So this book was a complete surprise to me. I had no idea it existed until it started popping up on the GR feed (thanks GR feed!). I also wasn't sureSo this book was a complete surprise to me. I had no idea it existed until it started popping up on the GR feed (thanks GR feed!). I also wasn't sure what to expect form this book and from the sound of it neither was Sanderson. He sort of wrote this out over the course of many years and wasn't sure how it would work out once he strung together all the scenes.
First off, if you have not read any of the Mistborn books, avoid this book like the plague. It might as well be called Mistborn: Spoilers for people who haven't read the first three books yet. Though, as Sanderson cautions, you may want to hold off until you finish Bands of Mourning.
This novella takes place concurrent with the three original Mistborn books and supplements the reader's understanding of what was going on behind the scenes. We get some great exchanges with both Preservation and Ruin.
"We need a plan," [Protagonist] said. "A plan?" God asked. "To get me out of this. I might need your help." "There is no way out of this." "That's a terrible attitude. We'll never get anything done if you talk like that."
We see the extent and subtly of what Ruin planned as well as the relationship between Ruin and Preservation not to mention a boatload of other Cosmere connections and machinations. while not essential for understanding the original trilogy, this book does a wonderful job fleshing out the behind the scenes and bigger picture situation.
Probably the best part of the book, however, is seeing the protagonist deal with his new situation bereft of his typical tools and resources. He shows great cunning in maximizing the abilities he finds himself with and gives the reader a greater appreciation for the full range of talents, talents that were not in the forefront previously.
All in all this is a great supplemental read for someone who just finished The Bands of Mourning and needs another Mistborn fix. While I am sure the seeds this novella planted will bear fruit in subsequent books, it is a nice taste for what the greater Cosmere plot will bring to the books....more
After the pure, distilled joy NPCs brought me, I was eager to dive into the next book in the series. While Split the Party (which is such a bad idea tAfter the pure, distilled joy NPCs brought me, I was eager to dive into the next book in the series. While Split the Party (which is such a bad idea there is even a book about aptly titled Don't Split the Party) was a great, action packed read, it lacked some of the charm the first book's premise brought to the table.
In this installment our once minions turned reluctant adventurers have more or less fully embraced the mantle of adventurers and all the baggage that entails:
Eric realized how crazy that last part made him sound, only to conclude seconds later that it would have only seemed crazy if they weren't currently in need of exactly such information. Paranoia was only a hindrance where it didn't pay off.
So our brave heroes are on the run from a power-mad king who wants to hunt them down for a magic item they had recovered in the previous book. Of course, being adventurers now in a world whose rules are bent to provide adventurers quests and challenges, they naturally stumble into those two things. Circumstances force them to, you guessed it, split the party to achieve their goals (which mostly involve staying alive).
As with NPCs, Hayes does an excellent job introducing both the reader, who may be unfamiliar with the cliches and tropes of RPGs, and the heroes to the life adventuring in a very seamless way. For most of their lives the heroes have lived in a town where a few gold coins was considered a lot of money. In adventuring a few gold is considered pocket change. When confronted by this harsh reality by the traveling merchant it becomes clear just how they are expected to build their wealth to be effective adventurers:
"Ah, just starting out then. I've seen plenty in that position on my travels as well. Nothing to worry about; once you slay your first dragon or mad wizard, there's bound to be a bounty of gold for you to scoop up. Not sure why they always have huge stacks of uninvested income lying around, but they do."
When the rules of a table top RPG are the physical laws of a universe very strange things happen.
Even with all the hacking and slashing Hayes still finds space to further develop and grow his characters. We see Gabrielle worry over her value to the team, especially after her pilfered ax breaks and she feels like the others are far surpassing her abilities. We see Grumph's iron determination to protect his friends by risking life and limb to becomes a member of the Mage's Guild:
After coming this far, there was no way Grumph would allow himself to be halted by mere drizzle and a chance of painful death. It took far greater dangers than that to dissuade a half-Orc with his mind made up."
We see Thistle continue to grow into his role as a Paladin and further his relationship with Grundle, the God of Minions whom he serves. Even poor, formerly mind controlled Timuscor begins to figure out what he really wants and how to achieve it. All said, as fun as the winks to RPGs were, the heart and soul of this series are the great characters and their relationships with each other. Even a person in complete ignorance of RPGs can appreciate the craft and care put into the characters and enjoy this for the adventure book that it is.
But is isn't all hacking and slashing and serious character development. Hayes expertly sprinkles in humor and real world wisdom as well:
"...They [undead] are by far the most dangerous enemy one can end up facing, and if you are lucky, you only end up being killed by them."
"Wow, that is really depressing. I was actually asking if you knew any ways to turn them back or drive them away. Glad to know we're in a 'hoping for death' situation, though."
In comparison to the multitude of plans that had been hatched throughout the history of their world, it was not a great one. In comparison to the ones created just in that year, it still fell pretty far short. In comparison to the drunken ravings of men soaked through with mead about how they would slay a dragon and become the new king, however, it was downright coherent.
Lying on the table as the priest removed his hands from the half-orc's chest and motioned for his sack of gold, Grumph realized that just because someone could call upon the power of the kind gods did not mean they themselves weren't something of an asshole.
Finally, on top of the great action, excellent character development, and well balanced humor, Hayes also advanced the greater plot of the series (how our world interacts with this fantastical one) and laid seeds for future developments (Gabrielle's new ax, MR. PEPPERS THE GREATEST PIG TO EVER BE SUMMONED, the machinations of gods, etc.). I wait in eager anticipation of the third installment, it cannot get here soon enough!...more
It is always an interesting exercise writing a review for the last book in a series. After getting to know these characters and the world over courseIt is always an interesting exercise writing a review for the last book in a series. After getting to know these characters and the world over course of severalbooks it is difficult to sum of my feelings both on this book and the series as a whole. For the most part we have seen the main characters grow, develop, overcome obstacles, and evolve as the world crumbles around them. The secondary characters don't get a short shrift either and develop just as much (if not more in some cases) as the Emperor's children. The story itself is sweeping and grand, deftly mixing a fascinating mythology with political imperial intrigue. Thanks to the nature of the antagonists there was a nice layer of paranoia that suffused the books. All in all these were a really enjoyable, if slightly flawed, series of books. So let's take a look (with some spoilers for the series) at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:
The Csestriim: I think Stavely hit on a really great antagonist concept here. The Csestriim are actually the progenitors of humanity but due to the meddling of the gods found their children to be broken. Of course broken to the Csestriim means have emotion, passions, love and all that icky humanity stuff. Their goal is to kill off the gods and remove their influence on humanity, thereby fixing humans and restoring the Csestriim. On top of that they are extremely patient, long lived, and have minds capable of intricate and subtle plans. Oh, and they also look like humans and can fake the whole "humanity" thing. These are a really fascinating and dangerous adversaries that keep our heroes running at every turn.
"She knows who you are. So do I." "And who am I?" "Csestriim. The general who led the war to destroy humanity. The architect of the genocide against your own children. The murderer of gods." "Oh, that."
They also have some pretty good deadpan humor.
The Kettral: Just the giant birds and special forces elements alone would make these characters and concept cool. But the characters themselves are great and have amazing chemistry. We see them grow from a group of nearly trained Kettral to having to liberate their home islands from a disaster that befalls it. They became some of my favorite characters to read, especially Gwenna and Talal:
Gwenna met his eyes. "Ready?" "We've got a door and a barn ladder to assault a fortified position. How can I not be ready?"
It seemed to Gwenna that if the goddess wanted to fill the world with life, she might've gone a little heavier on the feathers and lips, a little lighter on the poison and claws...the world was the way it was; some parts of it you could relax and enjoy; some parts you just had to kill.
If she survived, she'd be able to write her own text, a rival to Hendran's. She'd call it 'Error and Improvisation: How to Learn From a Total Goat Fuck'.
They were a ton of fun to read and showed a remarkable amount of character development over the course of the series.
The Mythology: Lots of high fantasy series have the gods meddling in the affairs of mortals, it is pretty standard stuff going as far back as ancient Greek theater. But Stavely gives it a nice twist, linking the nature of humanity to their continued presence on the planet. It is this vulnerability that the Csestriim hope to exploit to return their race to existence. If the gods were to die humanity would literally. It gives the story a whole lot more exigence.
The Sons of the Emperor: I really liked Kaden and Valyn in this series. I thought they had interesting stories and they changed a lot from when we first met them. They face some pretty steep challenges and adapt their best to overcome them (with varying degrees of success). I thought they had some great chemistry with their respective secondary characters and they were a pleasure to read.
The secondary characters: Somewhat touched upon above with the Kettral, but generally speaking the secondary characters in this series were fantastic. My favorite was probably Pyrre, the assassin and death worshiper who keeps running into Kaden:
"I'm not sure what it says about the two of you that every time I see you, you're being chased by men with swords. Some people might take that amiss, I suppose, but I'm inclined to think it means you're special."
Every page she was on was a joy to read.
The secondary characters held the story together just as much as the main characters, some (like Gwenna) becoming quasi-main characters themselves. They were nearly one and all awesome and nuanced characters with their own agenda and desires that they were following. Plus they were the source of most of the laughs in this book:
"I try to give the clearest instructions to my staff, and still they disturb me when I have asked not to be disturbed. If this is not a pair of naked young men - preferably beautiful but dumb, between the ages of twenty and twenty five - I will be quite displeased."
Should there be additional books in this world I hope Stavely concentrates on some of the secondary characters (like Gwenna and Pyrre), the Imperial family has had their time in the sun and should make way for other, more interesting characters.
Adare, the daughter of the Emperor: Might has well address the elephant in the room first. Ever since the first book I have just not liked Adare as a character. Something about her just rubbed me the wrong way and continued to throughout the entire series. It isn't as though Stavely can't write compelling female characters. He has a whole bundle of secondary female characters that were absolutely awesome. I think with this book I finally figured out why I didn't like her.
Unlike her brothers, the other two main characters (in my mind), Adare struck as very inflexible in terms of her goal. Where Kaden and Valyn adapted and adjusted their goals as they learned new information Adare was, through and through, a staunch imperialist. So right off the bat she irks my anti-monarchical sensibilities (it really is the worst form of government). But just because a character holds contrary political beliefs doesn't mean I don't like them. Where Adare fails for me is that she doggedly holds to this vision of the empire in spite of the world falling down around here. Where Kaden and Valyn adjust their goals and mission as events overtake them the first thing on Adare's mind is preserving the empire as all costs. She isn't willing to compromise on issues that might help the people if it risks the idea of the empire. She is static across the books even as circumstances are very, very dynamic. She had little to no character arc and rarely took initiative to change things, mostly reacting to external forces upon her. If not for the entertaining secondary characters that surrounded her I would have dreaded reading her chapters.
The Plot: By the time we get to the final book just about all the pieces are in place for the climatic show down. Our heroes are on the run and running out of time! The Csestriim's many contingency plans are kicking in and thwarting our heroes! And a barbarian pain worshiping horde of steppe people is about to descend upon the Empire! While all elements of an interesting story it played out a bit too straight forward. While the book had a few minor twists, there was little surprise in how things unfolded. I was sort of surprised by that given how strong the first two books' stories were. But nothing about the middle or end of the book shocked or surprised me. Events played out in a very logical way with no surprising revelations.
The World: One thing I like about epics is the incredible world the author is able to dream up. Strange cultures, unique customs, new ways of thinking, cool clothes all make reading epic fantasy enjoyable. But, for all the running around the characters do, we don't actually get to see much of the world or its cultures in these books. By the third book I don't think we are introduced to any new significant cultures or areas. It gives what should be an expansive world a very claustrophobic feel. I never got the sense of just how big the Empire was or how the common person felt about it. This was very much an elitist story told by people at the very pinnacle of the government, economy, and military and lacked a person on the street perspective to fleash out the world the heroes were fighting for.
OK, so there really wasn't anything ugly about this book I just wanted to use a gif from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. What can I say, I am only human.
At the end of the day I am still very happy I invested time into this series. There really were some great aspects that kept me interested in spite of its warts. Stavely had some really nifty ideas and some wonderful characters even if the end of the story was a bit weak.
As it is with most anthologies, there were some strong and some weak stories in this collection of whimsical sci-fi/fantasy stories. One thing I did aAs it is with most anthologies, there were some strong and some weak stories in this collection of whimsical sci-fi/fantasy stories. One thing I did appreciate is that they were grouped together into themes which will make this review much easier.
Myth Remembered: Two interesting takes on some monster myths. Where The Beautiful Biting Machine read as a pretty straight tale where you knew a twist would be coming (and I thought it was a nicely delivered, non-contrived twist), Moon Wolf was a more reflective piece about the nature of the human relationship with the proverbial "dark forest". Both enjoyable reads that demonstrated a nice range of writing skill.
Burning Bright: Three stories revolving around fire the idea of fire or burning. These, in my opinion, were by far the weakest in the anthology. Two, oddly, appeared to revolve around the transformative power of fire (magical fire in one case, filtered sunlight in the other) to elevate the plain, dour appearance of women into some sort of blond sex bomb. Very weird. The other story, The Thaw, I enjoyed more for its sober take on the future than the story itself. All in all these stories did not offer up many interesting ideas to ponder of characters to care about.
Falling Angels: The anthology gets back on track with these three stories about fall angels. I really liked all three, but for different reasons. With a Flaming Sword does a fun job re-writing some of the book of Genesis from a sci-fi perspective, Black Fire is told in a neat way with a pretty funny (in my sick and twisted mind) payoff, and Written in Water is an excellent examination of a survivor of a pandemic's state of mind an dhow she responds to an unexpected guest. Probably my favorite section of the book.
Death's Door: Another strong section, these three stories deal with death in different ways. Tonight I can sleep Quietly provides an interesting idea to chew over. If you existed in a universe where human's were reborn with memories of your past life, would you try to track down the love of your past life even if it had been a century since you were last together? Stalking the Leopard is a fun re-imagining of a story about the impossibility of escaping death. Dead Yellow was a bit sparse, more like a writing exercise than a story, but it was cute in its own way, it didn't overstay its welcome.
Exiles: In terms of writing, these were probably the strongest of the collection. These stories are much longer developed than the previous ones. They are also written in a more traditional manner. They all deal with people who, for one reason or another, have become separated from the rest of humanity and the reflections there of. A very strong finish to this anthology.
All in all a pretty good and diverse slate of stories. I think their greatest strength is not so much in the world building but in offering up an interesting idea for the reader to chew over and reflect upon. Apart from the oddly out of place Fire stories this book was quite engaging and interesting....more
I have often commented that the Malazan series is the very epitome of Epic Fantasy (yes, the capital letters are necessary). It encompasses far flungI have often commented that the Malazan series is the very epitome of Epic Fantasy (yes, the capital letters are necessary). It encompasses far flung realms, myriad powerful entities with competing agendas, deep history spanning thousands of years, gods, empires, and fanatics. Every new book introduced several dozen new characters to keep track of, revealed more of the complex history that impacts the events, and a bunch of new cultures to experience. It makes for a fantastically complex and rich narrative. But is can also make for some book bloat. Heck, Erikson even acknowledges it in his Author's Note of this book:
While I am, of course, not known for writing door-stopper tomes, the conclusion of 'The Malazan Book of the Fallen' was, to my mind, always going to demand something more than modern bookbinding technology could accommodate...Alas, Dust of Dreams is the first half of a two-volume novel, to be concluded with The Crippled God. Accordingly, if you're looking for resolutions to various story-threads, you won't find them.
So going in I knew this would be a lot of build up and no resolved plot threads that characterized by the other books in the series. It wouldn't be the first time Erikson has, in my estimation, used a book to move pieces into place for a later pay off. In spite of this knowledge this book still felt a bit slow for good lengths of time. The new characters were pretty great, I liked where all the various plot lines were converging, and the last two chapters were both amazing and heart wrenching, but given how long it took me to finish (two and a half months) I would rank this book as the weakest of the series. And considering it is really only half of a larger novel that makes sense. I mean, even the classics would be pretty piss-poor books if they ended half way through. I may reassess this in light of how the final book turns out but for now this is a low four star book.
This book is an essential stage of the journey to the conclusion of this epic and amazing series. There are lots of fascinating revelations and journeys that significantly alter characters or how you view them. We meet some neat new characters and say good bye to others (though for how long is anyone's guess considering how screwed up death is these days). The problem was with such a large cast of characters and plot lines is just as one plot narrative was getting some steam behind it I would get to a new chapter that deals with a completely different group of characters. Rinse and repeat that for 800 pages and you can see why it took so long to finish this book. Still, if you have gotten this far in the series this book will certainly not turn you off for the conclusion.
Of course, even being the weakest of the Malazan books doesn't mean it didn't have some fantastic prose. And since this was the first half of a bigger novel, I figured I would give you, good reader, two titles for my traditional Malazan quotes run down:
Queens can't be good at everything/Just remember that scholars write the history books: "...look at my blanket! My beloved wife has begun embroidering it - see, there at the hem, above my left knee." "Ah, I see. Very nice." "Very nice?" "Well, I can't quite make out what it's supposed to be." "Me neither. She's not very good, is she?" "No, she's terrible. Of course, she's an academic." "Precisely." "After all, if she had any skill at sewing and the like -" "She'd never have settled for the scholarly route?" "Generally speaking, people useless at everything else become academics."
Subtle has so many different flavors/I didn't like that pot anyway: "Now, I must ask, what's wrong?" "Wrong?" "We've known each other for a long time," said Tehol. "My sense are exquisitely honed for reading the finest nuances in your mood. I have few talents but I do assert, howsoever immodestly, that I possess exceptional ability in taking your measure." "Well," sighed Bugg, "I am impressed. How could you tell I'm upset?" "Apart from besmirching my wife, you mean?" "Yes, apart form that." Tehol nodded towards the pot Bugg was holding, and so he looked down, only to discover it was no longer a pot, but a mangled heap of tortured metal. Sighing, he let it drop to the floor. The thud echoed in the chamber. "It's the subtle details," said Tehol, smoothing out the creases in his Royal Blanket."
Not just children/Maybe you aren't throwing it hard enough: "Giving advice to a child is like flinging sand at an obsidian wall. Nothing sticks. The brutal trust is that we each suffer our own lessons...You cannot gift a child with your scars...No matter how noble your intent, the only scars that teach them anything are the ones they earn themselves.
Never stand next to a hero/One man's virtue is another man's mania:...that so many so-called virtues, touted as worthy aspirations, possessed a darker side. Purity of heart also meant viscous intransigence. Unfaltering courage saw no sacrifice as too great, even if that meant leading ten thousand soldiers to their deaths... Noble vows could drown a kingdom in blood, or crush an empire into dust. No, the true nature of heroism, was a messy thing, a confused thing of innumerable sides, many of them ugly, and almost all of them terrifying.
Sadly all too applicable to the real world Part 1/The beginning of many endings:Desperation delivers poison counsel.
Sadly all too applicable in the real world Part 2/It seemed like a good idea at the time: Justice is a sweet notion. Too bad its practice ends up awash in innocent blood."
Always get an expert's opinion/But who's on first?: "Now then, since I hear the Malazan entourage on its way in the hallway and beyond: Brys, how big do you want to make your escort?" "Two brigades and two battalions, sire." "Is that reasonable?" Tehol asked, looking around. "I have no idea," Janath replied. "Bugg?" "I'm no general, my Queen." "We need an expert opinion, then," said Tehol. "Brys?"
Lists are important/the bliss of ignorance: "There the real reason Fid was so reluctant. His reading fed into what Icarium made here all those months back." "Made?" Ebron demanded. "Made what?" "I'm not sure -" "Liar." "No, Ebron, I'm really not sure...but I have an idea. Do you want to hear it or not?" "No, yes. Go on, I need to finish my list of reasons to commit suicide."
Everything looks weird from an outsiders perspective/The class divide as explained by scat: "There are so many factions in that court it makes college faculty look like a neighborhood sandbox. And you may not know it, but that is saying something." "A sandbox?" "You know, in the better-off streets, the community commons - there's always a box of sand for children to play in, where all the feral cats go to defecate." "You privileged folk have strange notions of what your children should play in."
Good old fashioned diplomacy/At least there's a system in place: "Is there precedent for our assistance in such conflicts?" "There is. We ask, you say 'no', and we go home. Sometimes you say, 'Of course, but first let us have half a thousand brokes of pasture land and twenty ranks of tanned hides, oh, and renounce sovereignty of the Kyrn Freetrade Lands, and maybe a royal hostage of two.' To which we make a rude gesture and march home."
Never make a wizard angry/Have you considered the benefits of anaerobic respiration?: Quick Ben extended his sense, until he could feel the very air around the creatures, could follow the currents of that air as they slipped through the gills into the reptilian lungs. He reached out to encompass as many of them as possible. And then he set the air on fire.
Misery DOES love company/It can always get worse.: "I don't mind being miserable, so long as I have someone to talk to. Being miserable without anyone to talk to is far worse."
Kids these days.../Don't trust anyone over 30: Never trust a nostalgic old man - or old woman I suppose. Every tale they spon has a hidden agenda, a secret malice for the present. They make the past - their version of it - into a kind of magic potion. 'Sip this, friends, and return to the old times, when everything was perfect.'"
There are, naturally, a ton more (many of them featuring Tehol and Bugg, et. al.) but no need for me to cherry pick all the good quotes from this book....more
I enjoyed this... uniquely written book. I hesitate to say story because it really is a collection of several that mirror, echo, and contain each otheI enjoyed this... uniquely written book. I hesitate to say story because it really is a collection of several that mirror, echo, and contain each other. I have a feeling a lot of people would hate this book. It is written in a variety of ways: hand written notes, personal letters, straightforward prose, secret police transcripts, and books within books; very post-modern in structure. There are also some wonderful drawings in this book that add nicely to the setting and the characters.
So there are a few main threads of the story: a dystopian future Texas city state, a book about a mid-19th Century Chicago family, letters between a man and his daughter that he has been separated from for decades, and letters between the possible ancestor of a Texas character and his love (who was a member of that Chicago family). The events of the mid-19th century and the future dystopia show many parallels to the point where I sort of got the impression of an Ouroboros:
Was the Dystopian story actually a book written in the 19th century or was the 19th Century book but a work of fiction hat existed in the Dystopian future? Given the vagaries of time and the seemingly supernatural abilities of some characters it could be both or neither. It can get a bit confusing but the story does a good job sweeping you up and moving you forward. The world building was superb, both in the past and future, and the characters felt very vibrant.
Also, I must say, the book is gorgeous. Great pictures, each different story thread was done up in a unique visual style, there were some excellent information supplements that felt very natural in the flow of the story further deepening the world of the story. But the best part was the package. In the story this package was essential to both the future and past timeline. AND IT WAS PHYSICALLY INCLUDED AT THE END OF THE BOOK, SEALED AND ALL!!!!!! So when I got there I got to open it up and read the ever so important contents of it.
This book is by no means for everyone, but I really enjoyed it and appreciated the risks the writer took to tell this unique and imaginative story....more
What is better than the concluding book of a Mistborn trilogy? Discovering at the end it is really the third book in a quadrilogy!
OK, bad jokes aside,What is better than the concluding book of a Mistborn trilogy? Discovering at the end it is really the third book in a quadrilogy!
OK, bad jokes aside, this was another phenomenal addition to the Cosmere pantheon of stories. Not hat anyone should be surprised by this, this is Bandon Sanderson we are talking about here writing in arguably his most popular series. Calling that a home field advantage is like saying the humans had a home field advantage against the martians in The War of the Worlds. As always Sanderson delivers compelling characters, a fascinating, twisty-turny story, SHOCKING REVELATIONS (™), and just as many (new, amazing, jaw dropping, life changing) questions as answers.
I won't bother to rehash the story since that isn't my style and it has been done in many other places much better than I could hope to manage. Instead let me discuss some of the aspects of this book that I thought were truly standout.
Religion: Religion is a funny thing in fantasy books. Often when talking about God or gods in this context a theological entity that is omnipotent/omnipresent/omniscient isn't in play. Instead God/gods are often very, very, VERY powerful entities with access to more knowledge and power than any mortal could hope to achieve. Sometimes they have always existed, sometimes they are the offspring of elder gods, sometimes they are mortals who have ascended to godhood. But in nearly all cases they are limited in someway and can make for very interesting literary characters.
In Mistborn, the local god Harmony has taken a bit of a special interest in Wax (if you have to ask who Wax is, I suggest you read The Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self first), using him to achieve Harmony's agenda. Harmony, as those that are familiar with the series know, was once mortal but ascended to godhood, giving him (in so far as a god can have a gender) a more personal perspective on the lives of mortals. Not that such a perspective prevents him from using mortals for his own ends. The end of the previous installment has left Wax a bitter, broken man holding Harmony is deep resentment.
Poor Wax. That had busted him up right good, it had. And Wayne could see why. Still, an apology? Did people that got killed in a flood expect an apology from God? God did as God wished. You simply hoped to not get on His worse side. Kinda like the bouncer at the club with the pretty sister
So when they talk again in this book it is a fascinating exchange between a them, mortal to mortal-turned-god. It explores what the limits of godhood are and how far they should be pushed (should God eliminate all evil? should God prevent all bad things form happening? Where is the line drawn?). It explores the nature of choice and how Wax has treated himself since the events in Shadows of Self. Harmony shows himself to be an understanding god who offers Wax the choice (as he does with all of humanity) choice in how they live their lives. It illuminating and does an excellent job distilling some serious theological questions into an easily understood and applicable context for the reader.
But on a more personal level their conversation really brings out some of Wax's deeply held troubles with a deep compassion and understanding. Harmony, while maintaining what he did was necessary, if painful, allows Wax to work through all his hurt and pain and come to a revelation naturally that allows the healing process to begin. It is a deeply moving passage and touches upon what many of us hope for from such an entity: understanding, wisdom, compassion, and guidance while allowing us mortals the autonomy of choice and self discovery. It is beautifully written and a wonderful advancement in Wax's character not to mention a great peak into the mind and motivations of Harmony.
Steris: One of Sanderson's strong suits as a writer is the evolution of characters of the course of his books. We can see clearly how they change and grow but at the same time remain true to their core self. In the case of Steris we are initially introduced to her when she is discussing a very detailed and thorough marriage contract with Wax in 'The Alloy of Law'; a contract that specified the frequency of marital relations, the expected number of heirs, etc. She showed herself to be a very thorough and rational person though she apparently rubbed a fair amount of of my GR friends the wrong way.
The core of Steris has always been to be prepared and account for all contingencies. Sure, initially she was a bit of a wet blanket but she really started to find a good groove in 'Shadows of Self' and fully blossomed into awesomeness in 'Bands of Mourning':
"I need metal," he [Wax] explained at Marasi's inquisitive look.
He stepped up to his room, then hesitated as a hand stuck out of the next room, holding a small vial.
"Steris?" he said, walking to her. she was still sitting on the plush train bench - though her face was paler than before. "Steel flakes in suspension," she said, wiggling the vial.
"Since when have you carried one of these?" Wax asked, taking it from her.
"ince about six months ago. I put one into my purse in case you might need it." She raised her other hand, displaying two more. "I carry the other two because I am neurotic."
He grinned, taking all thee. He downed the first one, then nearly choked. "What the hell is in this?"
"Other than steel?" Steris asked. "Cod-liver oil."
He looked at her, gaping.
"Whiskey is bad for you, Lord Waxillium. A wife must look out for her husband's health."
"Please ignore him," Steris said, rising and walking over. "Here, I've prepared for you a list of possible scenarios that might transpire during our residence here."
"Steris..." Wax said, forcing open the thirds and final window.
"What?" she demanded. "I will not have the staff unprepared. their safety is our concern."
"That one is completely unfair," Wax said. "You've been listening to Wayne."
"Things do explode around you, mate," Wayne said, munching peanuts. Nice bit of salt on these.
"He's right, unfortunately," Steris said. "I've accounted for seventeen explosions involving you. That's a huge statistical anomaly, even considering your profession."
"You're kidding. Seventeen?"
(view spoiler)["Unexpected," Steris said. And here she assumed she'd been prepared for anything. Marasi starting to glow, throwing people around with Allomancy as if they were dolls, then streaking away and leaving a trail of mist... well that hadn't been on the list. It hadn't even made the appendix(hide spoiler)]
Not only is she always trying to take into account and preparing for bad outcomes, but she shows a remarkable amount of courage, loyalty, and cunning in this book. She knows she isn't the most useful person in a fight but she plays to her own strengths as the situation warrants. By the end of this book she was confident in herself and her abilities and is just all around awesome.
Now this isn't to say this book was 'The Steris Show' (though I would read the hell out of that book). All the other characters had their moments to shine, especially Marasi who has been dealing with her identity in the shadow (rightly or wrongly) of Wax. The journey our heroes find themselves on forces them to grow and adapt in very fulfilling ways
Cosmere/Big Picture: Not to delve too deeply into plot developments, but in this book we are beginning to see the Cosmere books start to get more closely linked together. Apart from the obligatory Hoid appearance we are shown more of the world and how these discoveries will facilitate the binding together of the Cosmere (a hint of which, I believe, was referenced in Sixth of the Dusk.
We also get a further exploration of The Set, their long term goals, how Wax's family fits in, and the organization's mysterious sponsors. We are left with an explosive ending that raises a lot of serious and scary questions. I continue to be in awe of what Sanderson is slowly putting together. The scope and breathe of what the Cosmere will become is simply astounding and I simply cannot wait for each subsequent book in the series.
So yes, this book was everything I could have wanted and more. It maintains the high standards of the series and propels it in a new, awesome direction. And man, that epilogue was pretty intense. So waste no time in diving into this one and then you can follow it up with a side of Mistborn: Secret History.
As I often do, here are some of my favorite passages from this book, which was chocked full of some great exchanges:
We all have talents, we just don't all love our talents.:"Oi," Wayne said, hustling up beside him. "A good plan that one was, eh?" "It was the same plan you always have," Wax said. "The one where I get to be the decoy." "Ain't my fault people like to shoot at you, mate," Wayne said as they reached the coach. "You should be happy; you're usin' your talents, like me granners always said a man should do." "I'd rather not have 'shootability' be my talent." "Well, you gotta use what you have."
Religion (and murder) is in the details:You've given up? Is that how the Ascendant Warrior was? Huh?" "No, in fact she walked up to the man she wanted, slapped the book out of his hand, and kissed him." "See, there's how it is!" "Though the Ascendant Warrior also went on and murdered the woman Elend was planning to marry." "What, really?" "Yeah."
Normal is just a setting on the dishwasher:"They're going after the rest of the train," Wax said, pointing. "The first thieves must have recognized this car as private one, probably lush with riches to plunder, and so they uncoupled it. But something is wrong." "Other than people trying to kill us?" Marasi asked. "No," Steris said, "in my experience, that's quite normal.
Always check to see what happened to the person you are replacing:"But when Lord Waxillium is around, things do tend to pop up." "Things?" Drewton said. "Pop up? This is a rusting train robbery!" Steris regarded the valet with a cool expression. "Didn't you inquire about your prospective master before entering Lord Waxillium's employ?" "Well, I mean, I knew he had an interest in the constabulary. Like some lords have an interest in the symphony, or in civic matters. It seemed odd, but not ungentlemanly. I mean, it's not as if he was involved in theater...Should we go look?" Drewton asked. "We?" "Well, you." He tugged at his collar." Gunfights. I had not actually expected gunfights. Aren't the servants usually left out of such extravagances?" "Most of the time," Marasi said. "Except when the house blew up," Steris added. "Except then." "And...you know," Steris said. "Best not to mention it." "Mention what?" Drewton asked. "Don't worry about it," Marasi said, glaring at Steris. If the man couldn't do a little research before taking a job - "Wait," Drewton said, frowning. "What exactly happened to Lord Ladrian's previous valet?"
Not that you really need to get a taste of this book before considering buying it (since if you've gotten to book six in a series you are probably already committed to it) but here are the first six chapters:
I initially considered holding the fifth star hostage until George R. R. Martin finished The Winds of Winter but I adored these stories so much I justI initially considered holding the fifth star hostage until George R. R. Martin finished The Winds of Winter but I adored these stories so much I just couldn't do it.
These three novellas take place roughly one hundred years before A Game of Thrones. So all the characters we know and love (and love to hate) have yet to be born, the Targaryens still sit on the Iron Throne, and the small folk are exploited by the nobles (so that much isn't different). Instead of seeing Westeros through the eyes of the Haves (sworn knights, great lords, nobles), we get to see it through the Have-Nots, specifically those of a hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall. Unlike the sworn knights who serve a lord, hedge knights travel, seeking service where they can and more often sleeping under hedges than under a roof. Of course don't tell them that.
"A hedge knight is the truest kind of knight, Dunk," the old man had told him, a long long time ago. "Other knights serve the lords who keep them, or from whom they hold their lands, but we serve where we will, for men whose causes we believe in. Every knight swears to protect the weak and the innocent, but we keep the vow best I think."
I had actually, sort of, already read the first novella, Hedge Knight, in the form of the graphic novel. I liked the graphic novel and liked the novella even better. In fact all of the novellas stood very well on their own, not trying to do too much within their story while still doing a fantastic job of developing the relationship between Egg and Dunk. I really liked their relationship and how it grew over the course of the stories.
If there is one thing GRRM does well is develop and explain feudal ties and relationships (or maybe he just likes doodling cool house banners). This was very apparent in these stories as Martin does a deft job dropping political developments and themes into the narrative that is ostensibly about the travels of Dunk and Egg. I harbor a suspicion that the entire purpose of the Song of Ice and Fire series is to show how terrible monarchies and aristocracies are.
In this case Dunk and Egg are confronted on several occasions by the fall out from the Blackfyre Rebellion*. The nickel tour is this: The Blackfyre Rebellion was a civil war in Westeros over who should succeed to the Iron Throne (Some old dead king gave a sword to one son instead of another, that was the start of it. And now I'm standing here, and poor Roger's in his grave.). The realm was split, one side (the Blackfyres) lost and several members of that family fled Westeros, looming as a threat to the victorious side. As with all civil wars, one group ends up backing the wrong side and faces the consequences, most notably losing land, titles, holdings, respect of the victors, and being forced to provide hostages to the victor's side. But just because there was a winner doesn't mean the losers were content to just go back to the status quo ante. All that politics aside, even though the rebellion occurred fifteen years prior to the events of these novellas the repercussions still echo throughout the realm.
"Treason... is only a word. When two princes fight for a chair where only one may sit, great lords and common man alike must choose. and when the battle's done, the victors will be hailed as loyal men and true, whilst those who were defeated will be known forevermore as rebels and traitors."
So as Dunk and Egg (his squire) travel about they are confronted with these consequences: lords who backed the wrong (though not in their mind) side, conspirators to return the Blackfyres, political discontent with the current regime who many believe is being controlled by a sorcerer bastard offspring of the previous king.
There is a great balance of fights, character development, narrative progression, and political intrigue. I got a much better view on the lives of the small folk and lesser knights (not surprisingly: just as sucky as I previously assumed) as well as the challenges that the vast majority of Westeros must deal with, small folk and petty noble alike. Heck, one novella revolves around water rights between two nobles of a stream during a drought (and we also see one of the many repercussions of the Blackfyre Rebellion).
"Can I have a sword to run them off with?" "No. A knife's enough. And you had best be here when I come back, do you hear me? Rob me and run off, and I'll hunt you down, I swear I will. With dogs." "You don't have any dogs." "I'll get some, just for you."
OK, so they don't start off on the best of terms, but once they settle into the knight-squire relationship they develop respect and admiration for each other.
"Pour Ser Duncan a cup of sweet Dornish Red [Egg]. Try not to spill it on him, you've done him sufficient ill already." "The boy won't spill, Your Grace. He's a good boy. A good squire. And he meant no harm to me, I know." "One need not intend harm to do it."
"Well, some knights sing gallant songs to their ladies, or play them tunes upon a lute." "I have no lute. And that night I drank too much in the Planky Town, you told me I sang like an ox in mud in a mud wallow." "I had forgotten, ser." "How could you forget?" "You told me to forget, ser. You told me I'd get a clout in the ear the next time I mentioned it."
"Ser? That fat septon said my father sulks in Summerhall." "Words are wind." "My father doesn't sulk." "Well, he might. You sulk." "I do not. Ser. Do I?" "Some. Not too often, though. Elsewise I'd clout you in the ear more than I do." "You clouted me in the ear at the gate." "That was half a clout at best. If I ever give you a whole clout, you'll know."
And while Dunk pretty consistently threatens to clout Egg, it rarely happens, it is more a playful type of threat. Dunk clearly treats Egg with all the respect due a squire without abusing his power over him. Egg is stronger in some matters and instead of resenting Egg for it, Dunk makes use of it. All in all a great relationship that I enjoyed to see blossom. Even though GRRM is way behind on Winds of Winter, I really hope we end up with more Dunk and Egg stories.
And now for some great passages:
Wisdom even in the real world: A peasant's pride is a lordling's shame. ~ Kings rise and fall and cows and smallfolk go about their business ~ "Some rebel lord or robber knight, it was. Or maybe a common murderer. A head's a head. they all look the same after a few days on spike."
Maybe GRRM has moonlight as a porn writer: The sun rose hot and hard, implacable.
Egg, master fighting strategists: "Get him, ser," he heard Egg call. "Get him, get him, he's right there."
The only time anyone was glad an Ironborn was nearby: "Count yourself fortunate that I am ironborn. The priests of the Drowned God know how to drown a man and bring him back, and I have made a study of their beliefs and customs."
Even fleas have standards: "We won't have any [money] if we start sleeping in inns. You want to share a bed with some peddler and wake up with his fleas? Not me. I have my own fleas, and they are not fond of strangers. We'll sleep beneath the stars."
*If you want to learn more about the history of Westeros I cannot recommend The World of Ice and Fire enough. Great history and amazing pictures.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I really enjoyed this book, but it definitely helped talking out some of the themes with my book club. Ostensibly this book is about the strange occurI really enjoyed this book, but it definitely helped talking out some of the themes with my book club. Ostensibly this book is about the strange occurrences that surround a prestigious group of writers in Scandinavia, The Rabbit Back Literature Society is an exploration of the nature of memory and how it influences identity and relationships.
The story of this book follows and explores the history of The Rabbit Back Literature Society and its secretive founder, the beloved children's book writer Laura White. Through this narrative we see how the various writers were influenced by the events of their past and how the memory of those events influence the present
For instance, Ella Milana's, one of the main characters, father is in decline due to Alzheimers disease. As he lost more and more of his memories he became less and less the person his daughter had grown up with a loved. Where once he was a great runner, he had been reduced to an old man puttering around in a garden, preferring to spend time in the garden, oblivious to his surroundings. When he finally passes he does not feel that she has lost her father because he had been gone for so long already.
The book also explores the nature of the writers' memories through something called The Game. In The Game, writers can accost each other and force them to "spill" about anything and they must be absolutely honest about it, no matter how private.
"You see, The Game doesn't produce stories, it produces material for stories. that happens when you break open stories and let their unformed essence spill out. that's what The Game is for. Everybody has valuable material inside them that The Game can help draw out."
Ella, the first new member in decades, uses this to ferret out the murky history of the society that she is researching. It also clearly serves as a method to explore how people remember their past and how it influences their present identity.
Of course the story itself is also pretty neat. There is some sort magical goings on: suggestions of faery creatures, spontaneously rearranging books, disappearing authors. The mystery Ella tries to uncover is also fascinating and is a dark secret at the heart of the society. The path to get there winds through many pasts and shows just how fickle and unreliable memory is.
She pounded on her memory like a coffee machine on the blink, but her past returned only in small fragments. If all of her remembered images from birth to confirmation were laid end to end, they would have formed at most a short film of ten minutes, grainy, fuzzy, and confused.
This book was also beautifully written. The prose was excellent and the characters vibrant. Here are a few of the passages I really enjoyed:
"Martti, if you were any less interested in what was happening around you, you'd be indistinguishable from a leather sofa."
She'd wanted to do literary-historical research that might bring to light a few small skeletons - secret relationships, homosexuality, that sort of thing. Pleasant little scandals. Murder victims weren't the sort of thing she'd been hoping to dig up.
I don't remember anymore exactly what he wrote, but when I heard him read hi stories out loud in Laura's reading room I remember thinking, "Fuck, thanks a lot, guess I'll give up writing now.
The story was very engaging, the mystery was intriguing, and the pages just kept turning. A word of warning though: the end is a bit ambiguous and the epilogue is really the last chapter of the story and not a traditional epilogue. All in all though I really enjoyed reading this book which was very much out of my usual track of genres. ...more
What does a street urchin, a emperor, a hobgoblin, and a god have in common? They are all Non-Player Characters (or NPCs) that populate and bring to lWhat does a street urchin, a emperor, a hobgoblin, and a god have in common? They are all Non-Player Characters (or NPCs) that populate and bring to life the world of table top role playing games (RPGs). They are controlled and the game master and can be friends, foes, or just background to the characters players control (PCs). While essential to the game, they are often abused, ignored, or exploited by PCs and seen as an end to the PCs' goal of gaining my power, levels, and wealth.
"Who cares? He's just an NPC...someone who doesn't matter. They're the background scenery, like the buildings and trees."
Think of them as the poor schmucks in the crowd when the hero of an action movie gets into a big shootout with his enemies. Most of them are often overlooked and taken for granted, acknowledged by PCs only when they are needed. They aren't the heroes, just the people that try to survive the heroes.
So what happens when NPCs have to take up the mantle of heroes for one reason or another? Hilarity and fish out water encounters is what. But this book doesn't just lean exclusively on this conceit. Hayes takes time to develop his characters, their motivations, and their relationships while deftly playing into many RPG/fantasy cliches and exploring the absurdity of some RPG conventions.
No one understood why, but the more adventurers were around, the greater the number of monsters that were drawn. It was like they grouped up in scale to the number of adventurers present to give a proper challenge.
"I still don't get it," Eric said..."Why did he burn the bar?"
"Let me put it to you this way. What usually happens to abandoned taverns and inns?" Thistle asked him.
"They get inhabited by monsters, or bandit gangs," Eric replied. It was common knowledge, after all. Adventurers often sought out such locations when hunting for a good fight.
So yeah, this world is sort of bonkers, but in a way that is very familiar to RPG veterans. For those most part the craziness doesn't impact PCs because the world is tailored to meet their needs, NPCs be damned. So seeing this crazy world through the perspective of NPCs was quite enjoyable. It is clear Hayes has a deep appreciation for RPGs but also recognizes the absurdity of the worlds they reside in.
As I said, Hayes doesn't rely on one gag to carry the book. He deftly weaves a story that balances the traditional hero's quest, the fish out of water-ness of NPCs pretending to be adventurers, and a pretty nifty take on how our RPG games influence the world of the NPCs. I had a lot of difficulty putting the book down as the action flows so quickly and smoothy. I found myself emotionally invested in the characters and can't wait to get to the sequel. I will admit that being a long time player of Dungeons and Dragons I picked up on a lot of winks and nods that the uninitiated would probably miss. You don't have to be an RPG player to appreciate this book, but it does help a lot....more
The Last Abbot of Ashk'lan, found here for free, is a brief story about what happened to one of my favorite side characters, Akiil, during the sack ofThe Last Abbot of Ashk'lan, found here for free, is a brief story about what happened to one of my favorite side characters, Akiil, during the sack of Ashk'lan. I liked Akiil. He was part of the monastery and ostensibly training to be a monk, but he was only there because he was caught thieving and monkhood was much preferred to the alternative. He maintained a good natured sense of self deprecation and cynicism in the mountain monastery. The massacre that was befalling his brothers and the burning building he was in did nothing to dull that personality trait:
Balancing on his palms and the balls of his feet, he crawled a few feet along the narrow beam, trying to put more space between himself and the growing fire, trying not to draw the soldier’s attention, praying to a variety of gods that the miserable, overarmored son of a bitch would get the holy fuck out already so Akiil himself could come down and be gone before the entire ‘Kent-kissing kitchen collapsed into a pile of rubble.
The gods – perhaps because of the quantity of curses woven into the prayer – ignored him.
Like I said, it is a rather short read, encompassing maybe 10 minutes of story time, but it both fills a narrative hole in The Emperor's Blades (as there was no POV character present) and is a compelling story on its own. Staveley gives us a wonderful peek inside the mind of Akiil, where his street urchin instincts begin to boil to the surface.
This, too, the Shin had taught him, but in fact, the lesson was older, one of the most basic rules he’d learned back in the Perfumed Quarter: Never help. Akiil had amended the maxim slightly over the years, putting his own ethical stamp on the ancient saying: Only help when it won’t get you killed or seriously fucked up.
I mean, Erikson has already spilled a ton of ink across a nearly countless number of characters and plWow...
That ending just blew my mind.
I mean, Erikson has already spilled a ton of ink across a nearly countless number of characters and plot lines. His plots are intricate, inter-related and have a very deep history. Some characters will pop up in one book and then won't be seen for several more (or, more likely, die; not that that would preclude them from impacting the story). They may only make a brief appearance or end up getting caught up in another character's plot. However, they all have a unique voice and motivation that drives them. Their actions make sense within their own character context and nothing feels forced.
So when something like a dozen different plot lines converged in the last 15% of this book in such a natural and profound way I was floored. Heck, even the sections from a dumb ox's POV (yes, you read that correctly, there were sections from a run of the mill ox's point of view) came together wonderfully with the other narrative threads by the end. What Erikson ended up doing with the convergence reconstructed my mind, reseeded it with explosives, and blew it again. The sheer audacity Erikson showed was truly breathtaking. Considering there are still two books I am super excited about what is yet to come.
Sadly the other 85% wasn't quite up to the same level as the last 15%. It seemed a bit meandering at times with Erikson mostly repositioning some characters to set up the amazing last bit and foreshadowing events. Don't get me wrong, it was still good, but it was clearly building up to some spectacular and more served that purpose than standing on its own.
There really wasn't an over arching theme in this book as some of the previous installments have had. Karsa continues to rail against the decadence of civilization, a topic that I severely disagree with. It's easy to rail against civilization if you are... well... Karsa. A god defying, near magic immune tank of creature. But for most of us there is strength in a specialized society that can produce things like doctors and farmers and glasses makers (for us near sighted folks). There are obviously some risks with civilization, but nothing good is easy. Don't like corrupt politicians or an unjust economic system? Change them, don't burn down the house to kill some cockroaches.
This book did bring me the meeting of two of my favorite eccentric/wacky-but-scary-powerful characters: Kruppe and Iskaral Pust. And it was just as magical as I imagined it would be. No single quote from their encounter and... "epic" battle can do it justice. Sufficed to say it was a brilliant culmination of both characters' eccentricities and seeing them play off against each other by itself was worth buying this book. It was glorious. Glorious!
With that being said, I found this installment a little light on quotes until the end that really caught my attention (hence the lack of progress updates). Below are some of the ones I enjoyed:
Don't tell this to a historian: "Crone, the inconsistencies in this text are infuriating." "So what? Show me a written history that makes sense, and I will show you true fiction."
A new forest metaphor for everyday use: Nowhere and anywhere are a state of mind. See this forest around us? Isit a barrier or ten thousand paths leading into mystery and wonder? Whichever you decide, the forest itself remains unchanged. It does not transform to suit your decision."
Good old Iskaral Pust brought his A game this book: "Oh, he mustn't linger. No no no. too much rage, too much grief. The giant oaf cannot linger, or worse, malinger. Malingering would be terrible, and probably against the law anyway."
Well that is depressing to reflect on: A single regret could crush a thousand proud deeds, and Barathol Makhar had more regrets than most mortals could stomach.
A little to true in our own world: "Necessity, now there's a word to feed every outrage on decency."
Something all cat owners should keep in mind: Hah! Brilliant cat! Why, if he met it again he'd kiss it - but nowhere near where it licked itself because there were limits, after all, and anywhere a can could lick itself was nowhere he'd kiss."
Kallor and Hobbes would certainly have a interesting difference of opinion: This willingness of otherwise intelligent (well, reasonably intelligent) people to parcel up and then bargain away appalling percentages of their limited lives, all in service of someone else. And the rewards? Ah, some security, perhaps. The cement that is stability. A sound roof, something on the plate, the beloved offspring each one destined to repeat the whole travail. And was that an even exchange?
It's the Ciiiiiiiiiiiiircle of Liiiiiiiiiiiife: Creation demands destruction. Survival demands something else fails to survive. No existence is truly benign.
Probably happens to him all the time...: "Why is it that Master Quell seemed indifferent to unleashing an undead dragon into this world?" "Well, hardly indifferent. He said oops! At least, I think that's what I heard."
What would they do, indeed: He glared at the white Hounds. It's just a sword. what will you even do with it? Chew the handle? Piss on the blade?
I love the mules in this series: Iskaral Pust rode like a madman. Unfortunately, the mule beneath him had decided that a plodding walk would suffice, making the two of them a most incongruous pair.
Good wisdom even for a world without dragons and ascendants: Hate was a lie that in feeding fills the hater with the bliss of satiation, even as his spirit starves... Life was a negotiation between the expected and the unexpected. One made do."
Why politicians give speeches, not hold conversations: The lie of wisdom is best hidden in monologue. Dialogue exposes it. Most people purporting to wisdom dare not engage in dialogue, lest they reveal the paucity of their assumptions."
As I have said before, this series is, in my mind, the epitome of epic fantasy. It does so much so well and does so with an almost effortless manner I am constantly in awe. The many, many, MANY narrative flows merge and flow together in wonderful and unexpected ways. The world feels real, with consequences (some terrible and permanent) and high stakes. I am deeply emotionally attached to so many of characters and care about what happens to the rest. It will be both sad and glorious when I get to the end of this series. ...more
It was interesting reading this book, a very obvious fairy tale, with Cinder, a story based on a fairy tale. The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland inIt was interesting reading this book, a very obvious fairy tale, with Cinder, a story based on a fairy tale. The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (TGWCFIASOHOM) understood the spirit of fairy tales. Valente did a wonderful job with the language. It was a mix of whimsy and absurdity that reminded me a lot of Lewis Carrol:
"I wouldn't consider it if I were you. But then if I were you, I would not be me, and if I were not me, I would not be able to advise you, and if I were unable to advise you, you'd do as you like, so you might as well do as you like and have done with it."
Cinder, on the other hand, tried to take the basic story of a fairy tale and retell it with modern sensibilities. The language was much more straight forward and more pedestrian. It lacked the fun exploration of the genre that TGWCFIASOHOM had:
"Do you have any idea how difficult it was to invent bureaucracy in a world that didn't even know what a ledger was?"
But this book wasn't just fun forays into fairyland, there were some rather insightful ideas dressed up in the languange of fairy tales:
"You are young and far from your death, so I seem as anything would seem if you saw it from a long way off - very small, very harmless. But I am always closer than I appear. As you grow, I shall grow with you, until at the end, I shall loom huge and dark over your bed..."
I very much enjoyed this book's writing... up to a point. I think there was a reason that Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland was less than 100 pages. After a certain period the whimsy and fantastical adventures September found herself in got a bit tiring. The format wore a bit thin as it seemed that each successive chapter didn't seem to advance the plot much or seemed extraneous.
The ending, which was actually a interesting twist on the concept of fairyland and children's adventures there, felt much too rushed, the villain to late in developing a motivation. If the pacing was better this would have been an excellent book. As it stands, I thought it was on par with Cinder: a book with a great premise and some well executed parts, but failing on several (different) fronts that diminished my reading enjoyment....more
With Reaper's Gale we have the convergence of the plot lines from Midnight Tides (probably my favorite one so far) and The Bonehunters. As I stated inWith Reaper's Gale we have the convergence of the plot lines from Midnight Tides (probably my favorite one so far) and The Bonehunters. As I stated in my Bonehunters review, I thought it was mostly a book about getting pieces into a place, and boy did those movements pay off. We get a clash of the now Edur dominated (or is it!?!?!?!) Letherii Empire and the rag tag army of the Bonehunters. On top of that we still have Tehol Benedict and his loyal manservant Bugg running about committing a brilliant bit of economic sabotage, and Karsa and Icarium waiting around to duel the Emperor of a Thousand Deaths. Not to mention agitation and trouble on the Empire's borders. And I am leaving out a whole bunch of other fascinating plot lines with Quick Ben, the T'Lan Imass, Sichas Ruin, and a boat load more. As much as Erikson setting up pieces in the last book, he does a great job quickly putting them into play. This book was a non-stop roller-coaster through a whole bunch of different POVs.
One of the themes of this book was the end of things in the face of eternal certainty: ideas, people, ways of life.
Things end. Species die out. Faith in anything else was a conceit, the product of unchained ego, the curse of supreme self-importance.
The two biggest entities this applies to are the Empire of Lether, who was recently conquered (but not really) by the Edur and the Awl, a nomadic people being displaced by Letherii business interests. In the case of the Empire, the reports of its conquests have been greatly exaggerated.
The Edur became the crown, settling easy upon the bloated gluttony of Lether, but does a crown possess will? Does the wearer buckle beneath its burden?
You can take the Lether off the throne, but not the throne off Lether. The Edur.
The skein that held Lether together was resilient and far stronger than it appeared. What disturbed him the most was the ease with which that skein entwined all who found themselves in its midst.
And the Edur have been somewhat subsumed by that seductive siren call. In total they were but a small portion of the Empire's population so they had to lean on existing human institutions to sure up their rule. As the The Who sang, Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
The Awl, on the other hand, are a broken people whose ageless way of life is threatened by the "progress" of Lether. Their tribes kept divided and weak, their leaders bought off, the spirit of the people despondent. Their very culture, which has persisted for thousands of years, is at risk of destruction. Out of the trackless plains comes Red Mask, an exiled Awl warrior who would reforge his people, change them and their way of life, to meet and repel the Letherii threat.
"This new way of fighting, War Leader, I see little honour in it." "You speak true. There is none to be found. Such is necessity." "Must necessity be surrender?" "When the ways surrendered hold naught but the promise of failure, then yes. It must be done. They must be cast away.
Oh, and he has two ancient, long thought extinct, lizard like creatures (with giant sword hands) whose raw strength is only matched by the mystery of their association with him.
Erikson also takes this opportunity to expand upon the nexus of power and greed in societies.
Power shapes the face of the world. In itself, it is neither benign nor malicious, it is simply the tool by which its wielder reshapes all that is around him or herself, reshape it to suit his or her own... comforts. Of course, to express power is to enact tyranny, which can be most subtle and soft, or cruel and hard. Implicit in power is the threat of coercion.
Unsurprisingly, power in Lether takes the form of cruel and hard. I mean, what is a totalitarian regime without a secret police force to strengthen its grip on society. And yes, they attract just the sort of person you would expect.
He wasn't much interested in beating his women, just in seeing them beaten. He understood his desire was perversion, but this organization - the Patriotists - was the perfect haven for people like him. Power and immunity, a most deadly combination.
Of course it doesn't help that they are headed by an intelligent, if ruthless, operator whose understanding of human nature makes his truly terrifying.
A citizen with certainty can be swayed, turned, can be made into a most diligent ally. All one needs to do is find what threatens them the most. Ignite their fear, burn to cinders the foundations of their certainty, then offer an equally certain alternative way of thinking, of seeing the world. They will reach across, no matter how wide the gulf, and grasp and hold on to you with all their strength. No, the certain are not our enemies… our greatest enemies are those without certainty. Those with questions, the ones who regard our tidy answers with unquenchable skepticism.
When thugs are in power, educated people were the first to feel their fists.
What I liked about Erikson's conception of the Letherii Empire is how subtle the oppression it is. There are not massive slave markets (but there are masses of people who are slaves in all but name). There is not pervasive oppression (but plenty of oppression is doled out in the back alley). On the surface everything seems to be a capitalist paradise, where people can rise and fall on merit, but the structure of the society and economy is such that there are a few people at the very top while the vast majority toil in debt or in fear of becoming indebted.
Is there a difference between spilled blood and blood squeezed out slowly, excruciatingly, over the course of a foreshortened lifetime of stress, misery, anguish and despair - all in the name of some amorphous god that no-one dares call holy? Even as they bend knee and repeat the litany of sacred duty."
So basically Lether is collapsing into a totalitarian state run in equal parts fanatics and the business elite with Edur as figure heads at the top. Into this volatile mix are thrown the Bonehunters, an exiled Malazan army seeking to revenge the atrocities committed against Malazan protectorate kingdoms. We meet up with again with a bunch of soldiers we met before plus some others. We see their doubts, trials, and tribulations they go through to pull off a seemingly impossible task set before them. Very compelling stuff as we get to know them intimately and feel the same sting of their losses.
At the end the pieces that Erikson had set up over the past two books have been dashed across the board. Deaths come heavy and often at the end of this one, both of people and institutions. There are plenty of moments of levity mixed in (especially with Tehol and Bugg et. al.) but the course of whole peoples and civilizations are decided in this book. We still have the Crippled God lurking in the background, a strange, once thought extinct civilization returning, and plenty of other games played by the gods and ascendants. I adored this book and am eager to see what terrible things Erikson rains down upon his characters.
And now, without further ado, some choice passages:
Most terrifying pinch ever: Karsa: And he is small - my people call you children. And that is all you truly are. Short-lived, stick limbed, with faces I want to pinch. The Edur are little different, just stretched out a bit.
Won't someone think of the (evilish) Children!?!?!?: But I always started to worry... about those evil minions, the victims of those bright heroes and their intractable righteousness. I mean, someone invades your hide-out, your cherished home, and of course you try to kill and eat them. Who wouldn't? there they were, nominally ugly and shifty-looking, busy with their own little lives, plaiting nooses or some such thing. Then shock! The alarms are raised! The intruders have somehow slipped their chains and death is a whirlwind in every corridor!
Always read the fine print: "Will you take it now?" "I will - to break it on the forge where it was made." "You said it could never be broken!" "We're always saying things like that, pays the bills."
But who's on first?: "Well, that is why I sent for you - excuse me, but what is your name?" "My name was discarded upon attaining my present tank within the Unified Sects of Cabal." "I see, and what is that rank?" "Senior assessor." "Assessing what?" "All matters requiring assessment. Is more explanation required?"
Fear the feathered and delicious ones: "You may find this amusing now, Bugg, but you are the one who will be sleeping down there. They'll [newly acquired hens] peck your eyes out, you know. Evil has been bred into them, generation after generation, until their tiny black bean brains are condensed knots of malice-" "You display unexpected familiarity with hens, Master." "I had a tutor who was a human version."
Metal makes for a terrible ruler (unless this is metaphorical...): Leave a sword to rule an empire and the empire falls. Amidst war, amidst anarchy, amidst a torrent of blood and a sea of misery.
Damn it Udinaas, stop trying to be so genre savvy: Myths prefer manageable numbers, after all, and three always works best.
But would you say that to Justice's face?: That's the thing about Just Wars - they never end and never will because Justice is a weak god with too many names.
When a pissing contest turns real dark, real fast: "I was there when Redmask's sister killed herself." "And I suckled at the tit of a K'Chain Che'Malle Matron. If tit is the right word." "...I saw with my own eyes the great sea canoes. Upon the north shore. thousands upon thousands." "These arrows were made by a dead man. Dead for a hundred thousand years, or more." "I have seen skeletons running in the night - on this very plain." "This body you see isn't mine. I stole it." "I alone know the truth of the Bast Fulmar." "This body's father was a dead man - he gasped his last breath as his seed was taken on a field of battle." "The victory of long ago was in truth a defeat." "This body grew strong on human meat." "Redmask will betray us." "This mouth waters as I look at you."
Why the gold standard is a TERRIBLE idea, even in fantasy settings or Keynes was right so shut your gob hole: "Why not just mint more coins and take the pressure [of a currency shortage] off?" "We could, although it would not be easy. There is a fixed yield form the Imperial Mines and it is, of necessity, modest. And, unfortunately rather inflexible."
And why not be a buzz kill to end this review or echoes of Global Climate Change: It had not been imagined - by anyone - that an entire realm could die in such a manner. That the vicious acts of its inhabitants could destroy... everything. Worlds live on, had been the belief - the assumption - regardless of the activities of those who dwelt upon them. Torn flesh heals, the sky clears, and something new crawls from the briny muck.