Friday, May 30, 2014

Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan: Week 1

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 the massive, and I do mean MASSIVE, Prologue.

1) We have a meeting of the minds of Arad Doman. Lots of new side characters were introduced at this meeting. Was it a bit tangled for you? Will this strategy negatively affect the Aiel, and hence, Rand?

I am not sure if it was due to my holiday, the less than ideal reading conditions, my advancing old age or the sheer number of characters in this series: but, yes, this was a little tangled for me. I was also a little unsure of the precise time at which this occurred: we know that Mr Jordan sometimes begins a new book slightly earlier than the ending of the last one, so I could not be sure of who exactly the Aiel were in this case. Hopefully they are Shaido and get their asses handed to them, which would help Rand a little. However, we know how tough the Aiel are, so I would expect the Domani to regret this decision.

It also seemed to me like the conflicting orders being issued by the King were so random that it was blazingly obvious that a Forsaken in actually in control. I have a dim memory of Graendal being disguised as an aged Domani lady, so it is probably her.

2) We have the questionable pleasure of riding around in Valda's head (Lord Captain Commander of the Children of the Light). Since Morgase slipped through his fingers, her step son Galadedrid (Galad) is no longer a useful tool for him. What do you think Valda will do with him? What do you think it would take for Galad to sever ties with the White Cloaks?

Anything nasty that happens to Valda will make me happy: I am just glad that Morgase it out of his reach for now. As for Galad: Valda seems most likely to send him off to his certain death, but the lad is a master swordsman and will be tough to kill. I suppose that he might be kept close at hand so that Valda can keep an eye on him, but this seems less likely.

I am pretty sure that the only thing that will split Galad from the Whitecloaks is his death. However, I am not sure that he will accept Valda’s version of events surrounding Morgase’s disappearance, so perhaps he will finish off the Lord Captain Commander for us.

3) Mishraile tracks down Logain in the woods and spends some time mocking him. What do you think the M'Hael's private lessons at the palace include?

Perhaps I was in a bad mood when I read this, but I found Mishraile very irritating. He is obviously a Darkfriend because he is a supporter of Taim, who could not be more obviously a Very Bad Man if he had a tee shirt printed saying, “I am a Very Bad Man!” His whole attitude made me want to slap him and I was rather impressed that Logain did not do precisely that.

I would suspect that Taim is giving them private lessons in smugness, self-satisfaction and overbearing pride . . . although I doubt that they really need to practice! I am not sure if he is actually teaching them any channeling, although he could have held back some especially horrid weaves for his personal cronies.

4) The wise Sisters of the White Tower are sneaking around trying to ferret out further Black Ajah. How do you think they will ever trick or lure Atuan (who they strongly suspect of being Black Ajah) to a secluded place for questioning? Do you expect their elaborate, if well intentioned, scheming will get noticed?

Ha! I sometimes wonder that these women can actually sit the right way on a toilet! :D

Given the way that everyone is creeping about and scurrying round the corridors, I imagine that it will be difficult to lure anyone anywhere for an ambush, but Aes Sedai are so over-confident that I might very well be proved wrong. However, you would imagine that the head of the Black Ajah would realize that her numbers are starting to fall and that some of her minions are no longer turning up for their nightly cackling duties. Once the Black Ajah realize that they are being hunted it could get very dangerous in the Tower. But, then again, the highly compartmentalized way in which they are organized might mask the hunters’ behavior for quite some time to come.

5) Gawyn is back in the picture, finally! And what a mess! He feels bound to Elayne, Egwene, and the White Tower. Blindly, he agrees to do all he can to carry out Elaida's orders. What do you think Elaida's (or perhaps Alviarin's) orders are?

At least Gawyn is now very cynical of the Aes Sedai that he has to deal with. I know that he is a trusting, honorable soul, but his blind loyalty was getting a little wearing. Of course, he is now stuck because of the snow and the naiveté of his followers. At least he is able to be rude to the Aes Sedai without fainting, which seems like a vast improvement to me.

I am not sure that they are Alviarin’s orders, because she seems to have vanished from the Tower. As a side note, this makes me wonder if this is the disappearance referred to in Winter’s Heart or another one. Argh!!!! I have no idea what Elaida might ask Gawyn to do, especially as she does not seem to do very much that seems sensible. I guess it all depends upon whether or not she still wants him alive. Perhaps she still sees him as useful as a way to control Elayne, but I am not so sure.

6) Deira Bashere, Davrim's wife, was injured when she walked in on two men ransacking their tent. They escaped, only to be found later, already dead. Speculation as to a) what the men were looking for; and b) who killed them?

These guys must have been pretty stupid to try to attack Deira Bashere! She seems like a very lethal person to me, but I suppose that they were ordered to stop anyone knowing that they had tried to search the tent. I suppose that they would be looking for maps or orders that could provide someone with an idea about Rand’s location or intentions. However, I am not sure of that: they could have had some other purpose, which depend very largely upon who sent them. There are so many potential enemies that I do not see any way to narrow down the suspects at the moment: although they obviously sent the men who killed the burglars in order to prevent them revealing their orders.

7) Loial and Karldin are trying to track down Rand to report on their efforts. Just as Samitsu gets their true identities out of them, it is announced that Lord Dobraine has been killed. Who do you think attempted to kill Dobraine? What is it that Loial fears they may have found?

Yay! Loial is back! Were you fooled by his little identity deception? :D

I have to say that I found Samitsu rather irritating to read because of all her worries about her personal power and authority over the other sisters. Perhaps I am getting anxious about the Last Battle, but I do have to wonder if the Aes Sedai will ever be able to set aside their petty bickering long enough to do anything useful.

As with the attack on Deira Bashere, it is difficult to narrow down the possibilities because the list of potential enemies is so long. However, it seems that they underestimated Dobraine’s determination to survive.

Loial is always worried, so we could just be seeing this in his concern about speaking to Rand. However, we know that he was travelling to the steddings to warn them about the shadowspawn using the Ways, so he could quite easily have found something extremely worrying. At the moment, I do not feel able to guess, but it is certainly bad enough to worry Karldin as well, which suggests that it is a real threat and not just Loial’s nerves.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson Read Along: Week 8

You can head over to Dab of Darkness to see what everyone else thinks.

This week we read up to the end of Chapter 74.

1) What did you think of Adolin voluntarily being locked up while Kaladin was locked up? Then Adolin's little reveal of trust later while marching on the plateaus. Do these two have a chance at friendship?

I am very pleased to see that Adolin is maturing quite spectacularly. When we first met him, he came across as a spoilt brat with a wandering eye, but now he is starting to show some really good character qualities. He has developed an ability to think beyond his immediate emotional response, and that bodes very well for the future books in the series.

At the beginning of this week I would have said that they have an excellent chance of becoming firm friends. However, the hints being dropped about Kal’s feelings for Shallan make me very uneasy, but more of that later on . . .

2) Kaladin turns down the Shards, instead giving them to Moash. How do you see this affecting his friendship with Moash in the future?

This is tricky to predict. In theory, it should bind Moash to Kal much more closely because of the gratitude he feels about receiving such an unimaginable gift. However, we have already heard that Moash is starting to treat the other Bridgemen slightly differently and I see that as a bad sign. I fear that he will finally ‘forget’ his origins and reject Kal as well.

Another potential problem is Moash’s proximity to Elhokar. Given that he is now a Shardbearer, he is in an excellent position to assassinate the king with relative ease. I sincerely hope that Kal does not allow this to happen because I am not sure that Elhokar should die. We know that he can see the Cryptics, so I am inclined to think that he is a potential Radiant and I think that the world will need every one of them that it can find.

3) Amaram tries to discredit and embarrass Dalinar by releasing modified versions of his visions. Do you think Dalinar handled it well? Do you think a religious sect will arise from this? And what did you make of Dalinar's conversation with Wit?

I totally missed Amaram as the source of the leak, but I guess it just adds to our impression of him as a total jerk. I thought Dalinar handled the situation with dignity and grace, making the best out of a potentially disastrous situation. However, I am not sure if the other Alethi will read and understand his visions in a way that is useful. They will still find it much easier to dismiss him as a lunatic than to act as if he really is receiving important information from the Almighty.

I love Wit! He is so rude and hilarious that I want to be him! However, we know that he is not simply a court jester and that he is waging his own quiet war against Odium, so his praise for Dalinar was very welcome. I love the way that he and Shallan are so similar in their sense of humor.

4) Kaladin starts noticing some issues with his Stormlight abilities. Then Syl points out that he made promises to both Dalinar and Moash that conflict with each other. How do you see this resolving? Will Syl be OK?

I am seriously worried about Syl. Where has she gone and why is she unwilling or unable to answer Kal’s calls for help? What did the Stormfather mean when he said that Kal had killed her???? Argh!!!!!!

Whilst I am very concerned about Syl’s disappearance, this has certainly shown that Kal’s surgebinding abilities are completely related to her and her presence. Without her he is helpless. I hope that Kal can choose the right path and persuade Syl to rejoin him, assuming that she can even do that at this point.

5) We got to see Shallan on a field trip: moss, bugs, chasm fiend, etc. What do you think of how she handled herself both on the plateau march and later in the chasms?

As a professional Biologist, I see a lot of myself in Shallan. She reacts to the wonders of nature in a way that I find totally understandable, even though it seems crazy to other people! :D

She is also very practical and not bound by societal norms, which I can also relate to. As with Adolin, we have seen her mature quite significantly so far in the series and she has the potential to be an even more impressive woman than Jasnah. I am particularly impressed by her ability to react calmly when confronted by a massive man-eating monster!

6) We learn some very interesting bits about Teft's childhood. What do you think of the punishment meted out to the Envisagers? Too harsh? Correct? Do you think some of the Envisagers survived?

As Teft says, it does seem a little bizarre to execute people for trying to put their own lives in danger. However, I can understand perfectly why their society wanted to prevent the spread of such crazy ideas into the general populace.

Unfortunately, we have not yet seen a potential Radiant manifest because of danger. They have all attracted their spren in a gentle way by showing certain aptitudes or character traits. This suggests that, even if they were potentials, the Envisagers were unlikely to spontaneously attract and bond with a spren rapidly enough to save their lives. What a waste!

7) Shallan and Kaladin learn several things about each other during their time in the chasms. What was the most interesting to you? How do you see their relationship evolving after this?

Assuming that Mr Sanderson does not pull the old “they were actually twins separated at birth” trick, I have to say that I suspect a romantic relationship is in their future. Their banter has certainly read like the love/hate bickering that is so common in Romantic comedies and Kal is most definitely beginning to notice Shallan’s feminine charms. As I said earlier, this could cause a massive problem with Adolin and I really, really hope that we do not go down the love triangle route with these three.

I think that the way their relationship develops will depend a great deal on whether or not they admit their abilities to each other. It seems like they are both suspicious of the other’s miraculous survival, but that they automatically assume that they are fairly unique. I would expect Shallan to be more open to the idea of meeting another Radiant because she has already met Jasnah.

Other Thoughts

We all knew it was coming, but I found Shallan’s father’s death very, very sad. Not for him, because he deserved it all twice over, but for her. We saw how his behavior broke her and drove her to behavior that could be considered psychopathic.

We still do not know where Shallan’s Blade comes from!

Were the spren that left the chasm fiend the same ones that the Parshendi are capturing to create stormform? Does that confirm the chasm fiend as a Voidbringer?

Was the chasm fiend glowing because it was converting the food into stormlight in a similar way to Lift?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan: Week 7

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 the book

1. Mat helps a Seafolk woman being held as damane escape. She promises to remember his good deed. How do you think this will affect the plot of the story, and Mat specifically in the future?

I have pretty much given up trying to predict where this plot will go next because it keeps making me look stupid! However, releasing a good number of damane will weaken the Seanchan, if only a little. More importantly it will make Suroth look incompetent, which can only be a Very Good Thing.

Assuming that they manage to escape, I can see how this would give Mat a pretty significant advantage in any further dealings he has with the Seafolk. Perhaps they will give free passage for life . . . but I doubt it, as they seem to be very harsh negotiators. I suspect he might have earned a 1% discount for one trip only! :D

2. Mat finally learns who Tuon is. What did you think of this situation? Of Egeanin's reaction to his announcement? Predictions?

Tuon is going to be a real handful for the poor guy, especially with her deadly ninja skills! :D

I have a horrible suspicion that Mat has just married himself to her by repeating the phrase “She is my wife.” I believe he said it three times, which seems like a mighty significant number. Also, the others grew increasingly frantic after every repetition and tried to stop him. But, if I had to choose one of the main characters as a possible candidate for accidental marriage, it would definitely be Mat! :D

I think it is quite obvious that Tuon will be a quiet and obedient wife, dedicating her life to fulfilling her husband’s every whim . . . NOT! I predict a very difficult honeymoon period for Mat: imagine holding a fire breathing dragon by the tail whilst simultaneously juggling a large bowl of highly flammable liquid . . . whilst blindfolded . . . on an ice rink! :D

I assume that Mat’s immediate problem will be that he can no longer go through with his plan to escape the city. Unless Tuon wants to go with him, which seems highly unlikely.

3. Rand goes to kill Torvel and Gedwyn, but Padan Fain has done the deed for him. After a brief fight, Fain flees yet again. Do you think he will resurface? What does he have planned? What did you make of Toram Riatin (from Cairhien) being there?

Of course Fain will reappear: he is still set on his quest to go all stabby on Rand’s body. I was a little surprised that he ran away from the opportunity to stab Rand whilst he lay splattered on the pavement: I am seriously concerned that his level of commitment is inadequate to the task. However, as his plans basically revolve around Rand and stabbing, I am quite sure that he will lunge out of the darkness again when we least expect it. He is in serious need of a dose of balefire ASAP.

I am afraid that Toram Riatin has rather passed me by in the thousands of characters that we have encountered so far. OK, I know it probably is nowhere near a thousand: it just feels like it! As any and all people could be Darkfriends, my only confusion is that Fain has allowed him to live this long.

4. Lan has been wary of Rand since the two reunited, but when things go bad on the rooftop, the two men show deep loyalty to one another. What did you think of this scene? How will it affect their relationship going forward?

Oh, Lan, you are such a hero! Why do I always visualize him as Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn?

Lan has always struck me as a deeply dedicated man, who was as committed to her cause as Moiraine. He truly understands how important Rand is to the world and will do everything in his power to keep the Sheepherder alive as long as possible. I keep hoping that he will begin to come out of his depression or hopelessness: surely Nynaeve is giving him plenty of sexytimes to cheer him up!

I do not think that this episode will change their relationship because Lan is so pragmatic. He knows what to do and simply gets on with it.

5. Cadsuane has to intervene in Far Madding to get Rand and Lan out of prison. What do you think she had on Aleis that made Aleis surrender so quickly, to her own shame and ruin?

I thought it was as simple as showing the Counsel that there were ways to get around the anti-channeling field in place over the city. This totally undermined their complacent feeling of safety and will probably give them all nightmares for months to come. Of course, that kind of revelation could destroy the city by causing panic, so it is kept secret and they are all removed from the records to prevent the knowledge escaping.

6. The last chapter was crazy! Rand seems to have done the impossible and cleansed the taint. We got tons of different viewpoints and characters. Along with plenty of interesting revelations. What stuck out to you? What surprised you? How will a clean saidin change things?

Cyndane is confirmed to be Lanfear, as I suspected. However, we also learnt that she was no much less strong than before, a point that had confused the other Forsaken. I can only assume that the Dark One was cross with her and so gave her less power as a form of punishment. She continues to be as jealous and insane as ever, but the most important point is that her survival, or resurrection, means that Moiraine might also be alive. That would be a very significant plot point.

Osan’gar (Aginor) is revealed to be masquerading as Dashiva, which was absolutely no surprise at all. He appears to have been killed, but we need to see a body before I believe that he is never coming back.

Someone has finally caught Halima channeling saidin, so that is encouraging. Unfortunately, he seems to have escaped and will no doubt continue to cause trouble in the rebel Aes Sedai camp. Poor Eben was killed in the exchange.

I am a little worried about the folk on Tremalking: it sounds like their End of Days has just arrived. 

Hopefully things will improve now that the Taint has been cleansed. If the men can be trusted to not go stark raving bonkers at an inconvenient moment, I would imagine that everyone would be a lot happier.

Other Thoughts

I notice quite a striking similarity between the way sul’dam treat damane and how some of the Aes Sedai are treating their bonded asha’man. I find this creepy.

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