Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game by Jim Butcher
Published: Roc, 2014
Series: Book 15 of the Dresden Files
Awards Nominated: Hugo Award

The Book:

Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day… Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful. He doesn’t know the half of it… Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains--led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone--to break into the highest-security vault in town, so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It's a smash and grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world--which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he's dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry. Dresden's always been tricky, but he's going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess-assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance…”~WWEnd.com

This is the first of the Dresden Files I’ve read, mostly just because I don't have a strong interest towards detective stories (which is how I had always classified this series in my mind). I picked this one up because it was nominated for the Hugo Award. I’m probably not going to go back and read the whole series, but this one was pretty fun.


My Thoughts:

Given that it’s the 15th book in a series, I think it’s pretty impressive that Skin Game was such an easily accessible book for new readers (e.g., me).  It was pretty clear that there was a lot of worldbuilding and character background I was missing out on, but it didn’t get in the way of understanding the story.  The relevant aspects of the supernatural world and the many characters were clearly (re-)introduced as they were needed.  I sometimes felt that it went slightly overboard, reiterating particular pieces of information often enough that it began to feel a little repetitive, even for a newcomer.  I think this was probably a departure from the usual pattern of the series, with Dresden stuck in a team with the villains, so it might have been more shocking for a long-time reader.  Altogether, while my response to the novel was certainly affected by not having read the rest of the series, the novel still worked as a whole and told a complete story.

Skin Game has a very casual, conversational style, full of jokes and pop culture references.  I mostly enjoyed the humor, even though some of the references went past me.  I also thought the heist was pretty entertaining, both in the villain team’s interactions and the strategic use of each members’ magical capabilities.  There were some pretty fun plot twists, which made the reader re-evaluate the assumptions they were not aware that they had made earlier in the narrative.  One thing that did bother me a bit, though, involved the female characters.  I didn’t really mind Dresden’s constantly referencing their physical attractiveness, since I’ve heard that’s just one of his things.  What bothered me was that many of the female characters seemed to fall into a pattern of failing at a particular thing while their male counterpart succeeded--a failure/success that was generally linked to their relative integrity or value.  It could well have been a coincidence, but it was enough to slightly jolt me out of enjoying the adventure each time the pattern repeated.

The story moved along pretty briskly, and there was plenty of action of the magical variety to keep things exciting.  The preparation and the heist itself involved some interesting magical challenges, and, as Harry anticipates, the team contains a number of dangerous shifting loyalties.  In an action-based story like this, I’d expect to see a lot of collateral damage in terms of property and human lives.  I really respected that this was one area where Harry would not compromise his principles. Throughout, he remained determined to protect bystanders at all costs, and it bothered him on the few occasions when he failed in this goal.  He definitely has his flaws, but I liked that Harry continues to try to be a good person, despite Mab’s influence. It seems like Harry Dresden is still poised to have more adventures, whether he wants to or not!

My Rating: 3.5/5

Skin Game was an exciting heist novel with a casual style of narration, many characters, plot twists, and a pleasant amount of humor.  Despite being the fifteenth novel in a series, it was pretty easy to follow with very little prior knowledge of the world and characters.  In fact, I sometimes felt like Harry reiterated information a little too often as the story progressed. I’m sure a lot of the story would have a deeper resonance with someone who has been following the series, and who is emotionally invested in the journeys of recurring characters. Overall, I had fun reading this book, but I doubt I’ll go back to read the rest of the series.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Read-Along: Last First Snow by Max Gladstone, Part 3

Welcome to part 3 of the read-along of Max Gladstone’s Last First Snow!  This week’s questions are provided by Anya of On Starships and Dragonwings, and cover chapters 38-53. Beware of spoilers ahead through chapter 53!  The action seemed to be picking up in last week’s section, and I think we’re well into the peak this week.  I’m not seeing how this can end happily for pretty much anyone, so this was a hard place to stop reading!


1. Turns out the Major is more noble than we initially thought! What do you think of his character arc and the big reveals during his sacrifice? (I assume he preferred male pronouns since he was presenting male and it wasn't otherwise specified.)


This whole situation is so messed up that I’m not sure I can even see it as noble.  I do think that I judged him a little too harshly on my first impression.  He was an agitator to start violence in Chakal Square, and he carried a large part of the blame for why the situation ultimately dissolved into a war they couldn’t hope to win.  However, I think he did care about the people, and he did work for peace when Temoc asked.  He was going to die anyway, when he volunteered as a sacrifice, but at least he knows that his death will mean something to the people he died for.


Also, I guess we’ll never know why the Major chose to present as a man, and why it was so important to him that the others not see during the sacrifice.  Was he trans?  Did he just think people would take him less seriously if he was female?  I was suspecting, since he was always covered up in armor, that the Major was not human. Looks like I was off the mark with that one.


2. There seems to be a lot of sneakiness going on between the fires being set in Skittersill, someone following Temoc and then Mina and the initial assassination attempt that set everything off. Any ideas what is going on? Do you think they are all coincidences or related?


Given the reveal at the end of the section (more on that later), I think it could be all Tan Batac.  There goes his claim that he wants to make the Skittersill a better place for the people who live there.  I can only imagine that the assassination golems were sent to ensure that Temoc came back to elevate the violence to all-out war.  I guess Temoc was right to be worried about his family, then, because the plan appeared to be to murder his family in order to provoke him.  It seems like it would have worked, too, if not for Caleb’s wounds.  I don’t want to support Temoc’s decision to do that to his son, but it may have saved his and his mother’s lives.


3. We get a lot of details from the King in Red about how he turned into a skeleton! After so much build-up to that particular oddity of Craft, what do you think? Would you do it if you were a Craftsman or Craftswoman?


That is not actually what I’d been imagining, throughout the series.  I had imagined it as a gradual thing, that you become less fleshy and more skeleton little by little, as a result of using Craft.  I didn’t realize that it was actually a transition through the moment of death.  Somehow, that makes it less awful to me.  I think that I would follow Elayne’s path.  I would take care of my body, and preserve my natural life as long as possible, but I would plan to make the jump to “full skeleton” when the time came.


4. At the very end of this section, there is a discussion about Tan Batac getting the Skittersill insured long before that was decided on. What do you think that means? Was anyone else a bit confused on the finer points of the insurance contract?


I’m really not a lawyer or economist or even a business person, so Gladstone does kind of lose me sometimes on the contracts.  However, if I understood correctly, the contract stipulated that Skittersill land with occupied residences could not be forcibly bought on the market.  On the other hand, if the residences no longer existed, the land was fair game.  That was why they were requiring such good insurance, so that the residences would not just ‘mysteriously’ burn down, allowing the land to be bought out from under the Skittersill residents.  


It seems, though, that Tan Batac orchestrated his own near-death so that he would be unable to sign the new insurance contract for the Skittersill, and so that the peace would erupt into violence.  Now the Skittersill is uninsured, and all the destruction that Temoc and the Red Kings’ war is causing is freeing up land for development.  This is beginning to look like Tan Batac is really behind everything, and Alaxic was just a distraction.  It makes me think that Tan Batac’s last words, “Not at all what I expected,” were simply his shock at how much being shot really hurt, not shock at being shot in the first place.


Other Things:


--The scarring of Caleb was somehow so much worse than I imagined.  He made his family believe he had chosen them over his sense of obligation to the old gods, and then he drugged his son and he left him bleeding to death.  I can’t imagine what Mina is going through right now, having to deal with the fact that the man she chose as her husband is capable of something like that.  I suspect it is not going to get easier when she hears what he is doing in Chakal Square.  


--This section had some really intense action, as well!  I think the most heart-pounding bit for me was when Mina was fleeing the assassins with Caleb, through the use of giant, soul-sucking, flying insects.

--I am happy Chel is not dead.  The way things were going, I had started suspecting her as the sacrifice.  That whole scene was pretty horrific, and I dread to see where things will go from here.  Still, I’m glad she’s okay for now.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Published: Tor, 2014
Awards Nominated: Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy Awards
Awards Won: Locus Fantasy Award


The Book:


“The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir. Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.


Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the na├»ve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend... and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.” ~WWEnd.com


This is the first book I’ve read by Katherine Addison, and to be honest I wasn’t sure it was going to be my style. It has shown up on enough “Best of 2014” lists and award lists that I was willing to give it a shot.  It is pretty much the style of story I had expected, but it’s also quite a fun book.


My Thoughts:


The Goblin Emperor seems to me somewhat similar to a Victorian novel, though it is obviously not set in our world’s Victorian era.  I believe this impression was created through the strict social stratification, the focus on class and etiquette, the aristocratic setting and the heavy emphasis on polite dialogue. As in most Victorian novels I have read (admittedly, few), the social situation that surrounded the protagonist was filled with many different subplots quietly moving along. Most of these stories involved dilemmas of class, romance, interpersonal relationships and court intrigue, and it seemed their resolution was mostly achieved through meetings and conversation.  The pace is very slow and measured as Maia goes through his daily life as emperor in a court populated by many, many minor characters. In general, if you’re not a fan of the style or slow pace of the beginning of the book, I would say you’re unlikely to change your mind by the end.  However, if you get into the flow of the story, it is very entertaining to see how all of the different situations slowly progress.


Though The Goblin Emperor is set in a world of goblins and elves, it sometimes felt like it was only barely a fantasy story.  The main fantasy element was that the two cultures chosen as the basis of the story are fictional-- that they are non-human is largely irrelevant, and they do not really map to the standard fantasy ideas of ‘elf’ and ‘goblin’. The cultures are described in great detail and the world that Maia inhabits feels very real and natural, though some details interested me more than others.  For instance, there is quite a lot of information about how one addresses a man or a woman of various rank and marital status, which fleshes out the rules of the aristocracy but is not of much interest to me.  Other things that stay largely in the background intrigue me more, such as the workings of a religious Witness, a kind of supernatural detective.  I enjoyed the more unusual quirks of the elven and goblin culture, but sometimes found myself impatient with the minutiae of social norms.


For me, it was the character of Maia and his growth that kept me interested in the story.  He grew up through grief and then an abusive home to become a very fair and decent young man.  He had not been trained for his new position, but he threw himself into learning his new role, even when it seemed a hopeless task.  I felt for him as he struggled through feeling like an imposter, through processing his old grief for his mother, and through learning that he really doesn’t have to--and in fact, he can’t--please everyone.  As an outsider to the court, he had perhaps more ability to think outside of established norms, and I appreciated his determination to not let tradition replace reason and compassion.  It was a slow story, but it was kind of a coming-of-age story for Maia, with the added pressure of potential coup d’etats and/or assassinations.  I appreciated where the conclusion left Maia, though part of the resolution of the story was a little philosophically unsettling.


My Rating: 4 /5  

The Goblin Emperor is not the style of book I usually read, but in this case I’m happy the Hugo nominations prompted me to give it a try.  The heart of the book is with the character Maia, a truly decent and compassionate person who is thrust into a difficult political situation.  I enjoyed watching him grow and learn how to navigate his new world, and some of the general problems he faces (entrenched traditions, imposter syndrome, a tendency to people-please) are very relatable.  The story focuses on his daily life, and so it meanders along through many subplots with many, many characters.  The story moves forward in a very sedate manner, heavy on dialogue and light on action.  Though things sometimes moved a bit too slowly for my taste, I enjoyed getting to know Maia and seeing his carefully-imagined world.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Read-Along: Last First Snow, Part 2

It’s time for week two of the read-along of Max Gladstone’s Last First Snow!  This week’s questions are from Anya of OnStarships and Dragonwings, and they cover chapters 17-37.  Keep in mind that there will be spoilers through chapter 37 below! 

1. We've gotten glimpses of the two sides to the Skittersill situation. Gladstone is once again using his fantasy world to discuss interesting social issues. What do you think of the arguments on each side and the solution they came to?

Looks like we’re dealing with gentrification this time, which I think is currently a major social issue.  I think both of their perspectives have some value.  Tan Batac, especially, seems to be seeing this as a way to improve the place of his origin, and the others are seeing their work in terms of making Skittersill a safer place to live.  However, the intention of improving the area doesn’t stop the fact that they are planning to effectively destroy the current Skittersill community.  I really liked the spider example, and I thought it was very effective in communicating the disconnect between their perspectives.  I think they came to a pretty good compromise, in the end.

Of course, that was before the shooting and the accidental killing of the child and everything going downhill from there.  It looks like the agreement is still valid, though, so it’s still possible for things to settle.

2. Temoc is experiencing a lot of conflict over his roles of father/husband and leader of the rebellion. Do you think he's making the right decisions? What do you think you'd do in his place?

I’m suspecting, based on knowledge of the future, that he’s going to choose the rebellion over his family, and then he’s going to attempt to ‘protect’ Caleb out of guilt for putting them in danger.  I thought it was a nice gesture, to bring his family to the signing of the contract, and I don’t think there is any way he could have anticipated things would have gone as badly as they did.  The bargaining was over, the broadsheets were stopped, and all that was left was to celebrate their victory.  I don’t think he necessarily made a bad decision there, it was just unfortunate that things fell out the way they did.

As for his bargaining with the Red King, I guess the Major has now shown clearly his desire to ruin everything.  I know that’s not how he would put it, but that was a very underhanded thing to do, using Temoc’s good faith as a cover for a flanking move.  I guess I could say Temoc should not have trusted the Major, but I don’t know what else he could have done to try to defuse the situation.

3. Who do you think tried to assassinate Tan Batac? Any theories as to their purpose or affiliation?

My first thought was the guy who was distributing the broadsheets.  His goal seems to have been to force Temoc into the role of a religious leader for the masses.  He has succeeded there, so maybe his next step is to move Temoc’s people into violent rebellion.  If that’s the case, I would guess that his goal is to return the old ways of worship to Dresediel Lex.  I guess we’ll find out soon who is really behind this!

4. What do you think Elayne's going to do next to try to fix this quickly snow-balling situation?

I am guessing punishing the Warden who accidentally killed the child and finding Tan Batac’s shooter would have to be top priority, so maybe she’ll do something on that front.  I’m suspecting that she’ll be hunting Tan Batac’s shooter.  The new wards are holding, so at least that agreement is already settled.  Now, they just have to stop a potential civil war…

Other Things:

--I was surprised to see they have kebab places in Dresediel Lex!

--The Red King seems entirely too flippant about the situation.  I think he may be taking things seriously, and that’s just his personality, though.

--I don’t yet get why the Major wants a war so badly.  It isn’t a war they can win.  Is he trying to tear a whole in the fabric of the universe, as mentioned previously?

--I’m not sure how the new wards breaking would help the situation.  Kevarian seemed to be saying that it would force them to bargain more, but I think the situation has gone well past the bargaining stage by now.




Thursday, September 17, 2015

Read-Along: Last First Snow, Part 1

This is the first post for my participation in a read-along of Max Gladstone’s latest novel Last First Snow.  This one is a prequel, featuring Elayne Kevarian and Temoc in Dresediel Lex.  This week’s questions cover chapters 1-16 and were provided by Lisa of Over the Effing Rainbow, and the banner that you see above was made by Anya of On Starships and Dragonwings 

Beware of spoilers through chapter 16 below, and also for spoilers of Two Serpents Rise, which is set chronologically later with some of the same characters. 

I am running very behind, and meant to have this post up for Monday.  I appear to have drastically overestimated my ability to handle participating in two read-alongs during the week where I finish an analysis, attend two weddings, and attend a conference.  In logistics terms, this is a week that involves traveling to Monaco, Italy, and Spain. Anyway, I did at least finish the reading on time (thanks to time spent on airplanes), even if I couldn’t manage to write the post by Monday!  Hopefully, things will calm down in the near future.  And now, on to the questions! 

1) We have an impressive few recurring characters (though, are they recurring if this is a prequel...?) with Temoc, Elayne Kevarian and the Red King leading this story. Given what we've been shown of them before, what are your thoughts on them now, as they relate to this story so far?

I think we can say they’re recurring even if it is chronologically earlier in-universe, since the book was published later!  Starting with Temoc, he’s much more sympathetic to me this time around.  I had very little patience for him in Full Fathom Five.  I was especially intrigued to see that he had stopped doing blood sacrifices, and seemed dedicated to helping his faith grow and adapt to the new world.  I think we’re seeing the start of his path, though, as he forgets his family while performing the ceremonies. It was also excellent to see tiny Caleb, who already enjoys a good card game! Kevarian and the Red King don’t seem all that much different as in the other books, at least so far.  They’re both already established and powerful Craftspeople, and both on the same side of “going full skeleton” as in previous books.

2) While we're on the subject of characters, I'd like to give a nod to one new face - 'the Major', whom evidence so far suggests is a possible antagonist in this story. Do you agree with that, or might there be something more complicated in the works where he's concerned?

I may be not reading deeply enough into it, but he just seems like one of those simple fundamentalist politican-types so far.  I expect he’s going to cause trouble, because he wants to cause trouble.  Maybe his armor is important (perhaps he is not human?).  I’ll be happy to be surprised, but so far I think he’s going to fill the role of “annoying character who messes everything up for no reason.”

3) ... And speaking of complications, we also get some rather interesting scenes with Temoc's family - his wife Mina, and a much younger Caleb than we met previously in Two Serpents Rise. How might their appearances lead to thickening the plot(s), do you think?

This is a part of the story that’s bound to end badly for all involved.  We know the broad details, and what Caleb and Temoc’s life and relationship are like in later years.  They seem so happy together right now, it’s kind of painful to contemplate what’s going to come in the rest of the book.  I’m guessing Caleb will be threatened in some way, or at least Temoc will perceive him to be threatened, which leads to his misguided attempt to protect him.  I’m also guessing Mina will probably die.

4) Lastly, we end this section of the book with a near-catastrophe of the Red King's (accidental?) making, before their peace talks have even really begun. Add to this the fact that Ms Kevarian is not at all used to handling such matters from ground level, as it were... Do you think her efforts to negotiate peace without the use of force are going to pay off? 

Temoc managed to smooth things over, so they may have a chance at discussion while he has power and is interested in helping.  Perhaps they also have a chance if Kevarian can do some client behavior counseling after the first day... sending poisoners and intimidating people with acts of Craft are not really the best ways to assure them that you’re bargaining in good faith.

Other Things:

---I wonder if Gladstone will ever write a book set in the Wars.  I’m curious about the glimpses of the time period that we’re getting from Kevarian’s memories.

--I like Chel, and I like that Kevarian treated her with respect when she came into her place of business.  I hope nothing terrible happens to her.

--I feel like there are always details that seem insignificant early in a Gladstone novel, but which end up being very important.  I don’t yet know what they are this time, but I’m trying to keep an eye out!


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Read-Along: Kushiel's Chosen Part 7 [END]

Welcome to my final read-along post for Kushiel’s Chosen.  The questions this week were provided by Emma Wolf, and they cover chapters 73 to the end.  Beware of spoilers all the way through the end of the book!

1. Earlier in the book, Phedre promised to rid the temple of Asherat of corruption. Here we see her speaking for the goddess. Is this what you had in mind? Is Phedre channeling the goddess or using her own words? Was her act a sign from the goddess, as Cesare Stregazza said, or merely a trick, as Marie-Celeste said? (I realize this is very similar to Lynn's question from last week. I read ahead and wrote these questions early. I flatter myself to think that great minds think alike.)
           
Much to my surprise, that was pretty much exactly what I expected, initially! I remembered them saying something earlier in the book about artificially amplifying the oracle’s voice, and figured that would come into play.  I think I would say that Phedre was speaking with her own words, on behalf of Asherat-of-the-sea.  The first comment was designed to get attention, to make sure everyone was paying attention to her.  In that sense, I suppose it was a trick, but I’d rather say it was theatrics.  It served its purpose well.   

2. Ysandre offers (or demands) to take Imriel into her own household to spare him the “taint” of being a traitor’s son. What do you think of this? Would an Imriel raised by Ysandre be welcomed by the people as the heir to the throne? Or would the people remember Melisande’s treachery when they see her son?

I might be wrong, but I think that there’s only a handful of people who even know about Melisande’s treachery. I think the only ones left standing after the end of this book were the nobles (besides Percy and the Shahrizais) who were at Troys-le-Mont.  I don’t think anyone else would have as visceral a reaction to Benedicte and Melisande’s treachery, so they probably wouldn’t mind Imriel being the temporary heir.  For that matter, it sounded like Benedicte was not the only noble who was concerned about Ysandre ‘tainting’ the bloodline with Drustan, so those might welcome a full d’Angeline heir.

I think Ysandre’s offer was genuine, and she would not have blamed the child for the crimes of his parents.  I am not altogether sure Melisande’s desire to protect him is genuine.  She has never shown any kind of loyalty or true affection to anyone so far, and it’s hard to believe that giving birth would fundamentally change her character.  I’m suspecting that Imriel is a key element to her fallback plan, which she is now forced to use.  She can’t give him up, not because he’s ‘her son’, but because he’s the last card she has to play.

3. What do you think of Melisande taking sanctuary in the temple to Asherat and the Doge allowing it? Is it blasphemous? Ysandre asks Phedre what she can expect from Melisande, and Phedre cannot answer. What do you expect from Melisande?
She’s clearly not a believer, so she’s just exploiting their religious beliefs for her own benefit.  Unfortunately, they seem to be bound to obey their religious rules, even when someone is obviously flaunting them.  I was wondering why they couldn’t try the argument that she was involved in the corruption of Asherat’s priestesses, and so was not eligible for sanctuary.  She wasn’t the one who did the corrupting, so I wouldn’t expect them to kill her, just to deny her sanctuary.  For the future, I suspect that Melisande is coming to the end of her contingency plans, and I don’t think she ever expected to be pushed this far.  I do think she has one more plan up her sleeve, though, and it involves Imriel.  I still think this last plan might be foiled by Imriel’s not wanting to be a pawn in someone else’s power play.

4. After seeing his fellow Cassiline Brother attempt to assassinate their charge in La Serenissima, Brys no Rinforte is badly shaken and is unable to accompany Ysandre through the Royal Army and into the City of Elua. What do you make of this? Phedre called it “defection,” which, according to dictionary.com, has two meanings: 1) desertion from allegiance, loyalty, duty, or the like. Apostasy; and 2) failure, lack, loss. What do you think of Phedre’s description? Phedre also tells us that Ysandre dismissed the Cassilines from her service. What share of the blame does Brys deserve for Ysandre’s decision? What do you think of the irony that Cassiline Brothers have become more popular among D’angelines?
  
I think that’s a pretty good description, since both definitions fit.  I think it makes sense that he would be so shaken.  His whole life was built around strict adherence to the Cassiline ideals, and all of a sudden he realizes that his brothers may be breaking them left and right.  Not just minor things, either, but trying to kill the person you are sworn to protect.  He must have been questioning whether his order had any value at all, and uncertain about his ability to protect Ysandre when he couldn’t even be confident of the loyalty of his own comrades.

I don’t think Brys shares much blame for Ysandre’s decision, though.  I think that blame can be handed directly to guard who tried to murder her.  I agree with her decision.  Cassilines are so taken for granted that no one could even remember which ones had been on guard ta Troys-le-Mont.  Now that she knows their order is not inviolable, and that there indeed could be a faction within it that wants to murder her, I don’t think she could have made any other reasonable decision.

It’s a shame that the Cassiline’s lost their centuries-long job of protecting the monarch, but it is kind of funny that Joscelin (who has been declared anathema) is the one who has brought them back in style.  I guess people are easily swayed by dramatic one-on-one combat stories!   

5. The Rebbe Nahum ben Isaac said “you Children of Elua are too quick to forget how the love you invoke may cut like a blade.” What do you think? Is Elua a gentle, loving god or is the rebbe right?

First of all, it looks like I did read that situation correctly, that the attraction was one-sided between Joscelin and Hannah.  I hope her life is happier without him. Also, considering how much Joscelin and Phedre have hurt each other with their love, I don’t think they were in danger of forgetting love can cut like a blade.  I would still say Elua is more gentle and loving than others we’ve seen, though.  For instance, no one gives blood sacrifices to Elua.  It was a good reminder to them, though, that “following your heart” can sometimes mean stomping all over other people’s happiness.  It’s a good idea to temper the ideal of love with the ideals of charity and compassion.      

Other Things:

--I am not generally a fan of romance, so I was surprised by how happy I was when Phedre declared Joscelin her consort!  Maybe they can work things out! 

--Hopefully, they’ll have ten years of peace before Terre d’Ange is threatened again.  Ten years… does that correspond to the length of time it takes for Imriel to be old enough to be part of Melisande’s backup plan?

--We got another moment of d’Angeline vanity, when everyone easily accepted that it made sense for a monarch to be so overcome with Phedre’s beauty that he gave her political aid.  I was glad Phedre found that kind of insulting to the monarch’s ability.  She’s maturing!


--The Companion Star was quite a nod of respect to Phedre, but it also seems like Phedre having easy access to speak to Ysandre in in the Queen’s best interest.  All too often, what Phedre wants to talk about is the list of people she’s found who are trying to kill Ysandre and take her country.