Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson Read Along: Week 5

You can head over to Tethyan Books to see what everyone else thinks.

This week we read up to the end of Chapter 32.

1. Dalinar made a very dramatic decision at the beginning of this section.  Do you think it was the right one? What do you think will happen to him, Adolin and (and the not-united Alethi) if he follows through?

Although I would love to see everyone unite behind him and become some sort of happy family as they ride off into the sunset, I realize that I am being delusional. It is a great shame, but this decision will at least allow his House to remain strong whilst he wanders away into retirement. It will also give Adolin the space he needs to prove that there is still a strong man to lead the family. I doubt that there is any way to prevent the rumors from continuing, but this will at least reduce the damage that he is doing.

I suspect that Adolin will step into his father’s shoes fairly neatly. He seems like a decent chap and I am quite sure that he will prove to be a worthy successor. I would not be surprised if he continues to use his father as a secret advisor whilst trying to keep him out of the limelight. As for the Alethi: things are going to get much worse before they see sense and start to understand what Dalinar has been trying to say. Even then I am not sure that they will want to change how they do things, which could be disastrous for everyone.

2. We’ve gotten to see a little more of Shinovar with Rysn the apprentice merchant.  In terms of plants and animals, it seems to be pretty much like our world.  How do you think it happened that there’s such an ‘ordinary’ place, or what do you think might have happened to turn the rest of the world so unusual?  Given this and the chapter on Szeth, do you have any more ideas on what the meaning of his "Truthless" title might be?

It is difficult to say which came first: the biology similar to ours or the one adapted to the Highstorms. However, it is undoubtedly cool that such diverse ecosystems exist on the same planet. I loved Rysn’s reactions to the permanent grass and springy turf, particularly her impression of all that lush plant life being dead and empty. Whilst I am not surprised by the myriad details that we encounter in his books, I am increasingly delighted by the variety of cultures that Mr Sanderson has thrown at us. There seemed to be some similarities between the Shin culture and that of the ancient Alethi in Dalinar’s vision. This makes me wonder if the Shin is a much older race than all the others.

Knowing that warriors are the lowest ranked members of society in Shinovar, and that they are all bound to Oathstones seems to make Szeth slightly less unusual. However, I am fairly sure that his magical abilities are very rare, as we saw by his sudden change in ownership. I still have no idea what the title “Truthless” means, but I suspect that it is a due to a very rare form of blasphemy. This seems possible given how his thoughts about the wrongness of walking on stone are beginning to waiver. I cannot say that I am sad to see Makkek dead, but I do worry that Dalinar is on that long list of important people, and possibly Jasnah as well.

3.  Shallan and Jasnah’s story has returned!  Based on Jasnah’s words to Dalinar, and the clues Shallan is picking up, what do you think Jasnah’s project is about?  What do you think she hopes to accomplish? 

I am relieved that we have got back to the library, although it seems that Shallan is running out of time to pull off her heist.

It seems that Dalinar has Jasnah researching the old Kingdom, possibly the one he saw in his vision, plus anything she can find about the Desolations and voidbringers. After learning that nobody had ever recorded meeting the Parshendi before Dalinar encountered them a few years ago, I assume that she is also trying to find any other references to them and their culture. I find it odd that chasmfiends had been seen before, but not the humanoids that live in the same area. I am also concerned that the artist thought that she was drawing a voidbringer, and yet it looks so much like a chasmfiend.

If the Parshendi are indeed voidbringers, or even associated with them, then almost all of Roshar is in great danger. It is obvious that the Parshendi and Parshmen are closely related, so it would mean that the docile slave race could actually be a massive force of potential enemies hiding in plain sight.

4. Concerning Shallan, it’s starting to seem that her drawing ability is a supernatural gift. Do you have any theories on the bizarre figures Shallan accidentally drew behind the king?

Her ability to transfer a mental image to paper is wonderful, and one that I wish I could have myself.

The figures behind the king were certainly very, very creepy. I can only assume that they are not visible to the normal eye, but that Shallan can perceive them with the special ‘mind’s eye’ that she uses to create a Memory. This only makes them even more creepy, because they must be present all the time but remain invisible. As we have already come across one example of something that is only visible to certain people, or at specific times, I am tempted to say that they are spren. However, this suggests that they are following one individual around, just as Syl follows Kal, and I am not sure who that is.

The king is certainly mysterious enough to perhaps warrant invisible horrors trotting along behind him: I am highly suspicious of all this talk of him being a bit dim, because he seems quite bright to me. He is also a little too nice, which makes me wonder how such a supposedly weak monarch has managed to maintain control of his kingdom. As Jasnah says, there is more to him than meets the eye, which suggests that he is very cunning and also good at acting. This makes me distrust him. Otherwise, the invisible creepy things must be attached to Jasnah or Shallan, which is disturbing.

5. Back to the bridge crews, now that we’ve seen a bit more into Gaz’s perspective, does he seem any more sympathetic?  Why do you think he owes Lamaril money?

I am not sure that he is more sympathetic, but it certainly shows that he is not a stereotypical “evil” character. He has his reasons for being horrible, but I had suspected that anyway because Mr Sanderson is too good with characters to get sloppy. I have no idea why he owes the sleazy Lamaril money, but I suspect that it is a fairly common occurrence in this army. Just when I think that I cannot be more disgusted by Sadeas’ army, we get more insight into how rubbish it is!

6. Kaladin has won over his bridge crew, and enacted a brilliant plan to protect them—which utterly ruined the military strategy. Do you think his plan was a good one, or should he have seen the chaos coming? What do you think will happen to him next?  Also, what do you think he’ll do if he figures out the real reason why bridgemen aren’t allowed shields?

I loved how this played out. We were all so invested in Kal’s attempts to save his men that we were feeling all smug and patting ourselves on the back because he succeeded against all odds . . . and then reality slaps us in the face. Kal’s plan has ruined the battle plan and he will now be personally responsible for many, many deaths. Should he have seen it coming? Perhaps, given his military experience, he should have, but he was so focused on the minutiae of his tiny part of the army that he never even thought about the larger effects of his actions.

I hope that Gaz and Lamaril will carry the majority of the blame for this debacle, just because I want to see them gone (especially Mr sneaky lighteyes). However, I suspect that Kal will be very, very lucky to survive. But we know that he is the Hero and has proven to be very, very lucky in the past, so I have to assume that he will survive whatever they throw at him with a demonstration of superhuman awesomeness. This will lead to his crew thinking of him as a god, but everyone else hating him even more, especially the lighteyes. Unfortunately, I think he will have his role as cannon fodder spelled out to him, so I suspect that he will be back walking the edge of Honor Chasm in the near future. :(

Other Thoughts

How cool are the spanreeds? What a wonderfully neat idea for long distance communication, although I am getting a little tired of the whole “men cannot read” thing. Why does nobody see how totally stupid that rule is?

I loved the Interlude with Axies the Collector. I feel a little boring for saying this, but, YET AGAIN, how cool was it? There was so much packed into that small space, what with the humor of the beggar and his city built of rotten vegetables, the amazing seaspren and Axies’ ability to change his shape and color. As always, I was left wanting so much more detail: damn you, Brandon Sanderson! :D

The new master in Kal’s hometown: I assume that we all hope that he gets a Shardblade in his tender bits very soon. However, I suspect that he will survive to make Kal’s life a total misery and drive his father to even more drinking.

Also, talking of even more coolness: I love the way that you can tell the strength of a drink by its color. Plus: chicken is a wonderful and exotic delicacy! :D

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan: Week 5

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 24

1) We got more of Cadsuane when she interviewed (grilled) the other Sisters around Rand. What did you think of how she handled them? What do you think her endgame is?

She could certainly give Siuan lessons in how to be assertive and offputting! :D

I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed her attitude towards the other Aes Sedai: I am pretty sure that I had a big grin on my face while she grilled them. Whilst it was quite nice to see them getting some of their own medicine, so to speak, this showed precisely why they are so obnoxious to everyone else: such bullying behavior is both feared and copied. I will continue this discussion about Aes Sedai and their interpersonal skills in my answer to question 5.

I think her endgame is simple: to get Rand to the Last Battle. I would not be surprised if she tries to reunify the Tower as well, but only because Rand will need all the allies that he can scrape together. I think that it is going to be rather interesting, and refreshing, to watch a powerful Aes Sedai whose only agenda is to prepare for a single event rather than the personal power accumulation that we normally see. I hope that she takes a little time to box Elaida’s ears.

2) Rand and Min take their relationship to the next level. (Poor Elayne!) What did you think of how this happened? How will it change Min and Rand's friendship? And how will Elayne and Aviendha react?

Poor Elayne indeed! I am quite sure that she will take her turn at sexytimes soon enough, but I doubt that she will be overly happy when she discovers the ‘happy’ news that she is the only remaining virgin at the party . . .

I thought that it was a fairly understandable reaction to the deaths that both had just uncovered and a normal biological response. I thought that it was funny that Rand started off with a rather limp, brotherly kiss and then his libido kicked in. I just hope that they avoided all that broken glass whilst they were rolling around naked! :D

I guess this will mean that Rand has a fit when he realizes that he has now ‘ruined’ two women. I am not sure how he will take the idea of taking multiple wives, but I guess that his opinion is not all that important because the girls have decided that they will share. Whilst I expect Elayne to be a little miffed, and I predict that we might have a little chin lifting, I think that Aviendha will be a little relieved. I might be misinterpreting Aiel culture, but I suspect that she will have more of a problem with Elayne’s position as the only unbedded sister-wife. 

3) Sevanna and her little retinue use the call boxes to speak to a man and a woman, who we later learn are Sammael and Graendal. What do you think their plan is? And who do you think the Watcher keeping on eye on them is?

I cannot see that Sammael would want much from the Shaido now that they have proven to be so ineffective. Surely even a Forsaken would not be stupid enough to trust them again to do anything important like capturing Rand? I suspect that the only thing that he could trust them to accomplish would be to cause chaos and confusion by encouraging them to rampage across the land. As all Aiel look much the same, this would be a good way to undermine Rand’s support from his non-Aiel allies.

The watcher has access to a large quantity of the camouflage cloth that is used to make Warder cloaks. This suggests that he is one of the Forsaken. Assuming that he is not Lanfear reincarnated as a man, we have a relatively small number of possibilities. We know that Be’lal and Rahvin have been erased by balefire, so it is not either of them. That leaves us with Aginor, Asmodean, Balthamel, Demandred and Ishamael. We know that one of Aginor or Balthamel is busy using his fingers to give Egwene soothing messages (shudder), but I do not think we know which one it is yet.

4) After a (somewhat hilarious) evening of drinking with Brigitte, the dice in Mat's head stop when Elayne and Nynaeve ask him to move into the palace. Obviously it's an important event. What do you think it means? What will happen?

I suspect that Mat will need to spend most of his time beating Tylin away with a very big stick or be worn out by her ‘demands’! :D

I was very surprised when the dice stopped because this did not seem to be such a momentous moment to me. Yes, it involved an unusual amount of sensible behavior from people who I normally want to slap some sense into, but it is hard to believe that this decision is so critical. I did enjoy Elayne’s earlier facepalm when Aviendha suggested that they use Mat’s luck, but I do not expect him to be able to simply walk straight up to the building to point out the Bowl’s location.

However, the decision does lead directly to Elayne and Nynaeve being dragged off to meet the Kin, which I suspect is the deciding factor in how they find the Bowl . . .

5) Nynaeve and Elayne discover a Circle of women who are either too weak to become Aes Sedai or have been kicked out of the Tower for some reason. What do you think of the Kin and their odd customs? How will they figure in the story from here on out?

I am amazed that the Kin manage to keep under the radar of the local Aes Sedai, but they do seem to have plenty of mysteries that might explain that. They certainly know a great deal about Aes Sedai and channeling, so I suppose that they might have enough skill to prevent huge signal fires of channeled flows giving away their locations. Their reverence for the blessed Aes Sedai is rather nauseating, but not surprising considering that they have never made it to the ‘bullying’ stage of being a Sister.

I was a little disappointed by their total refusal to believe that the girls could even be newly raised Sisters. They notice the lack of sweating and can obviously feel their great strength, and yet they do not give the girls the chance to demonstrate any skill. However, I can understand that they are more concerned with their own survival than in helping a couple girls that could, just possibly, be random wilders. I have no doubt that they will prove to be the key to finding the Bowl, although they will probably not give away the information willingly. I also think that they might be the treasure associated with the Bowl in the Wise Ones’ dream that mentioned ‘the one who is no longer’. There is no doubt that they would be welcomed by the Salidar Sisters and could prove to be a source of many useful Aes Sedai.

I am most intrigued about Mistress Anan and her relationship to the kin. We are told that she cannot channel and yet she does not turn a hair when someone uses the One Power against her. This seems totally wrong to me. She is obviously the person that Garenia met in the White Tower many years ago, although neither of them wants to admit this openly for some reason. This means that she is far too old to be a normal woman. She knows a great deal about what it means to be Aes Sedai and the effects that it has on a woman’s appearance. Finally, we have the high position that she holds within the Kin. I can see only two possibilities: she is able to hide her ability to channel, which suggests that she is one of the Forsaken, or she was an Aes Sedai but was Stilled or burnt out.

6) Nynaeve's weather sense tells her a storm is about to break over the city, which we now know is something of a Talent. It doesn't always mean the weather, but sometimes other kinds of storms. What do you think her weather sense portends this time?

We know that lots of people are searching for the Bowl and the rest of the cache, so I would expect a bit of a fight out as they all arrive at the same time to make off with the loot. I am also pretty sure that Moghedien is searching for them very, very intently, so that could also be a problem that is about to hit them.

Of course, it could just be Lan racing towards her in need of a good ‘seeing to’! :D

7) While making their way back from the Kin's manor, Nynaeve and Elayne are attacked in the street. Who do you think did it and why?

It seems likely that it is part of the same scheme that has been targeting Mat. It was not particularly successful or well-planned, so I suspect that it is either Darkfriends or some very cheap hirelings working for Elaida’s Aes Sedai.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I'll be back!

I am away this weekend, so Sue' Saturday Suggestions will return next week for a double issue.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson Read Along: Week 4

You can head over to Lunar Rainbows to see what everyone else thinks.

This week we read up to the end of Chapter 27.

1.  We seem to be getting more and more proof that there is some ''luck'' or magic at play when it comes to Kaladin's safety, survival and his skills - especially during those battle scenes.  Even when performing that Kata in the Chasm, there was something incredible about his movements according to the rest of the crew. Initially the blade seemed to be the source of his skills (to me at least), what do you think might be fueling his powers?  Do you think they're getting stronger?

An ‘easy’ explanation for his innate talents is that he is a Knight reincarnated, but I am not sure that we are seeing something as simple as that. Kal obviously feels an instinctive connection with weapons and knows how to use them without being taught. Although we see this quite frequently in those destined to be The Hero, I feel as if there is more at work in this case.

Firstly, we have his link to Syl, which is certainly very unusual. The fact that she, or her movement, became visible whilst he was performing the Kata suggests that she is connected to his ability somehow. Either she was drawn to him because of it or her presence is enhancing it somehow. The very fact that she is normally invisible makes me question Kal’s assumption that she is a windspren, which everyone can see. Perhaps she is some kind of very rare ‘herospren’.

Secondly, we know that he drains spheres of their stormlight whilst in combat. This strongly suggests that he shares at least some form of the talent that we saw Szeth using during the assassination. However, Kal seems to use this power unintentionally, which makes me wonder if he would actually be more powerful than Szeth if he ever trained to make conscious use of it. Again, I think that Syl’s presence is influencing what Kal can do, but I am not sure what exactly is happening.

2. We were introduced to Navani, King Gavilar's widow and the current King Elhokar's mother.  What was your initial impression of her?  There seems to be some complicated history between her and Dalinar, do you think she might end up being an ally or an eventual hindrance?

She seems to have the powerful presence and personality that you would expect of a Queen whose husband had achieved the monumental task of uniting the Highprinces. She was pretty much what I expected of Jasnah’s mother as well: intelligent, forceful and independent. I can see how it would be rather difficult for Elhokar to be seen as King in his own right if she was too involved in ruling the Kingdom.

In some ways I am a little disappointed in the back-story here. Whilst I can completely understand why she would choose the older brother for political reasons, the attempt to reunite now seems a little too much like a Romance trope to me. Maybe I am also influenced by knowing how complex Dalinar’s life is at the moment: a scandalous affair with his sister-in-law, the King’s mother, is not something that he needs to add to his troubles. It could very well be political suicide if Elhokar sees it as an attempt to replace him as King.

However, I am not at all sure, yet, that she will prove to be a threat to Dalinar. At some point Elhokar is going to denounce him as a lunatic, and I am not sure that anything can prevent that. Perhaps Navani will prove to be the perfect accomplice for rebuilding his life and reputation after that happens. Certainly, I hope that Dalinar finds some happiness with her if he chooses that path, because he seems to have had a fairly unhappy life in many ways.

3. What did you make of Sadeas' maneuver against Dalinar to gain the King's favor by being named the High Prince of Information?  How do you reconcile his actions with the advice Dalinar received ''to trust'' Sadeas?

I know that the ‘voice’ told Dalinar to trust Sadeas, but I am finding it increasingly difficult to agree. This seems like a fairly open move to undermine Dalinar, but perhaps Sadeas has some motive that we cannot see yet and that will exonerate Dalinar from any blame for the saddle girth. See: I am trying really hard to give him the benefit of the doubt!

4. Where you surprised when Rock admitted to Kaladin that he was seemingly born being able to see the Spren and therefore could see Syl following Kaladin around? That led to a pivotal point for Kaladin, gaining Rock's favor and then Teft's.  What were your thoughts on that whole scene? Can you speculate as to why some people are able to see the spren when others cannot?

This only adds to my suspicion that she is very rare and, therefore, very significant. I really hope that Rock will have more to say on the subject at some point as I think he might be able to help Syl and Kal to understand what is happening to them. However, he does not seem terrible surprised of her link to Kal and he does not hold Kal in awe because of it, so perhaps this kind of link is relatively common amongst his people.

I enjoyed watching Kal work out how to influence the bridgemen with the few resources that he has available. Perhaps I am just cynical, but I like to see my Hero work for his achievements rather than having everything simply fall into place because he is ‘The One’. This way, I can truly believe that Kal is winning over his men and earning their respect, rather than relying on Fate or Destiny.

5.  We got to see Adolin confront his father Dalinar because of his visions and lay all his cards on the table. Clearly Adolin thinks his father is losing it and his words seemed to shake Dalinar's own convictions as well.  Do you think this will have a lasting effect on Dalinar's belief in his visions? Not to mention his acting on them?  Moreover, do you think Adolin will ever be convinced that there is more to Dalinar's visions any time soon?

I thought this was rather brave of Adolin, if very badly timed, and seemed like a fairly natural reaction to the pressure of thinking that your beloved father is going crazy. However, I do not think that it will have a significant effect on Dalinar’s convictions, mainly because I am sure that the visions are real messages from a being that is trying to influence the course of history. I am pretty sure that something will happen relatively soon that will confirm this to everyone who will listen to reason. For this reason, I also expect Adolin to become a staunch supporter of his father: we have already seen him apologize for his outburst and he truly loves and admires his father.

6.  As if in further indication of Dalinar and Kaladin's collision course towards one another, Dalinar has agreed to train a bridge crew - without putting them directly into assault or harm's way (of course, love these two!!) do you think their joined efforts might be enough to change the way the other High Princes go about things during battle?  Especially Sadeas?

I think that they will unite in a way that changes things much more dramatically than simply altering bridge protocol. It would definitely be far too boring for these two to meet during a training session: they will collide during a highly stressful and dangerous situation when Kal does something totally unexpected. I suspect that one will save the other from certain death, and I would lay bets that Kal rescues Dalinar. The fact that Kal works in Sadeas’ army makes me wonder if he will foil some nastiness aimed at harming Dalinar . . .

Other Thoughts

For those of you who have read any of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series: am I the only one who is seeing a lot of Loial in Rock? Please discuss with much gushing! :D

On a more serious note. Kal makes a few cryptic references to being betrayed by a Lighteyes and how killing a shardbearer does not mean that you will automatically get his sword and armor. I suspect that this refers to how he became a slave: if he killed the shardbearer that we saw right at the end of Cenn’s chapter, but Amaram took the spoils for himself and sold Kal into slavery to keep him quiet. This seems to fit what we know and would certainly explain Kal’s bitter hatred of his former lord and Lighteyes in general.

Was anyone else expecting a chasmfiend to jump out at them during chasm duty? I was on the edge of my seat for the whole chapter!

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