Friday, March 15, 2013

The Elvenbane by Andre Norton & Mercedes Lackey Read Along: Week 1

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 Dab of Darkness.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 6

1) Serina gives us our first glimpse into not only elven society but also the upper echelons of human society. What stood out for you?

Yikes! I appreciate a story where the amazingly beautiful elves are not necessarily the good guys, so I was quite pleased that the authors had decided to take this route. There is a very Roman feel to the elven-human society, what with the gladiators and everything, but the inclusion of magic is an interesting twist. I was especially intrigued by the revelation that came later about the humans’ innate ‘mind magic’, which seems to be defying the elven attempts to breed it out of the population. Also, the choice to make the elves and dragons alien to this world was surprising but welcome, because it went some way to explaining their attitudes to the humans.

Elven society seems to be heavily influenced by the ennui and boredom that comes from almost immortality, although I note that they seem to be stuck within a medieval world, with little technological progress. This is one aspect which is directly opposite to the Romans, who were constantly improving technology in all sorts of fields. However, the Romans were always stimulated to make innovations by war and the expansion of their empire, whereas the elves’ society is stagnant and everyone seems happy with the status quo. Also I assume that magic allows the elves to do pretty much everything they want and they have little incentive to make life any easier for their human slaves by creating industrial technologies.

2) Alara, our first dragon of the book, has no qualms at all about playing pranks on the elven and smaller ones on the humans. What pranks would you pull on the elves & men if you could get away with it?

Just like the elves, the dragons seem to be rather bored with life and I was genuinely surprised by how much time and effort Alara invested in her highly elaborate prank. I was also quite concerned that she seemed happy enough to place humans at risk by using them to spread the Prophecy without considering how dangerous this might be for the individuals. 

Of the pranks that she describes I could see myself appearing to solitary elves so that they think that they are imagining things, but I have to wonder why they are not more subtle about this. It would be so much funnier to shift into the shape of a normal elf and then slowly change during a conversation, making your hair change length or color or something similar, and then quickly changing back when the elf turns away! :D

3) The elven Lord Dyran is one of the 'good' lords. *shudder* What do you think the bad lords are going to be like?

I am not sure that I want to spend too much time thinking about that, but I assume that the ‘bad’ lords are more brutal and less likely to treat their slaves like pets. I guess that only slight differences in treatment can have a massive impact on a slave.

4) Do you think being able to walk another's memories as Alara did with Serina's increases or decreases empathy?

I think that this is totally dependent upon which memories you see. In the first chapter we saw why Serina had become so ruthless, but I am not sure if Alara shared those memories and so she judges the human quite harshly. So, on the whole, I think that truly sharing another person’s experience could only increase your empathy for them if their motives were understandable. If you saw that their only interests were selfish and uncaring then I doubt that you would feel much sympathy for their choices.

5) We met and heard about several of Keman's pets. Do you enjoy the idea of dragons having pets? What has been the most interesting pet so far?

I like Keman’s interest in other animals, but that resonates with my own leanings towards scientific investigation and biology in particular. Unlike almost all the other dragons that we have seen, he shows a genuine interest and empathy for the other species around them. I thought it was very telling that he had genuine problems with the idea of eating the two-horns and thought the idea of eating Hoppy was totally abhorrent. Hopefully, he is not alone in his inquisitiveness.

Of all the pets mentioned I am most intrigued by the one-horns, which sound suspiciously like flesh-eating unicorns. Just as with ‘evil’ elves, I find the idea of nasty unicorns rather appealing simply because I love seeing tropes turned on their heads.

Coincidentally, my book group has had Diana Peterfreund’s Rampant up on his voting list several times and I really should get around to reading it because it includes both killer unicorns and Rome!

6) Shana is a kid by the end of this section and she thinks she is really a dragon stuck in human form. How do you think that this misconception does and will affect her place in dragon society?

To be honest, I do not think that she really has a place in dragon society, other than being Keman’s pet. I know that he was trying to be kind and make her feel as if she could fit in, but this lie will ultimately lead to her being very disappointed when she discovers the truth. I suspect that most of the other dragons would think her highly presumptuous if they found out that she believes herself to be one of them. Her biggest challenge will be to avoid being eaten or accidentally killed as the other young dragons get bigger and stronger. However, I predict that she will eventually be able to protect herself with her magic.

Extra Thoughts

The idea of magical or paranormal abilities effected by necklaces or torcs, plus the alien elves, reminds me a great deal of Julian May’s Saga of Pliocene Exile series. In May’s world the humans are sent back to Pliocene Earth only to find that it is inhabited by alien beings who look a lot like elves, dwarves and giants. The Tanu and Firvulag share many names and attributes with Celtic mythology and there is a suggestion that the myths are actually a form of history based upon humanity’s interactions with these aliens. The Tanu use torcs of different metals to either increase or bestow certain paranormal talents, but also use them to control the wearers of certain types.

Am I the only one who wants to give Myre a good slapping? I grew up with a younger sister, so I know what a pain they can be, but Myra seems particularly awful.

Also, I found it very difficult to stop reading at this point: I am seriously enjoying this book! :)


  1. I like your observation about the ennui of elven society and their lack of motivation for....well, anything useful. Even tho they only manage like 1-2 children per female elf, they still don't explore healing and/or reproductive medicine.

    You are a cruel yet clever prankster! If I had a little morphing or illusion magic, I would do what you suggested - slightly altering my features during a conversation and then snapping them back to original to mess with the elf!

    Rampant sounds awesome! I think I may try to work that into my autumn reading. Julian May has been on my TBR pile forever - like since I met my man, who owned her Pliocene Exile series then. Oooo! And I see you are reading Elizabeth Peters too! I am digressing I know, but it's all bookish.

    Can I watch you slap Myre? Will you need to borrow my little ladder? Perhaps a kevlar suit with metal plates sewn in?

    1. You would think that they would make some effort to help them reproduce more successfully rather than spending all their time playing politics and torturing humans, but I guess being nearly immortal alters your priorities!

      After writing this I actually went and took Rampant out of the library because I am fed up of waiting for my book group to come to their senses! :D

      Hmmm . . . I hadn't really thought about the practicalities of slapping a dragon . . . but she is still quite small, so it might work!

    2. Quite small...for now. ;)

      I don't think we get to see a whole lot of adult Myre until the next book, but I could be remembering wrong.

      I haven't read Julian May, but now I really want to!

    3. I can't say that I'm sad about not seeing much of Myre! :D

      I really enjoyed the Pliocene Exile series and the Galactic Milieu books that are linked to them. She has an interesting take on the development of psychic powers in humans as the species evolves.


Please let me know what you think, because comments make me happy!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Link Within

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...