Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Read-Along: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, Week 9

Only one week left! This week's questions come from Musings on Fantasia, and cover chapters 58-65.  Beware of spoilers below! 

1. Adolin has a change of heart, not only about his father, but about how he views the war. How do you think this will affect the story going forward?

I think Adolin will feel badly for trying to convince his father that he is insane.  I expect that Adolin will take Dalinar more seriously now, and that he will be more of an ally, concerning the visions.  I think it will also change Adolin’s point of view on religion, since he now has a demonstration of the reality of their higher beings and the imminence of the Desolation.  I think his priorities will probably change.

2. Elhokar reveals that he sees figures with symbol heads, which sound suspiciously like the ones Shallan keeps drawing. What do you make of this?

That was quite interesting!  It seems Elhokar’s paranoia comes from the fact that he is see bizarre creatures stalking him, as Shallan does.  I still don’t get what the symbol-heads are, but maybe they are some kind of divine observers, here to see how humanity handles the Desolation?

3. What do you make of Dalinar's most recent vision? Was the king he talked to really Nohadon, author of The Way of Kings? If so, what do you think the timeline is? What happened before and after what Dalinar saw? Were the strange, rock-like corpses really Voidbringers?

I think it was, and I was so blushing with second-hand embarrassment for Dalinar after his suggestion that Nohadon write a book.  I mean, clearly he does write one eventually, but the timing of the suggestion was completely off.  I assume it was after a Desolation, and the corpses were of Voidbringers or some other kind of Void creature. 

The vision seemed designed to illustrate to Dalinar why uniting the highprinces was so crucial. Dalinar saw an Alethela that was distracted by war when a Desolation had come, and 90% of the population had been wiped out. I can only imagine how much worse it will be with the True Desolation.

4. Dalinar and Navani finally share a passionate kiss, and then start conducting a covert romance. What are your impressions of the relationship? Has your opinion of Navani changed at all?

I think it’s sweet, and it makes sense that Navani would be willing to throw caution to the winds and finally go for what she wants, after all these years.  Dalinar doesn’t seem very clear on where he expects this to lead, but I hope they end up publicly declaring their relationship.

On the subject of Navani, I also agree with her that they should start communicating with scholars.  Dalinar’s reputation really couldn’t get any lower right now, so having proof that he is legitimately experiencing visions from a higher power might actually help his standing. 

5. Kaladin's decoy plan works almost miraculously well. How do you see this affecting the story going forward, and in what way? Address the issue both for Kaladin and his men, and for the war at large.

I think it seems like Kaladin will be very, very noticed.  There’s no way the army will not realize how skilled he is, and realize that he is not a simple bridgeman.  I also think that his stormlight sucking will be found out—it would only take one little mistake of sucking in too much power to make him glow in public.  In general, if others also take up these tactics, I think it could make life much better for bridgemen.

In terms of the war at large, I wonder if the desecration of their dead has had some effect on the number of Parshendi that are being committed to a battle.  It’s one thing to fight for gemhearts, but quite another to fight for killing the people who defiled your people's graves.  I would expect there to be some increasingly major battles soon.

6. So Moash wants to kill someone out of vengeance. Any guesses who or why?

My random guess is Sadeas. Perhaps he has his own “lighteyes are evil and now I’m a slave” story.

7. Why do you think Sadeas abandoned Dalinar as he did? Was this done intentionally? Was it planned in advance? What are your thoughts?

It seems planned in advance, but I am very shocked.  I did not pick up the hints that Sadeas was planning to betray him, and it seemed like Dalinar was making a lot of headway in explaining his ideas to him and Elhokar. 

Now, I can only suppose that Sadeas quietly thought that Dalinar was a bad influence on the nation of Alethkar, and wanted to have him removed without causing an internal war.  Maybe the voice in the visions lied.

Other things:

--Dueling is not as objectionable as I had imagined in this world.  From what we’ve seen of the Alethi culture, I assumed it primarily involved frivolously killing people.  In the end, it seems that non-lethal (and even non-harming) duels are standard, and to-the-death duels are probably quite rare. I thought it was a bit weird that Shardbearers always duel in their Shardplate, though.  The pool of people they can realistically duel is quite low (though people can theoretically rent their lord’s Shards). 

--Kaladin had a good point about Dalinar, that protecting his conscience by following behind Sadeas on the bridges did not really make him a better person.  By joining with Sadeas, he did kind of condone the use of bridgemen. There is more to it, of course, since it looked like joining with Sadeas was his only shot at beginning to unify the highprinces.  Still, Dalinar using slave bridges makes me sad.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Read-Along: The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin, Week 3

I'm a little late this time, but this is the third week of the Read-Along of The Kingdom of Gods, with questions provided by Books Without Any Pictures.  This week covers chapters 11-13, so beware of spoilers below!
1.  What are your theories on Kahl?  Who is he, and what is he up to?
Well, I’m pretty sure he’s Sieh’s son by Enefa, who was hidden away to protect Sieh’s life.  Sieh also recognized him as the person from his dream.
I’m not very clear on what he’s up to, though.  He is the person behind the masks, but it seems like he might be the one killing Arameri.  He might be using them as test subjects in developing his ultimate mask.  I believe the Darre leader, who said that Darre wouldn’t kill only a handful of Arameri, if they decided to attack, so Kahl seems the likeliest murderer. 
2.  We finally get to meet Oree's daughter, Glee.  Is she what you expected?  What do you think about her role on the council and her hiding Itempas?
I really like that Oree named her daughter Glee, going directly against the Maroneh tradition of naming their daughters for grief.  I also enjoy how much power she seems to have in the godling neighborhood watch.
Also, it seems clear that Itempas is hanging out with his daughter! I wonder if Itempas ended up being able to rejoin Oree after Yeine went to him, or if it was too late at that point.  Either way, Itempas has clearly changed, if he really loves his demon daughter.
3.  What's up with Deka?  Does he really like Sieh, or is he using him for some later gain?
I think he really does likes Sieh.  I think he had kind of a crush on Sieh since he was a child.  He has now studied Sieh intensely (and wrote a thesis on him!), so I think he has a deeper understanding of him than Shahar ever could.  I think Deka has a plan, but I don’t think he intends to cross Sieh.  I have no idea how he might help him, though, even though he does have magic writing on his body.
On Deka’s heritage, it sounds like Ahad worked his way into the Arameri gene pool at some point in history!  So Deka is sort-of part godling, since Ahad was the mortal-bodied representation of one of the Three.  Ahad seems to be a godling now, but he may not have been when this happened.  Maybe since Ahad was a not-quite-god, that makes Deka and Shahar not-quite partial demons, which may have caused the problem with their little friendship ceremony, without killing Sieh directly. Based on Remath's desire to acquire Sieh's baby, I get the impression she doesn't realize that her line already has demon blood in it.
4.  In this section, we're introduced to two new forms of magic--Deka's use of the gods' language, and the Darre masks.  What do you think about them?  How do you think the mask will be used?  Does it have anything to do with Sieh's affliction?
Deka's use of magic is pretty neat, and I am curious whether or not the aptitude for it was accidentally given to him by Sieh.  I'm not completely clear what his plans are, though.
The masks are partially made by Kahl, and they are sort of like mini-Maelstroms.  According to Kahl, they’re supposed to grant divinity.  I’m a little unclear on this—he referenced Yeine, which makes me think he means that it will make someone one of the Three (or then, the Four) when completed.  However, maybe it just means it can raise a mortal to being a godling.
The optimistic side of me thinks that Kahl doesn’t want to kill Sieh, but realizes that will happen once Sieh remembers him.  Maybe he’s planning for Sieh to become mortal entirely, so the realization won’t kill him, and then raise him back into godhood!  The more pessimistic side of me thinks Kahl wants to join the Three, or that he has some mortal lover he wants to immortalize.
5.  What secret do you think Enefa wiped from Sieh's memory?
I think it is that they had a son together, Kahl.

Other Things:

--We got to see the group Madding used to lead! Poor Madding :’(.  It was nice to see Lil again, though.  The imbalancers in general seem to be a small and interesting bunch.

--Ahad still seems to be finding his footing in godling society.  I think people are going to be kinder to him about it than Sieh thinks, though.

--In this section, the other godlings are making a very good point to Sieh—being wronged doesn’t absolve you of your harmful actions towards others.  The one godling pointed out that Itempas wasn’t the only one who went mad during the God’s War.  I think this is a major lesson Sieh needs to learn, that being hurt does not give you the right to hurt others.

--Nsana seemed like a very interesting godling to meet in dreams! Sieh’s dreams were rather disturbing, though.

--Sieh-the-narrator made a comment this time, about trying to remember how the kiss tasted, because he couldn't experience it anymore.  I guess Sieh will have some kind of transformation, in the end?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Guest Post: My Favourite Sphinxes In Fiction, by Thoraiya Dyer

Welcome again to The Book of Apex Blog Tour!  Today I am happy to host a guest post from Thoraiya Dyer, author of "The Second Card of the Major Arcana" in The Book of Apex, as well as a number of other works of short fiction.  The overall schedule of the blog tour can be found on Little Red Reviewer's site, here, so don't miss all the reviews, guest posts, interviews and giveaways.  Now, Thoraiya Dyer will introduce her favourite sphinxes in fiction!

My Favourite Sphinxes In Fiction

Sphinx. n. A mythical creature with the body of a lion and a human head.

I was first introduced to sphinxes in the Neverending Story film. My little brothers thought the pair were hilarious because they had boobs – right up until the moment their laser-eyes fried the knight in shining armour. I’m pretty sure we all screamed when the helm flew back and we saw the smoking, skeletal skull.

Important lesson: Don’t cross the sphinx.

My best friend in fourth grade later lent me the novel version of Michael Ende’s  Neverending Story. I found the book-version even more shivery-thrilling: The gaze of the sphinx freezes you until you answer all the riddles of the universe. The reason that the pair face each other is that only a sphinx can look into the eyes of another sphinx.

On my first trip overseas, I saw the Great Sphinx of Giza, and discovered that sphinxes could be men.

I saw more sphinxes flanking the throne of Astarte at the Temple of Eshmun in Lebanon, learned that that part of the Temple had been built in the Hellenistic period, and that the riddle-telling sphinx was originally Ancient Greek.

Astarte was a Phoenician goddess of fertility and of war, so I supposed the sphinx suited her – sexy woman-bits and powerful, war-like lion-bits.

It also gave me a delighted shiver to hear that in 300BCE, when those lion-bodies were carved, black lions roamed the Lebanon.

I loved the sphinx cameo in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

I ate up chapters on sphinxes in Greek mythology collections. It was inevitable that I would write a sphinx story, really.

I may even do it again.

Anyone else have any favourite sphinx tales?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Read-Along: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, Part 8

It's week 8 of the read-along of Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings. We're closing in on the end of the book!  This week's questions cover chapters 51-57, and they were provided by My Caffeinated Life. As usual, beware of spoilers below!

1.What do you think of Dalinar's latest vision concerning the Radiants? Can you make sense of them? Do you think Jasnah will prove or disprove Dalinar's visions? And what did you think of Dalinar and Navani's almost moment? ;)

I’m wondering if that latest vision was to show him more directly what Alethkar had become.  The Radiants were intimidating, disciplined and powerful.  When they discarded their Shard plate/blades, the people who took them up immediately started squabbling with each other for power, with no regard for their common enemy.  As for why the Radiants left, I have no idea yet.  I think Jasnah will prove that his visions may be true, but perhaps not beyond doubt.  

About Dalinar and Navani, I think she probably understands why he rejected her, and that it was because of propriety (and not because he didn’t want her).  I don’t think she’ll betray him over it or anything, but I don’t think this is the end of it.

2.Dalinar proposes a military alliance with Sadeas. Given what we've read of their relationship and of Sadeas' character, did Dalinar make the right move? How long do you think this alliance will last? Has Dalinar finally gotten Sadeas on his side by using Sadeas' interests (gemhearts, the Shardblade, etc.) as incentive or does Dalinar have something else up his sleeve?

I think they’d been friends for years, so it’s not so much of a manipulation to have Sadeas on his side. After this section, it sort of seems like the recent hatred between Sadeas and Dalinar was one-sided. Sadeas seemed angry that Dalinar always assumed the worst of him, and quite happy that Dalinar seemed like he wanted to renew their friendship.  I’m starting to wonder if it was only Dalinar’s guilt that stood between them, and Dalinar was just projecting his own resentment onto Sadeas.

I have to admit, I shared Dalinar’s poor opinion of Sadeas, so I was really surprised when we found out that the goal of his investigation was to put to rest any suspicion of Dalinar, once and for all. I’m still not a Sadeas fan, though, because of the bridge crews.

3.This is the first time we've read in detail what it's like to be a Shardbearer fighting with Shardblades in battle through Dalinar. What did you think of it?

It reminded me of a description I read once of how things go in battles involving wealthy knights and many less wealthy footsoldiers.  One of those two groups tends to do most of the dying. Even so, it was really exciting to read of Dalinar going to Sadeas’s rescue.

4.We get a big reveal about what's happening with Kaladin this week regarding the Stormlight as well as a revelation regarding Syl's nature. What did you think of it? Given what we know now, what else do you think he is capable of?

So Syl is not a windspren at all!  It seems like she is a Radiantspren.  It sounds to me like she is a kind of spren that partners with Radiants, and that she has been dormant for a long time, while the Radiants did not exist.  I think Kaladin is capable of quite a lot more than he knows, but I'm not completely clear yet on all the powers of the Radiants.

5.Kaladin initially blames his curse as the reason why people around him keep dying. Is there some truth to his claims, that this binding ability has some correlation with the casualty count around him, or is Kaladin simply grieving over recent losses? If the former, do you think this might have any connection to what the Radiants are and whatever happened to them?

I think that his ‘curse’ was simply that he instinctively used his powers to protect himself.  Since he was unaware of what he was doing, he didn’t know how to extend his abilities to also protect others.  I think he is getting stronger, as we’ve seen that he has been able to protect the bridge crew, at least a little, without knowing it.

This section addressed something about Kaladin that always bothered me, but which I wasn’t going to mention.  He had this habit of assuming everything was about him.  A large group of people would die, and it was like he thought their deaths were primarily important because of how they affected him.  Early in the novel, I hoped someone would point out that not everything is about him, but then it seemed cruel to comment on it, given his difficult circumstances.  I am really happy that he came to the realization of how he’d been framing everyone’s deaths in terms of himself, and I like the way he is maturing here.

6.Wit/Hoid is turning out to be more than just the life of the party and a thorn on the sides of the other highprinces. As we've seen, he's not very playful with Dalinar and is quite sober, even ominous, with Kaladin. What did you think of his conversations with Dalinar and with Kaladin? What do you think he's up to? How does he factor in with everything else that's going on at the moment (or what's to come)?

I think someone mentioned he’s part of a larger Sanderson universe?  I didn’t expect Wit to be Hoid, but I don’t really get the significance of it right now.  I’m not sure what he was trying to warn Dalinar of, since Sadeas ended up being on his side.  For Kaladin, I thought that was a very interesting story, and exactly what Kaladin needed to move forward. I have no idea what Wit’s up to, though.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Read-Along: The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin, Part 2

The read-along continues with the second part of N.K. Jemisin's The Kingdom of Gods! This week, the questions were provided by Violin in a Void, and they cover up through chapter 10.  Beware of spoilers below!

1. Do you think Shahar can keep her childhood promise and be a good person and an Arameri?

I suppose that depends on how strict one keeps the definition of a “good person”.  She is not without compassion, but she is shaping up to how her family operates.  For instance, she was going to threaten genocide to get her way, until Sieh shamed her out of it.  She argues she would never actually do it, but using that as a threat is pretty serious.

Also, her betrayal of Sieh was just a disaster.  She must have suspected that bearing his child would kill him, based on their earlier discussions of childhood. When she told Sieh, I’m not sure what she expected to accomplish; maybe it was just a failed attempt to do the right thing. Sieh himself seemed to believe it was a ploy to get him to kill her mother, at least until Shahar nearly sacrificed herself to save her. 

Right now, I guess, she’s mostly just young, inexperienced and doesn’t always seem to think through the consequences of her actions.  She has a lot of negative influences and not many positive, so I’m not sure if she’ll be able to keep that from affecting her.

2. The Arameri family has changed drastically and now we learn they're being systematically killed off. Do you like the changes? Do you feel sorry for the family or are they getting what they deserve?

I didn’t really notice this in the first section, but it makes sense that so much would have changed. They’ve lost the Enefadeh, and they’ve made a lot of enemies over the years.  I would hesitate to say they’re getting what they deserve, though.  They may be getting what their ancestors deserve, but it’s starting to look like the modern-day Arameri are not exactly like their ancestors.  I guess that means I like the changes, and I don’t think the whole family deserves to die based solely on their legacy.

3. Any theories on the antagonist that Sieh meets in his dream?

Right now, my wild theory is that it is Dekarta.  We know that Dekarta surprisingly and luckily had magical talent that was discovered shortly after their disastrous declaration of friendship.  Could it be possible that when Sieh became part mortal, Deka became part god?  Maybe the other Arameri don’t even realize it.  If so, his existence could now be linked to Sieh in some way.

4. Religious belief in the city and the palace has changed a lot, as have humans' relationships with the gods. Thoughts? What might your beliefs be if you lived in Sky/Shadow?

I think the Primortalist’s beliefs make sense.  The gods in this world clearly exist, but they just as clearly don’t always have the best interests of their mortal followers at heart.

5. Sieh's not quite the charming boy god we saw in book 1. How do you feel about his character at the moment?

I think he is probably not all that different in temperament than he was in the first book.  He had been killing Arameri here and there the whole time he was enslaved, so that’s not exactly new.  He also doesn’t think about consequences, acts on impulse, and is still very easy to set off.  Yeine saw a very different side of him, but that doesn’t mean this side didn’t exist, then, too.  I think he’s a really interesting protagonist, but he's not someone I would ever want to meet!

6. Should Sieh work for Ahad?

I think Ahad was right about his potential as a courtesan, so a resounding ‘no’ in that sense.  I think he should work for Ahad in some way, though, and stick around.  It looks like his relationship with Ahad could teach him a lot about his relationships with Shahar and Itempas.  I hope that he and Ahad can come through the wrong Sieh did to him to some kind of understanding, and that will help him figure out how to deal with the other people in his life.

I was a little confused about what happened when Sieh and Ahad merged.  If I understood correctly, Ahad was not Sieh’s biological son. I think that the problem was that Ahad thought of Sieh as a father, since Sieh kind of raised him.  Maybe it was made worse because Sieh had corresponding fatherly feelings?  In any case, it was nice of Ahad to reinforce that they were brothers, to keep Sieh safe. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Review: The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter

The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter
Published : HarperCollins UK/HarperPrism (1996)
Awards Won : British Science Fiction Association,  John W. Campbell Memorial, and Philip K. Dick Awards
Awards Nominated : British Fantasy Society, Arthur C. Clarke, Hugo and Locus SF Awards

The Book :

“After H.G. Wells’s time traveler returns from his first journey, he is determined to head back to rescue his companion Weena from the deadly Morlocks.  However, as he travels forward in time, he finds that he is no longer passing through the same future.  Faced with the proof that history is not as concrete and unchangeable as he would have liked to believe, the time traveler moves into a world that baffles his comprehension.

Instead of fighting Morlocks, a gentle scientist and nursemaid Morlock, Nebogipfel, becomes his companion.  They travel through the eons together, altering both future and past as they struggle to survive and to see what the future might become.  Also, somewhere within the multitude of realities created by their travel through time, a frightened Weena is still being lost to the Morlocks of that original dark future.” ~Allie

This is the first of Baxter’s works that I’ve reviewed for this blog, but I have read a fair amount of his short and long fiction in the past.  In general, I’m a fan of his work, so I was happy to finally get around to reading this highly acclaimed novel. Sadly, I finished this book in December 2013, so it’s not eligible for any of my 2014 challenges.   My next two reviews, of The Shadow of the Torturer and Fairyland, are also not going to be considered eligible.  I finished them in January/February of 2014, but I started reading them both in December 2013.  I’m starting the year a bit behind in challenges, but I hope I’ll be able to catch up soon!

My Thoughts:

The Time Ships is a direct sequel to H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, and I do think it would be necessary to read that first—though I imagine most people with an interest in science fiction will have already read it!  The Time Ships is told from the point of view of the Time Traveler, and Baxter even mimics the voice of the first novel somewhat, with its stiff Victorian prose and plenitude of exclamation points!  There’s also plenty of discussion of the nature of time travel, as well as other scientific or philosophical topics, so The Time Ships also keeps up with Wells’s dryness. At first, I wasn’t sure if this style was going to work in a modern piece of fiction, but, in my opinion, Baxter managed to make it seem charmingly reminiscent of Wells while still telling a fun story about interesting characters.

The novel followed Wells’s style in some ways, but it also provided a more modern view of its time-traveling Victorian explorer hero.  I enjoyed the protagonist more that I usually do with this character type, and I think part of the reason may have been that the story constantly acknowledged his arrogance and small-mindedness.  I felt that the story managed to show him as an admirable person who was also a product of his time and culture, without minimizing the flaws that this implied. I also enjoyed how his adventures forced him to confront his prejudices and preconceptions, forcing him to grow little by little.  The story also benefited greatly from its secondary hero, the Morlock Nebogipfel.  While Nebogipfel’s culture is nothing like our own, his attitude often seemed closer to a modern ideal than the Time Traveler’s. Nebogipfel has his own flaws, but he tries very hard to be understanding and patient with the Time Traveler’s shortcomings.  Together, the two of them made a team that I was happy to follow in their journeys through the ages of the Earth.  

Though the style can sometimes be a bit dry, and there are many side discussions, I think that The Time Ships is a pretty exciting time travel story.  I thought it was a neat idea to update The Time Machine’s time travel to the more current multiple-universe idea, and I appreciated that the novel stuck to its in-universe rules.  The Time Traveler and Nebogipfel range widely in their travels, and experience more than either of them could have expected. We get to see the planet’s deep past, its far future, several different civilizations, and even the effects of the development of time travel on the course of histories. All of this fits together logically and narratively with the personal story of Nebogipfel and the Time Traveler, and the conclusion brings the story full circle.

My Rating: 4/5

I think that The Time Ships is a worthy sequel to H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, and it manages to tell a very different sort of story while still linking to the previous novel.  I appreciated the acknowledgement of the Time Traveler’s flaws, and the addition of the more enlightened Morlock protagonist Nebogipfel. I liked the use of the multiple-universe theory of time travel, and how the story followed the branches of different futures caused by the actions of the protagonists.  There is a lot of scientific and philosophical discussion throughout the story, but I found most of it quite interesting.  In the end, I can see why this one ended up on the radar for so many awards!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Read-Along: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, Part 7

Welcome to another week of Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings. This week's section is chapters 43-50, and the questions were provided by Sue of Coffee, Cookies and Chili Peppers.  Make sure to head over to her blog as well! Be warned that there are spoilers of the book through chapter 50 ahead!

It seems like this is the week that everything happened, and it is so far my favorite section of the book.  We finally get to see that elusive piece of Kaladin's past, and he finally forms a concrete plan out of servitude.  Shallan's story comes to a very dramatic point--magically, romantically and politically.  It was really hard to stop reading this week!

1.What did you think of the replacement for the delightful Lamaril, or rather, what did you make of his wife, who seems to do all his work? She assumes that chasm duty is the worst punishment that she can throw at the bridge crew, so were you surprised that Kaladin saw an opportunity in it so quickly?

He (and she) seem like pretty horrible people, but that seems standard for most high-ranking Alethi (yes, I agree with Kaladin on this one).  I’m not sure yet if they’re incompetent, or if they’re just abnormally cruel.  Choosing not to give more men to Bridge Four makes their bridge likely to fall.  Their new managers could either be plotting to have them all die in battle, or they could just be stupidly spiteful.

I don’t think Lamaril’s replacements are clever enough to even consider the dangerous plan that Kaladin has hatched.  I think it would be easier if the bridge crew could sneak out through the chasms, but somehow I don’t think it will be that simple.  I think Kaladin’s “new recruits” will see combat before they escape.  Wouldn’t it be cool if they ended up as a kind of vigilante ‘Robin Hood’ type gang?

2. Please use this opportunity to list all the imaginative ways that you would like Roshone to suffer for forcing poor little Tien into the army. :(

I guess I can just say that Roshone deserved to have to bury his own son.  I can’t think of anything meaner to say, so I’ll just leave it at that.  I would have been more sympathetic to his situation if: a) his son hadn’t died due a frivolous hunt, where they abandoned several darkeyes to die alone, b) he hadn’t decided to try to ruin Kaladin’s family, including forcing their children into situations where they would likely die, c) he hadn't decided to marry the teenage girl that he was grooming to be his son's wife. 

I’m also not too happy about Amaram in this scene.  He did a lot of wringing his hands and saying, “I’m sorry, but that’s the law.”  I’m pretty sure that if the law had anything in that was mildly annoying to Amaram or the other lighteyes, it would suddenly lose its inviolability.  Also, it appears that Amaram went back on his promise to make Tien a runner, therefore basically ensuring his death.

3. Finally, somebody is asking questions about the inconstancy of the Parshendi artifacts and how Gavilar changed in the months leading up to his death. What do you make of the accounts that Shallan is reading? Also, what do you think about Shen, the Parshman added to the bridge crew?

I found it all very fascinating!  It sounds almost like the Parshendi were a created people, with their more sophisticated objects given to them by their creator.  Perhaps they are the people of Odium?  Alternatively, they could have been a group of Parshmen that were magically influenced by some ancient ruins, causing their differentiation.  Then perhaps they got their stuff from the ancient ruins.

As for Gavilar, my suspicion is that he started having visions around then, which is why his interest perked up.  It’s possible the vision-giver also had a way of increasing his curiosity towards the Parshendi, to guide him towards the truth.

I don’t quite know what to think of Shen yet.  I am curious to see what he will do at the next bridge run, when he hears the battle ‘music’ of the Parshendi.   

4. Shallan has some seriously bizarre visions or hallucinations. Do you have any new ideas about the nature of the symbol-headed figures: are they good or evil? What about the alternative world and the beads: could that really have been the soul or essence of the goblet that she spoke to before it changed into blood?

I’m leaning towards good.  None of them hurt her, despite the fact that they were all around her.  When she was in the hospital, it was almost like they were trying not to freak her out, by staying far away from her (but still watching her).  I get the feeling they don’t quite no what to make of Shallan, either, but that maybe they want to communicate.  I think Shallan soulcast the goblet, and with that knowledge, the term ‘soulcasting’ suddenly makes sense!

5. Does Kaladin’s dream / vision seem similar to those that Dalinar has been having? He is called the ‘Child of Tanavast, Child of Hope’ and there is mention of an entity called Odium, who appears to be rather bad. Do you have any speculation about these two beings, how they fit into the world that we have seen so far and why the name Odium makes Syl hiss and fly off?

It may be similar.  I was assuming it was a vision of modern-day, though, but just far away.  It’s quite annoying that Syl won’t answer his question, since she clearly seems to know this ‘Odium’ fellow.  I guess he’s odious?  Maybe he’s the one that takes over before Desolations, or the one who brings them about.

6. We have learnt some more about the events following Cenn’s chapter way back at the beginning of the book. Were you surprised that Kaladin defeated a Shardbearer almost singlehandedly? This still does not explain why he is a slave, but does it bring us closer to guessing?

Not surprised, no.  I figured that’s what prompted Kaladin’s enslavement, one way or another.  I was surprised, but impressed, that Kaladin didn’t take up the armor and blade himself.  I think that Amaram is going to claim Kaladin can’t give it to his men, and that he has to either claim it himself or give it to Amaram.  That would cause Kaladin to pitch a very justified fit, after which he would end up enslaved.

7. I think I made it quite clear last week that I did not trust Kabsal, so I am now feeling rather smug. However, I did not guess at the poison in the bread: did it surprise you as well? Can you see any way that Shallan can reconcile with Jasnah now that the theft has been revealed?

I didn’t trust him either, but I didn’t suspect he was plotting murder.  I feel quite sad for Shallan, for that and other reasons.  I was pretty disappointed to find that Jasnah was completely oblivious.  It looks like I overestimated her.

I think Jasnah is already being very kind by sending Shallan home and not having her arrested or executed.  She’s been blacklisted in high society, but she’s probably going to be sold into slavery soon, anyway, so I don’t suppose that makes much of a difference.  I wish Jasnah could forgive her and decide to keep her as a ward, but I think that’s extremely unlikely.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Read-Along: The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin, Part 1

Today kicks off the read-along of the last novel of the Inheritance Trilogy, The Kingdom of Gods, by N.K. Jemisin.  Not only is this the last of the trilogy, I believe it is the last novel by Jemisin that I have not yet read.  I hope she comes out with something new soon!  Dab of Darkness is our question-writer this week, so please check out her answers!  This week's questions cover through chapter 4, so I must warn you that there will be spoilers through chapter 4 of The Kingdom of Gods below, and there will likely be indirect spoilers of the previous two novels.

I'm already pretty taken with this book, just from the first few chapters.  The narrator is the godling Sieh, which is a completely different perspective than either Yeine or Oree.  I love his deliberate childishness and capriciousness.

1) Do you think the twins' names Dekarta and Shahar are portentous of who they will grow into? 
I think that it might show more of what their parents hoped they would become.  Shahar seems very different than what I remember from the description of Itempas’s Shahar.  So far, her defining trait is that her bad family has not been able to extinguish her kindness (which is why she’s an unift heir).  
2) Yeine and Itempas. Too early? Or will Yeine be the bridge that puts everyone back together? 

Oh yes, too early.  I think Yeine is a little more willing to forgive, because she has not exactly been Itempas’s victim.  She has Enefa’s soul inside her, but she isn’t Enefa.  Itempas neither murdered nor enslaved her, so it’s easier for her to be moved by his penance. 

I don’t think he deserves to be forgiven yet, though, so I can totally understand Nahadoth and Sieh’s inability to forgive and forget.  As Nahadoth said, his eventual forgiveness may be inevitable, but it will certainly not be immediate.

3) Sieh seems to have some need, or at least an attraction, to be in Sky Palace. Healthy or unhealthy? 

I don’t know if I would call it healthy or unhealthy.  He’s obviously been through a lot of trauma, so part of the attraction might be trying to prove to himself that Sky isn’t dangerous to him anymore.  There are also things in Sky that he might not want to leave behind—the empty spaces where he played, and his orrery, for instance. 

Lastly, the way he approached playing with Shahar and Dekarta, I wondered if this was a thing he did often.  If he’s been making a habit of playing with Arameri children, and then killing them when they grow up and ‘go bad’, it almost seems like he’s trying to prove something.  Maybe he wants proof as to whether the Arameri are beyond saving or not.

4) In just this beginning section, we see more than just physical changes in Sieh. What do you think is happening to him, and more importantly why?
His turning into an adolescent is a little scary, considering he’s the godling of childhood. I’m guessing you’re also talking about the resonance with the Maelstrom.  My speculation is that it is possible for a godling to become a god, it just has never happened before.  I think this is what’s happening to Sieh, based on the fact that he is the strongest godling, and on his frustration at not being enough to comfort the Three. I think it is happening now because Itempas (who resists change) is out of power.  The influence of a powerful Nahadoth with no Itempas as a balance might be making this kind of transformation possible.  If this is some kind of transformation, I hope Sieh survives it!  
5) Shahar is quite angry with her mother and has been for some time. Justified? How do you think their relationship will shape this story? 
Yes, I think it is justified.  I think her mother is a ‘true Arameri’ and that she doesn’t really care about her daughter at all.  I mean, look at the way she gave her daughter to Sieh as a toy!  I think that the core of their relationship will be her mother trying to make Shahar become her, and Shahar trying to remain herself.
6) Why do you think Shahar's letters to her brother return unopened?

Right now, my best guess is one of two things.  Maybe her brother blames her for him being used as the scapegoat after that day with Sieh.  He might feel that she betrayed him by not protecting him.  Alternatively, maybe Shahar’s mother insisted he never contact her again, as a part of her plan of isolating and then hardening up her daughter.

Other Things:

--How cute was En, the petulant sun!

--I had always thought of Nahadoth as male, but it makes sense that he would have no fixed gender.  It was interesting to see him turn female to suit Sieh’s needs for a motherly comforter.

--Sieh plays some dangerous games!  I have to say I've never read a scene about children playing that was quite so tense.