Sunday, April 13, 2014

Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan: Week 2

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 7.

1) What did everyone make of the Shaido's treatment of Faile, Maighdin, Alliandre, Bain, Chiad, Lacile, and Arrela during the march through the snow? Harsh? As expected?

It was pretty much what I expected, considering what we saw of Egwene’s training and the way they treat the ‘loyal’ Aes Sedai. Of course, the added aspect of Sevanna’s craziness could have made a huge difference, but even she cannot help acting like an Aiel for most of the time. However, it makes me wonder how many prisoners die before they can even make it into their white robes.

I was very disappointed with Alliandre, but more so with Morghase: they showed a remarkable amount of stupidity in their display of queenly arrogance and richly deserved the beatings that they received. Considering that Morghase is trying to hide her identity, she is doing a very bad job of it without Lini to keep an eye on her. I am a little concerned about how the group has been split up, with Faile, Alliandre and Morghase becoming Sevanna’s personal slaves. I know that Bain and Chiad will not make any effort to escape, but I would still feel happier knowing that they were close at hand.

2) Faile and crew meet the Shaido Wise Ones (Therava & Someryn) and also the Aes Sedai Galina. What do you think of the Wise Ones speaking so openly of Sevanna's orders? Will Galina be of any help to Faile?

Oh no, there is unhappiness with Sevanna’s leadership! Hang on a minute while I take out the world’s smallest violin to play a sad song for her! :D

I guess my only confusion is over the fact that Sevanna is still alive and not buried in a snowdrift after conveniently ‘falling off her horse’. I am not sure why Therava is waiting, but I suppose it has something to do with the way Aiel society works and the fact that Wise Ones are not really supposed to assassinate their Clan Leaders. As for Galina, I think I can safely say that she has only one person that she is trying to help: herself. She is desperately trying to find a way of breaking the oath that she was forced to swear and then take her revenge on Sevanna and the others. She may help Faile inadvertently, but not intentionally.

3) It seems that Berelain is taking advantage of Faile's absence and Perrin's fatigue. Where do you think her flirtations will take her? Given the chance, what would you do with her at this point?

I would very much like her flirtations to bring her into a rapid meeting with my open palm, because she really needs a good slap across the face. Perrin’s wife has been kidnapped and she is still talking as if they will have some sort of liaison: what a total slut!

I have no idea what Perrin can do to stop her behavior, but I am disgusted by her attempts to make everyone in the camp think that they are sleeping together. When Faile was present it was possible to argue that Berelain was simply enjoying how much she could irritate Faile, but that is no longer the case and her behavior is just sad and despicable.

4) They are on the hunt! Talanvor left on his own to pursue the Shaido hours ahead of Perrin and crew. Perrin had to chastise the Cha Faile for their spying activities. The Asha'men want to lead the charge. Add to that, Masema offering to assist. Will Perrin's anger explode? How can this hunt possibly be derailed?

I think that Perrin is doing rather well, given the situation and all the bad behavior that he has to deal with. I think that he worked out a lot of his despair in Tel’aran’rhiod, so he should be a little more sensible after his encounter with Hopper.

Including Masema in the hunt is a terrible idea, but perhaps better than letting him travel on his own. I am quite sure that we will see treachery from him and his men at some point, but at least they are badly equipped and untrained. In many ways I am more concerned about the Seanchan and the possibility that there is yet another army in the area. All those angry people in a small space can only lead to trouble.

5) The men escorting Naean and Elenia were ambushed and killed outside Caemlyn. What do you think this portends? Will Elayne be able to unite the houses behind her or is this move the first of several by houses against her? Should the ladies be more concerned about defenses instead of clothing?

The political situation here makes my head hurt: I would definitely be no good at Daes Dae’mar. Fortunately, Elayne has a fair idea of what this means so I do not need to worry about her being caught off guard. I assume it means that she has lost some potential support, but they were hardly people she could rely on even if they did swear allegiance to her, so it might be no great loss.

Whilst I doubt that Elayne will suddenly be able to persuade all the Houses to support her claim, I am equally sure that she can mobilize a good enough defense to neutralize their opposition. She seems to have a good grasp on what is needed to protect the city and Birgitte will certainly do what is needed to recruit the necessary forces. We know that there are Darkfriends working against her in the city, and who knows what all those Aes Sedai are up to, but I have faith in Elayne and Birgitte.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson Read Along: Week 2

You can head over to Over The Effing Rainbow to see what everyone else thinks.

This week we read up to the end of Chapter 15.

1. We learn a bit more about Syl and her connection to Kaladin, and that there are more spren out there, " reclaim what was lost". Yet Syl was forbidden to come, and chose to do it anyway. What do you make of this new information?

The whole concept of the spren and how they change a person into a Radiant is truly fascinating and I want to know much more about how the process works. I am eager to learn why the spren had made the decision to remain withdrawn from potential Radiants, but this detail may explain the conflict between the Cryptics and the Honorspren. It seems that Pattern was sent to Shallan by the Cryptics, whilst Syl went against the wishes of the other Honorspren to seek out Kal. This difference in attitude must be based upon some very interesting history and I look forward to discovering why the Honorspren have essentially given up on mankind.

As we have seen from Jasnah and the cobbler in one of the Interludes, there are other spren trying to connect with other Radiants. This suggests that the Cryptics might be in a majority, but we obviously do not know how many other spren groups are refusing to return. The idea of their society being divided along philosophical lines is pure genius.

2. Chapter 10 is brief, but creepy! It looks like Shallan was responsible for her mother's death, among others, when she was young. What are your thoughts on this scene?

That would certainly provide the basis for the huge lies that Pattern refers to: she has had to lie to herself about her own nature in order to survive. However, I was not at all sure that she had killed her mother, but perhaps she saw it happen and hid herself somehow, possibly using her Illusion skill. I think that it is much more likely that she witnessed her father killing them: Shallan as murderer in this scenario seems too obvious to me, and Mr Sanderson usually does not chose an obvious route.

3. Highlord Amaram is back, and still has Kaladin's Shardblade. He also seems to be close friends with Dalinar. Do you think Kaladin will tell Dalinar what really happened between him and Amaram? If so, what do you think might happen?

Whilst I hope that Amaram comes a to rather unpleasant end because of his treatment of Kaladin, I am not sure that we will see this happen. Something like that seems overly straightforward, and, therefore, not likely to appeal to Mr Sanderson’s devious and twisted imagination. There is also far more drama to be extracted from forcing Kal to work with this man and deal with the inner conflict caused by his dilemma of whether or not to tell Dalinar. Strangely, I am pretty sure that Kal will try not to expose Amaram’s lie, but I am equally sure that Dalinar would believe him if the truth were forced out.

If Amaram’s deception is revealed, then the consequences will depend very largely upon who learns about it. If it becomes common knowledge then there will be all sorts of political ramifications possible between the lighteyes and darkeyes. However, if only Dalinar knows, it could be simply a matter of him no longer trusting a man that has been revealed as a liar and a murderer. I suspect that Amaram may try to remove Kal once he discovers that he is in the camp, but that will not prove to be an easy task.

4. We get an Interlude, and more, with one of the Parshendi - the Shardbearer who fought Dalinar, a woman named Eshonai. We finally get a real look at the Parshendi and learn a bit about what they're doing on the Shattered Plains. What are your thoughts on this?

Just when we thought that the Parshendi could not possibly get more interesting, we find out all about their different rhythms of singing to convey emotion and their different physical forms. We knew that music was important to them, but this has taken the concept to a whole new level of sophistication and societal importance. There ability to change forms by using spren sounds amazing, although it does make me wonder what happens to the spren in the process. I love the way that it is a subtly different version of the spren bonding that we see in the Radiants.

I was most interested to read about their break from the gods. It seems that Jasnah may have been right in concluding that the Parshendi were the Voidbringers, although it seems as if they were unwilling warriors fighting because of their gods. This certainly suggests that they worship Odium in one of his forms, but I love the way that we now have an ‘enemy’ that is essentially good and fighting for a reason other than simple malice. I was a little confused by their logic about why they had to kill Gavilar, but I had already concluded that they did not really want the war and that it served another purpose entirely.

We also learnt that the Parshmen are their ‘Dull’ form, which seems to be incomplete in some way. However, there are definitely spies amongst the other nations, who I can only assume look very similar to the dullform . . . which makes me wonder if we might have an answer to Shen’s identity.

5. We also learn that Eshonai wants to speak with Dalinar and sue for peace. Do you think that's likely to happen?

Whilst I think that Dalinar would be open to a discussion with her, I seriously doubt that a peace could be negotiated. Unfortunately, I think the Parshendi were very naive when they began this war, because there is little hope of a peaceful resolution. Also, it seems as if the Parshendi numbers are shrinking rapidly, so this might be the end for them in any case.

6. Adolin's first duel doesn't exactly go as anyone expected... What did you make of how it was won? Do you think it will force people to take Adolin, and by extension Dalinar, more seriously?

I thought that it embodied all the Alethi principles of ‘might is right’. He beat his opponent in the most brutally efficient way possible, with no regard for dignity or fairness. This seems eminently Alethi to me.

I think it will be a huge eye-opener for many. They have come to rely upon Dalinar’s sense of honor and fair play to protect them from his superior military mind and abilities. Adolin has shown that he has a free hand to be as brutal as needed and that he holds the other shardbearers in complete comtempt. If that does not make them stop and think, then they are truly stupid.

Other Notes

I was so excited when it became clear that Shallan had been saved by the giant sea creature. I think I mentioned that possibility in my comments somewhere last week, although I was being facetious at the time. It was a cool moment, and made me want to know even more about this amazing world.

I was absurdly happy that Jasnah’s notes had survived the shipwreck, although I shared Shallan’s grief about the loss of all her sketches and notes.

There are bands of humans seeking out possible Radiants and killing them. This seems like a Very Bad Thing to me, especially when they are kindly old cobblers who give street children free shoes! :(

Living islands!!!! Mr Sanderson, yet again you had me giggling in delight at your wonderful imagination.

Rysn is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. I loved her inner monologue on the island when she was struggling with the concept of the female ‘king’! :D

The Parshendi Interludes gave us a little more information about spren. It seems that some of them may be derived from Odium and are, therefore, evil. Spren can also be imprisoned in gems, which seems cruel, but we do not know if it is a temporary process or not.

Lopen stuck to a wall: priceless! :D

Adolin is actually intrigued by Shallan and is keen to meet her. This might prove very interesting!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Winter’s Heart 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 Chapter 2.

1. With Talene's capture, do you think we have seen the beginning of the end of the Black Ajah? Do you think the rebel moles will do more good hunting darkfriends than they did spreading dissent?

I suspect that the Black Ajah will hang around for quite some time causing mischief and mayhem. If all the sisters were in the White Tower, and therefore available for testing, it might be a very different matter, but we know that there are plenty of Black Sisters out and about on their evil missions. However, this is a good start and might disrupt the organization enough to weaken it quite significantly, which has to be an advantage.

They seem to have had some effect, but I imagine that Elaida’s obvious incompetence would be enough to make many doubt her right to rule, so there overall success may have been limited. Any Black Sisters that they uncover will be a huge help, but their actions as moles have not been mentioned so far, which makes me doubt their effectiveness.

2. Elayne expects to have to battle for the throne. Do you think so too? Are we overdue for Gawyn to come back? Where is he anyway?

I would not be surprised if her claim was opposed. It seems like several of the Houses are trying to maneuver into position to make a play for the throne, so brute force may be required eventually. I would hope that she can avoid it simply because we all know that there are more important things to worry about. However, we have not seen many nobles who are interested in the common good, so I will not be surprise if they continue to pursue their own interests.

I suppose we should really have noticed Gawyn’s absence in the last book or two, but the poor guy never seems all that important. It is not as if I had forgotten about him, just that the others seem to be doing more important things. I think the last time he was mentioned he was camped outside Tar Valon because he was not allowed into the city. That means that he is conveniently placed for some serious sexytimes with Egwene . . .

3. Elayne and Aviendha are ‘born again’ as sisters! What did you think of this birth scene? Do you expect Min to have to go through the same thing?

Mainly I felt sorry for Amys! :D

I thought that it was a rather funny but profound scene, showing the love-hate relationship that you usually find between sisters. It also showed the absurdity of their opinions of each other, which I can certainly see in my own relationship with my sister. I am not sure if Min will need to go through the same ritual, but I hope that Amys lets somebody else deliver the ‘triplets’ this time.

4. Taim added a few ‘deserters’ of his own. Can we now finally add him to the evil list? Do you think Logain might be able to do something good? Maybe Elayne will be able to help, now that she has visitor's access?

Taim has been on my evil list ever since he showed up, so I am quite happy to agree to him being there. The very fact that he has his own faction, and meets them in private, is a huge black mark against him. If he is not turning them to the Dark Side, then I will be very surprised: somehow I doubt that they are holding book group meetings.

We know that Min foresaw Logain’s greatness, so I hope that involves poking something very long and pointy into Taim’s eye. However, a split in the Black Tower is hardly what we need right now, not with all the other rebellion and upheaval going on in the world. Somehow, I doubt that Elayne will have much effect on the politics in the Black Tower, no matter how much she lifts her chin!

5. Rand has decided to leave palace life and go hunt bad guys. Are you excited? How do you even hunt someone who can travel anyway? And what do you think his idea is to cleanse Saidin?

I did not realize that he was actually going to hunt anyone: I thought that he was simply laying false trails so that he could nip off and spend some ‘quality’ time with his three ladies . . . I guess the only way to hunt someone who can Travel is to draw them into a trap or ambush. I have no idea how successful Rand will be in accomplishing this, but it will certainly lead to lots of spare time to spend with ‘relaxing’ in bed . . . To be honest, I really wish that he would just take a holiday in Caemlyn and not get out of bed for a week: I am sure that he would be a lot more relaxed afterwards! Nobody would need to know where he was, although Elayne and Aviendha might show evidence that we could all snigger about! :D

His cleansing plan seems to revolve around the two ter’angreal that he collected from Rhuidean. I assume that these are the male and female statues each holding an orb. I would guess that they are linked somehow to the massive statues that we know exist, although they are now mostly buried. Rand came across the male one when he was with Lanfear, and I believe we heard stories of the female one out on the islands to the west of the mainland. We also know that Lanfear said that a man and a woman both using these giant statues would be very powerful, so that seems to fit. Now all he needs is a very powerful female channeler who loves to fix broken things . . . Nynaeve springs to mind immediately. Removing the taint would be a massive achievement and prevent the Asha’man going mad, which seems like a very good idea to me.

6. Perrin's problems are just piling up: Masema will join him, and now he has to chase down Shaido while keeping his own Aiel safe from his other soldiers. Will this unlikely alliance ever hold together, or do you expect some spectacular blow-up sometime?

I think Perrin should be able to keep Berelain, his Aiel and the Two Rivers men at peace with Alliandre’s forces without too much trouble, but adding Masema and his lunatics to the mix seems like a recipe for disaster. I was actually rather impressed by the way that Berelain and the Two Rivers men immediately moved to protect the Aiel in their group: it was good to see that Perrin had reliable people watching his back. I could even understand the actions of Alliandre’s general, who does not have the long experience of working with the Aiel and does not realize that the Shaido are different.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson Read Along: Week 1

You can head over to Musings on Fantasia to see what everyone else thinks.

This week we read up to the end of Chapter 8.

1. We basically get the same prologue from the first book except from Jasnah's POV. She tells Gangnah that her father's assassin walked on the wall, and it's ignored. We also see the Parshman leaders immediately take credit for the assassin. What did you make of it all? Insights? Impressions? How will this affect the story going forward?

I have to admit that my first reaction to the very first sentence, where Jasnah thinks about hiring an assassin, was to think that she had hired Szeth! I only thought this for a moment or so, but it is a testament to Mr Sanderson’s unpredictability that I could even contemplate such a thing. Fortunately, I came to my senses pretty soon, but the world was upside-down for a short time! :D

Anyway, back to the question. I really hope that Jasnah told someone else about Szeth walking on the wall because it would be a massive clue to Shallan and Dalinar that he would be a potential Radiant. The Parshendi leaders were very strange in their actions: it felt more as if they were claiming responsibility for something that they had not actually done. This makes me even more convinced that Gavilar’s death was not something that they wanted, but rather a ploy by some third party to trigger the war and its ensuing chaos.

It would have been nice to see someone, anyone, really question the Parshendi about the assassination and their reasons for it. The Alethi seem to be rather emotional and unthinking at times of crisis – killing the leaders was certainly good for revenge, but nothing else.

2. Andolin and Shallan are unofficially engaged. How do you see this relationship panning out?

I have to admit that I did not see this coming, but it put a smile on my face. Shallan’s reaction was unexpectedly girlish as she realized that SHE was possibly going to marry a real, live Prince. I thought that this was rather cute and showed how straightforward and honest she is at heart. I cannot imagine how she will fit in with the Alethi lighteyes on the Shattered Plains, but it should be entertaining to see how they react to her.

I have no idea how Andolin will respond to her presence, or feel about the engagement. He seems to be a bit of a ladies’ man, but has been singularly unsuccessful at relationships so far. Perhaps Shallan is so different from the other women that he has courted that he will find her refreshingly unique.

3. Kaladin wants to keep his Radiant powers a secret for as long as possible. How successful do you think he'll be? How long will he remain hidden? Do you think he'll succeed in training the thousand?

His success in remaining hidden will largely depend on when Szeth arrives to kill Dalinar. Once Szeth makes his attack, Kal will be forced to use all his abilities to stop the assassin: and it will be very obvious to any who see their fight that they are both Radiants of some type. If the number of observers is low, and they are all loyal to Dalinar, the secret may continue to be kept for quite some time, but it cannot remain hidden indefinitely.

When he first tried to rouse the Bridge Four crew it seemed like an impossible task, so I am fairly confident that he can succeed with most of the men in his command. There may be a few that do not respond, because they are too broken, but I think that the majority will respond in a similar way to his first crew.

4. Jasnah thinks Shallan's spren is a Cryptic, as opposed to an Honorspren which is what Syl is. What do you think is the significance of this? What does it mean for Shallan? For Kaladin?

As Pattern is very different in appearance to Syl, it makes sense that it is not an honorspren. It would also make sense that each Order of Radiants was associated with a different spren. If, as Jasnah theorizes, the spren are manifestations of thoughts or ideals, then each Order would represent a different ideal and be linked to a different spren. For a Radiant involved in fighting, an honorspren makes sense, but Shallan’s abilities are not really war-like, so an honorspren would not be appropriate for her.

However, Pattern does seem to share Syl’s lack of memory and increasing awareness of the world, so they obviously share some traits. I was intrigued by Jasnah’s assertion that the Cryptics and Honorspren are involved in some sort of conflict. I wonder if this means that Syl will react very negatively to Shallan’s arrival.

5. How will Kaladin accomplish all of the tasks Dalinar has laid on him? Do you think Dalinar's plan with the duels will work to stave off civil war and help unite the high princes?

I am sure that Kal will find a way by trusting his men to take some of the burden off his shoulders.

At the moment I suspect that assassinating the Highprinces would be the only way to persuade them to cooperate. I am not sure if the dueling will work and they seem to be remarkably unable to trust one another, if Aladar is anything to go by. It looks pretty bleak, but perhaps Dalinar will discover a way to bring them all together.

6. After the incident with the ship, do you think Jasnah is truly dead? Predictions?

I sincerely hope not, but I have no idea how she could be alive. We know that Shallan was able to create an illusion of herself, but Jasnah does not share that particular ability. Perhaps she got herself into Shadesmar and then can repair her body before returning to it. At this point, anything that I try to imagine is probably wildly off target.

7. What are your first thoughts/impressions of Pattern? How do you see his and Shallan's relationship developing?

I think Pattern is really rather adorable, in a mind-bending kind of way. I like the way that he makes Shallan struggle to describe concepts that it finds alien. I do think that the name ‘Pattern’ is a bit rubbish though . . .

I assume that they will develop a similar relationship to that of Kal and Syl, with Pattern guiding Shallan’s development as she discovers her true potential.

Other Notes

I was rather intrigued by Liss and the possibility that she might have a Shardblade of her own (she removes her victims’ eyes because they are burnt out). It seems rather ironic that she used to own Szeth but did not realize that he was an amazing assassin, otherwise she would never have sold him.

I am curious about Shen and his increasingly ‘normal’ persona. If it is associated with his growing loyalty to Kal then it could be a good thing. However, it could be a sign that the Parshmen are becoming more sentient, which could mean that they are more likely to revolt as Jasnah predicts.

I found the personality of the ship rather touching in its brief conversation with Shallan. It is strange to think of it having feelings, but that is what makes me read Mr Sanderson: he always takes me in directions that I could never expect.

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