Saturday, August 31, 2013

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII Challenge

We are approaching that time of mists and mellow fruitfulness when any sensible person tucks themselves into bed with a steaming mug of hot chocolate and a suitably creepy book to while away the long evenings. I can hardly believe that a year has passed since I took part in RIP VII, but it has and Carl has announced this year’s Challenges. Check them out and sign up to join in the fun at Stainless Steel Droppings.

This year has been more than a little manic, so I think that I will only be able to complete Peril of the Group Read, which involves reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostava. The Read Along is being hosted by The Estella Society, so you can head over there and sign up for that as well! 

Sue's Saturday Suggestions #63

Interesting Books

The Black Guard by A.J. Smith, review at The Speculative Scotsman

The Black Guard is the first in a major new fantasy series, The Long War, set in an invented world somewhat similar to medieval Europe in terms of technology, heraldry and ethics. Magic features in the world, but is rare and mostly confined to the various priesthoods. The city of Ro Canarn has been assaulted by Knights of the Red. Amongst them is a Karesian Enchantress of the Seven Sisters, intent on manipulating the men of Ro to her ends. Her Sisters intend the assault to be the first move in a longer game, a war intended to destroy worship of the Gods of men and bring back the malevolent Forest Giant of pleasure and blood.

The young Lord of Canarn, and one of his closest friends, plan a desperate gambit to take back the city, whilst his sister journeys north and confronts more of the Sisters' schemes as they try to conquer the rest of the lands of men.

Divided by geography and surrounded by enemies, a disparate group of Clerics, Priests, Knights, criminals and warriors must defeat overwhelming odds to seize back the lands of men from those unknowingly under the sway of the Dead God and his Enchantresses.

The Duke of Canarn is dead, executed by the King's decree. The city lies in chaos, its people starving, sickening, and tyrannized by the ongoing presence of the King's mercenary army. But still hope remains: the Duke's children, the Lord Bromvy and Lady Bronwyn, have escaped their father's fate.

Separated by enemy territory, hunted by the warrior clerics of the One God, Bromvy undertakes to win back the city with the help of the secretive outcasts of the Darkwald forest, the Dokkalfar. The Lady Bronwyn makes for the sanctuary of the Grass Sea and the warriors of Ranen with the mass of the King's forces at her heels. And in the mountainous region of Fjorlan, the High Thain Algenon Teardrop launches his Dragon Fleet against the Red Army. Brother wars against brother in this, the epic first volume of the long war.

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

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, review at The Book Smugglers

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, review at The Speculative Scotsman

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht, review at Tethyan Books


The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon at The Book Smugglers

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Fires of Heaven 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 16.

1. Do you think that it is possible that Nynaeve and Elayne will be more cautious in the future and avoid the next very obvious trap that arises? Also, any ideas where the extra pigeons were going after Mistress Macura’s recovery?

I am not sure if I am just judgmental, but I am getting a little tired of their never-ending ability to walk directly into any trap, even the ones that are so obvious that they could have a sign on them saying “This is a trap!” Seriously, why would you trust some random woman just because she has the correct sign for the Yellow Ajah nailed to her front door? I would hope that this episode will FINALLY make them realize that trying to hide from the Black Ajah and at least one of the Forsaken means that there are bad people about! Good grief!

I found the extra pigeons rather intriguing. I can understand why someone would want to keep a watchful eye on a woman supplying information to the Tower because we know that there are divisions between the Ajahs and that not all the Sisters get along. Of course, there are plenty of other people who might want to be kept informed, with the Forsaken and Whitecloaks at the top of the list. As for Mistress Macura’s extra pigeon, I have to admit that I am a little disappointed that she is not just a simple supporter of the Yellow Ajah. It seems like straightforwardly honest people are few and far between in this world, so it would have been nice if she had just been following her orders with no additional political intrigue.

2. We now know that the Blue Ajah is massing in Salidar, and I wonder if other renegade Sisters will head that way as well. Is anyone else feeling that their choice of meeting place is nice and convenient for our wayward Amyrlin? Do you think that Nynaeve and Elayne will hear the location and join up with our merry band?

It would have been Murphy’s Law if the Blues had been banding together thousands of miles away from Siuan’s current location. However, I can understand why they chose Salidar now that I have looked it up on a map. It is relatively central, but not too close to Tar Valon, while its proximity to Whitecloak central makes it an unlikely choice. Siuan mentions it as the birthplace of a famous Blue, which seems to make it an obvious selection, but we also know that many of the settlements in this borderland have been abandoned, so maybe it has been empty and forgotten for a long time.

From Nynaeve’s comments it sounds as if she read the name, although it would mean nothing to her even if she remembers it. However, a quick conference between Egwene and Moiraine will solve that mystery and I expect the girls to motor towards Salidar once they throw Galad off their scent.

3. Were you surprised to discover that Gareth Bryne had the hots for Siuan? Are we going to have a soppy love story involving fishing metaphors?

I was rather surprised by this, as there was no real suggestion in the earlier chapters that his interest was at all romantic. I had assumed that his interest was because he had a vague feeling that he had seen Siuan before or something similar. Also, and I hope this does not sound too awful, but I find it a little difficult to imagine Siuan being all that loveable. However, Bryne did have an affair with Morgase, so I guess that he must like pushy women!

We know that he is smitten for some reason, but we have not seen Siuan pining away for him in the same way. However, she does seem very determined to keep her word to him, so perhaps there is something there as well, and she did do a lot of staring . . . I cannot wait to hear the fishing sayings that are suitable for flirting, dating and catching a husband!

4. Is anyone else hoping that Birgitte will have a larger role in the story in the near future? Is Egwene really a prude or do you think that Nynaeve’s dress in Tel’aran’rhiod was amazingly slutty?

I find Birgitte a really interesting character and I like reading her appearances, so I really hope that she becomes more important and soon. It seems that she may be about to be woven back out into the Pattern, but I worry that she will not have much time to grow up and become a stunning archer before the Last Battle arrives. I am intrigued by her decision to break the rules and help the girls: I wonder if this means that one or both of them are Ta’veren?

We have talked about Egwene’s prudish attitudes in past weeks, but I do get the impression that Nynaeve’s outfit is more than a little revealing. I would also imagine that it is a shock for Egwene to see Nynaeve dressed like that, because the Wisdom has always advocated sober, practical clothing in the past. It is episodes like this that make me really like Nynaeve: she is so unintentionally funny whilst being terribly realistic.

5. Were you surprised by the sudden reversal in the power dynamic between Nynaeve and Egwene? During her testing to become Accepted, Egwene saw herself as Amyrlin, does her increasing self confidence make this future seem more likely?

At first I was a little shocked by this, but it shows that the Wise Ones are teaching Egwene more than just Dreaming. It is good to see her becoming much more confidant and forceful, as she has been a little too submissive and passive-aggressive in the past, especially towards Nynaeve. However, she is also very headstrong, so I worry that she may become overconfident and rash, which could be a deadly combination. As for Nynaeve’s sudden weakness, I found this rather more surprising but a welcome relief from her constant self-righteousness.

While the new Egwene appears to be channeling her inner Siuan Sanche, I fear that she is still too young to be taken seriously by the other Aes Sedai. It seems that Moiraine is starting to treat her more as an equal, but her age will always be a disadvantage when she deals with those Sisters that are unfamiliar with her. I wonder if she will be used as a compromise candidate because she has no associations with the major factions. I would imagine that the dominant sitters would expect her to be easily manipulated, although I predict that they would be in for a surprise there.

The one thing that strikes me as most strange in all of this is their relative strengths with the Power. We have been told over and over again that Nynaeve is much more powerful, even though she can only channel when she is angry at the moment. We have also seen that Sea Sedai use relative power as a way to establish their hierarchy, so Nynaeve bowing to Egwene does against the norm.

6. Do you agree with Elayne that Galad would actually hand them over to the Whitecloaks? I can see Thom fitting in with the travelling Menagerie, but how much braid-pulling do you expect from Nynaeve?

If what Elayne and Gawyn have said is true, then Galad would have no qualms about doing what he considers to be ‘right’ and handing the girls over to the Whitecloaks. He is obviously a person who sees everything in terms of black and white and pays little attention to the possibility that he is the only person to behave in that way. His stubborn refusal to consider bending rules is very arrogant and could place the girls in grave danger, but he will walk away with a clear conscience because he has behaved ‘correctly’. It seems to me that he is deceptively beautiful on the outside: a clear example of beauty being a poor indicator of character. I find him very annoying and self-righteous.

I have to admit that I did not see that plot twist coming. However, we have had people join up with ‘gypsies’, so why not have others run away with a ‘circus’? I did think it strange that the menagerie got so much description, but did not expect it to become a hiding place for the girls so soon: I expected a more subtle reintroduction much later on. I am sure that Thom and Juilin will fit in very well, but I am not sure how Elayne will earn her keep: I am not sure that people will pay to see her raise her chin regally! However, I can imagine Nynaeve drawing quite a crowd as she shoots fireballs from her eyes! :D

Extra Thoughts

Am I the only one who loves the fact that Bella is still alive and adding her own shaggy presence to the story? I also love how Siuan expects this most placed of horses to eat her face off! :D

Sue's Saturday Suggestions #62

Interesting Books

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, review at The Oaken Bookcase

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff, reviews at Cuddlebuggery & Fantasy Faction

The mad Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion simultaneously – by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.

Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts is swelling beyond her power to control. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches. But Kin has his own secrets, and is haunted by visions of a future he’d rather die than see realized.

Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A waif from Kigen’s gutters begins a friendship that could undo the entire empire. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, amongst islands of black glass, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat.

The ghosts of a blood-stained past.

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

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis, review at the Little Red Reviewer

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, review at Fantasy Literature

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay, review at The Wertzone


The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams at Fantasy Cafe

Mage’s Blood by David Hair at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist

Author Interviews

Jim C. Hines shares his Recommended Reading on SF Signal

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