget what she did to them. I do not expect any other Aes Sedai to believe them when they accuse her, but I would lay money that Nynaeve is much stronger than Liandrin and will smear her all over the floor when they next meet.

5. Poor Egwene! Do you think Nynaeve and Elayne can save her before the ship arrives?

I am quite sure that Nynaeve is capable of almost anything, and it seems like she has almost worked out how to open the a’dam. Also, Min’s viewings seem to be reliable and they do not show Egwene as a damane. However, I am not sure that we will see any progress before we get to the next book.

On a positive note, Egwene recognizes that her time as damane has increased her control over her power and taught her some really interesting techniques as well as allowing her to draw far more than she could before. I have a sneaking suspicion that she will ready to become Accepted, if not a full Aes Sedai, when the collar comes off. I would not want to be Renna when that happens . . .

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sue's Saturday Suggestions #41

Interesting Books

(Descriptions from Goodreads)

No Return by Zachary Jernigan, reviews at Bookworm Blues & Fantasy Book Critic

On Jeroun, there is no question as to whether God exists—only what his intentions are.

Under the looming judgment of Adrash and his ultimate weapon—a string of spinning spheres beside the moon known as The Needle—warring factions of white and black suits prove their opposition to the orbiting god with the great fighting tournament of Danoor, on the far side of Jeroun’s only inhabitable continent.

Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins, reviews at Bookworm Blues, Fantasy Faction, Fantasy Literature & My Bookish Ways

Investigator Vissarion Lom has been summoned to the capital in order to catch a terrorist --- and ordered to report directly to the head of the secret police. A totalitarian state, worn down by an endless war, must be seen to crush home-grown insurgents with an iron fist. But Lom discovers Mirgorod to be more corrupted than he imagined: a murky world of secret police and revolutionaries, cabaret clubs and doomed artists.

Lom has been chosen because he is an outsider, not involved in the struggle for power within the party. And because of the sliver of angel stone implanted in his head.

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

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, review at New, Borrowed, Used

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan, review at A Dribble of Ink

Quintessence by David Walton, reviews at Beauty In Ruins & Fantasy Book Critic

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, review at Fantasy Book Critic

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay, reviews at Beauty In Ruins & Fantasy Book Critic

Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas, review at Gone With the Words

Author Interviews

Robin Hobb at Fantasy Faction (Part 2)

Guy Gavrial Kay at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist

Forget Easter: Celebrate the Return of The Mighty Tyrion!

Unless you have been living under a rock or avoiding TV for the last month or so, you should be aware that the new season of A Game Of Thrones begins tomorrow night at 9pm on HBO. If you have been following my blog for any length of time you will have noticed that I am a bit of a fan of the books and the series is one of the best adaptations of Fantasy fiction that I have seen.

I could wax lyrical about the wonderful casting, from the wonderful earnestness of Sean Bean’s Ned Stark to the touching awkwardness of John Bradley’s Sam Tarly. Then there is the awesomeness that is Peter Dinklage, who deservedly won both a Golden Globe and a Primetime Emmy for his portrayal of my favorite character of all time after the 2011 season and was nominated again for an Emmy in 2012. It is rare that a production this large manages to cast everyone perfectly, but so far they have not made a misstep. Even when actors do not match the physical descriptions from the books, they are still the perfect choice, such as Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister.

However, I believe that the casting is only part of the reason for the show’s success. The production is lavishly detailed and maintains a feeling of reality that must make life very unpleasant for many of the actors. The decision to film in Iceland, so that the Night’s Watch would be seen in a truly inhospitable environment is indicative of this attitude. The depiction of the battle sequences as confusing, bloody and messy adds to the sense of horror that we should feel when people are killing one another. And who can forget the shocking depiction of the Wildfire at the Battle of Blackwater?

But, above all, it is the writing that has made this series the massive success that it has become. Without the wonderful world building, characterization, plotting and dialogue this would be yet another dull Fantasy series trying to impress us with its production values. The producers chose to stick very closely to the original texts and this was a very wise decision, one that other series have failed to make (True Blood springs to mind). There is nothing guaranteed to completely geek out a fan of the books more than lifting dialogue and using it wholesale. By retaining the myriad of individual voices that Mr Martin created in his writings, we can distinguish between all those characters, even if we are not sure what their names are.

Of course, that does not mean that I would not prefer a few ‘slight’ changes to the plotline so that my favorite characters would survive a bit longer or be a lot less miserable whilst my most hated characters would have a quick meeting with a large spiky implement . . . actually, make that several meetings. I am sure that every fan has their own personal dream of things should have worked out, but this one from College Humor is particularly entertaining.

I am trying to resist the temptation to engage in a marathon viewing of Seasons 1 and 2 before the show tomorrow night, so I will leave you with the wonderful Season 2 Refresher Course from Winter is Coming.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Elvenbane by Andre Norton & Mercedes Lackey Read Along: Week 3

If you haven't read the book, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? You can find links to everyone else’s thoughts at Snobbery.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 18

1. Shana is taken in among the other halfblood Wizards as an apprentice.  She's never lived with two-leggers of any variety before this, but seems to have adjusted rather quickly.  Do you think you'd be able to do the same in this situation?

I like to think that I have managed to adapt to life here in the US fairly well, but somehow I doubt that I have had to overcome as many challenges as Shana! :)

I suppose that one thing in her favor was that she was vaguely familiar with the whole two-legger concept because she had seen Keman’s shifting practice. Also she had that period of time in the city to get accustomed to being surrounded by non-Kin whilst in a situation where nobody was really paying any attention to her or her reactions. As for me: I like to think that I am adaptable, but I am not sure that I would adjust as quickly as she has done.

2. While she's wandering through the Citadel, Shana learns more about the first Wizard War than any of the living Wizards have so far.  Why do you think none of the others have bothered to explore?

I keep finding myself saying this, but I think that it is down to complacence. The wizards are far more interested in their own continued survival than they are in learning more about anything. I would imagine that most of the magic they practice and teach is useful in hiding them and providing what they need: any other magic would be somewhat pointless to their way of thinking and will have been overlooked and forgotten. We see the same attitude in their total refusal to save humans who have powerful magic. There seems to be a whole lot of selfishness going on in this world.

3. We found, along with Shana, hidden rooms that were created by a dragon in halfblood form.  Do you think Kalamadea is a dragon we already know?  If so, any idea of his/her identity?

Shana thinks of it as male, so we can assume that she is correct in interpreting some of things said in the journal.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it is Father Dragon. I am not too sure my I think this, as I cannot think if any clues, but I feel it in my water . . .

4. Alara went to visit Father Dragon to ask for advice on how to handle events that have recently happened in the book.  Father Dragon says he thinks it's a good thing that "the world at large is about to discover their existence," because the Kin have grown "complacent and fat."  Were you surprised to hear this from him?  Is he, personally, about to come out of hiding?  What will the repercussions be if the Kin reveal themselves?

I was not at all surprised when he said this and not only because it is my own assessment of the Kin. I get the impression that the Shamans are supposed to think outside the box and say what needs to be said, rather than what the Kin want to hear. I am only surprised that it has taken him so long to do anything, but he might have been waiting for the right time to give them all a big kick in the backside.

I would not be surprised to find that he helps Shana and Keman, although I am not sure that he will reveal himself to the elves just yet as the first sign of the Kin will trigger an all out war between the two groups. I am fairly sure that the Kin will support a human / halfblood rebellion, but keep themselves in the background.

5. Huzzah for finally meeting an elf that is sympathetic to humans/halfbloods!  And even better that he's the son of that bastard, Dyran!  Were you surprised to learn about Valyn and Shadow's relationship?  Do you feel like they're equals, or does Valyn still think of Shadow as his inferior?

I guess in a world with so many individuals it is not too surprising that at least one of them is totally different from the others. However, I was surprised that they had been able to keep Shadow’s identity hidden for all this time, even though the Citadel shows that the elves are not controlling their world as much as they think.  I think that Valyn sees Shadow as his brother and equal as I have not noticed anything to suggest otherwise.

I think that it makes sense for Dyran to have created a son who is sympathetic to humans. Some parents push their own beliefs and agendas onto their children so much that they cause rebellion instead of compliance. I have seen this before with highly restrictive religious groups: sixteen years of no fun or personal freedom and suddenly the kids become raving hedonistic anarchists! :D

6. Shana was able to use her "treasure horde" to scry even further and into the mind of a young elf maiden, Sheyrena an Treves.  She even planted a suggestion in the girl's mind that maybe her "minor" power could be used to do some very big things.  Will anything come of this?  Either with this particular girl, or with the elven women in general?

It is difficult to tell, and I was rather unsure of Sheyrena’s importance in the story, as we do not have much time left for her to do something significant. However, I can see the female elves as powerful potential allies for the wizards if they are not too conditioned to seize the opportunity for more personal freedom. I hope that they rise up and give the men a good kicking!

7. What is going to happen with these rescued magic-having human children?  And is Keman going to be able to pull off the halfblood thing when they return to the Citadel?  Will Shadow and Valyn be welcomed?  WHEN WILL THEY REALIZE THAT VALYN IS SHANA'S HALF-BROTHER?!  Did anyone else "ewwwww" at that?  EW.

I really hope that the wizards finally decide to do something to help the humans, but I am not sure that they will, which means that the Kin may become the guardians of a growing number of humans, perhaps . . .

Of course, Shana may never return to the Citadel as asking the wizards to accept a bunch of humans, her mysterious ‘step-brother’ AND an elf might be just enough to make them finally decide to kick her out. In that case, Keman has little to worry about, although I am fairly certain that he could fit in without too much of a problem. Somehow I suspect that they will be much more concerned about assessing the elf in their midst and both Keman and Shadow will be overlooked in the rush to KILL THE ELF!!!

Oh yes! I was totally “EWWWW!!!”

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