Maerad is a slave in a desperate and unforgiving settlement, taken there as a child when her family is destroyed in war. She is unaware that she possesses a powerful gift, a gift that marks her as a member of the School of Pellinor. It is only when she is discovered by Cadvan, one of the great Bards of Lirigon, that her true heritage and extraordinary destiny unfolds. Now she and her teacher, Cadvan, must survive a punishing and uncertain journey through a time and place where the dark forces they battle with stem from the deepest recesses of other-worldly terror.
Alison Croggon is the award winning author of the acclaimed fantasy series The Books of Pellinor. You can sign up to her monthly newsletter and receive a free Pellinor story at alisoncroggon.com
Her most recent book is Fleshers, the first in a dazzling new SF series co-written with her husband, acclaimed playwright Daniel Keene. Her latest Pellinor book, The Bone Queen, was a 2016 Aurealis Awards Best Young Adult Book finalist. Other fantasy titles include Black Spring (shortlisted for the Young People's Writing Award in the 2014 NSW Premier's Literary Awards) and The River and the Book, winner of the Wilderness Society's prize for Environmental Writing for Children.
She is a prize-winning poet and theatre critic,, and has released seven collections of poems. As a critic she was named Geraldine Pascall Critic of the Year in 2009. She also writes opera libretti, and the opera she co-wrote with Iain Grandage was Vocal/Choral Work of the Year in the 2015 Art Music Awards. Her libretto for Mayakovsky, score by Michael Smetanin, was shortlisted in the Drama Prize for the 2015 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards. She lives in Melbourne..
Oh no. Oh no. It's too soon to give my heart away to another book. But here we are.
This book... I don't even know what to say. It's dazzling, magnificent, epic, beautiful, euphoric, painful, and oh so atmospheric.
The Naming follows in the footsteps of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. It's even more character-oriented and it happens on a slightly smaller scale, but it retains the descriptive, vivid world-building that Tolkien is known for.
This book is about Maerad, a slave girl who encounters a mysterious man named Cadvan of Lirigon, who says he is a Bard, or a mage. She is soon thrust into the lush world of Bards. A dark force is rising again, and she and her new mentor are tasked with defeating it.
This book feels like coming home. It's cozy and comforting, despite the whole end-of-the-world thing. There are feasts, celebrations. There's humor. It's like a warm cup of cocoa after a long day in the snow. It's like snuggling up in blankets and reading a book in your bed. It's like relaxing at the beach with your best friend. I don't know how else to describe it. It's all in the atmosphere. It's absolutely wonderful and homey and perfect.
Alison Croggon is, in my opinion, the best little-known high fantasy author. Her writing is elegant, vivid, and captures emotions and landscape perfectly. Her characters are consistent and carefully crafted. I love them all so, so much. Thinking about them makes my heart warm. It literally does. It's like flipping on a light switch. It's like holding your hands to a bonfire on a summer night.
This is one of the easiest 5 stars I've ever given. The Naming is utter perfection. The atmosphere, the world, the characters, the things it made me feel. Despair, heartbreak, love, happiness, fear. I love this series wholeheartedly.
Remember when authors talked about landscapes, and you could tell that they might have actually stepped outside once or twice in their lives?
Remember when the male lead and the female lead in a YA book were allowed to develop a strong friendship and partnership, and any romance was left for the later books in the series?
Remember when male characters admired the beauty of female characters but didn’t act like pigs about it?
Remember when not every YA novel featured a love triangle?
I remember two series from the last decade that were really popular among my elementary and middle school friends that could be described as Star Wars in Middle-earth. One was Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle. The plot of its first novel, Eragon, was traced over from Episode IV, while book two, Eldest, was more interested in dwarf mythology, scantily-clad Elvish women, and narcissistic descriptions of the author’s self-insert character getting progressively hunkier and more magical. For over nine hundred pages. I want to give that series a snarky re-read soon, but that’s a story for another time.
If the Inheritance Cycle were a person, it would be a stereotypical nerd boy who likes dragons, mistrusts women, and is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. And if the Books of Pellinor were a person, they would be the IC guy’s reserved, introspective, gloomy yet idealistic twin sister. Of the two, I would much rather be friends with her than him.
In a vast land, studded with peaceful cities amid desolate and ruined stretches like stars and the darkness between them, there’s a petty walled village near the base of the mountains. Thane Gilman is a tyrant in his tiny domain. The servants and slaves are afraid to make a run for it, because Gilman keeps fierce hunting dogs and the mountains beyond are full of evil entities and bloodthirsty beasts.
One of these slaves is a young girl named Maerad, a dairymaid who also entertains the Thane and his friends by playing upon her lyre. Maerad’s mother died when she was little, and the other slaves are hostile to her, believing her to be a witch. She has no support network and no hope of escape.
Her luck changes when a strange man from distant parts enters the cow-byre, and she is the only person who can see him. His name is Cadvan, and he is one of the Bards, a group of wise and (ideally) benevolent mages whom Maerad had always believed were myths. But it turns out (su-prise, su-prise, su-prise) that Maerad’s bursts of “witchery” mark her as a Bard, too.
Cadvan’s path will take him across a dangerous landscape, and now he knows he’s morally obligated to take the girl with him. They will learn that a dark power, once thought vanquished, is rising again (no way!) and that corruption has reached the highest ranks of the Bards themselves.
Violence: Cadvan and Maerad are frequently attacked, and sometimes seriously wounded, by supernatural beings, Bards, humans, animals, and monsters. They come across a slaughtered family in a wasteland that includes a baby. Some evil creatures order a child to murder his friend, and when he refuses they kill the second kid anyway. A traitorous Bard sets a harbor and most of its ships on fire. Maerad has scattered, disturbing flashbacks, about the sack of her home before she became a slave; a little girl of about five years, she saw her father beheaded, her mother sapped of her powers, and her home burned. As a slave, Maerad is frequently beaten, and her fellow slaves once tried to drown her in the duck pond.
Sex: Shortly before the story begins, a male slave jumped Maerad while she slept and tried to force himself on her. He did not get far in his attempted rape before she snarled a word of power at him that sent him flying and blinded him for three weeks. She remembers this incident and panics after a nice young man named Dernhil gets a bit too excited and kisses her. She panics, he apologizes, and they part as friends.
Once they get to a hospitable place and are given baths and clean clothes, both Cadvan and Maerad are struck a bit shy, because they never noticed how good-looking the other one was before. This is not sexual content per se, but I’m not sure where else to put it: Maerad’s menarche has been delayed by poor nutrition, and it hits her unexpectedly. Poor Cadvan is the first to see her after this, and gets almost as panicked as she does. Croggon brings it up three or four more times for no apparent reason.
Substance Abuse: There’s a lot of wine at feasts, but no one ever gets drunk.
Anything Else: In Croggon’s “historical notes” at the back of the book, she takes strange pains to clarify that, despite their talk of Light and Dark and Good and Evil, the Bards did not follow any “monotheistic notions” of a personal God. This was fairly obvious from the way Light and Dark are discussed in the book—much closer to the abstractions of Star Wars than the more Biblical Creation-mythology of Tolkien. So I wondered why Croggon had to phrase it like that. It sounded rather disdainful of the Abrahamic faiths, and I thought that was unnecessary. However, one can easily skip the appendices without missing anything interesting.
The Naming is an odd, hard-to-classify book. Contrasted with other, similar Aussie YA high fantasies from the same general era, it’s much less inventive than Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series, has almost no whimsy or romance compared to Juliet Marillier’s Shadowfell, and is wordy and dour compared to Kate Constable’s The Singer of All Songs. Then there’s the small fact that this 466 (492 only including the appendices) page book has no twists and very little plot, and frequently lifts similes and occasionally even dialogue right out of Tolkien.
So what kept me turning pages? Why the high rating?
Because Croggon created two wonderful characters in Cadvan and Maerad. They are noble, they are flawed, they have seen far too much death and darkness and it shows in their behavior. They want to help the downtrodden, they want to be bulwarks against the encroaching Dark, but they also know how badly a well-meaning plan can go wrong, and they are wary of everything and everyone.
It is beautiful when two souls like theirs begin to open timidly up and trust each other. In this book, it happens with perfect timing, with a lot of sweet, tiny moments of respect and friendship that I think (and hope!!!) might blossom into romantic love. Instead of manufacturing sexual tension and decoy love interests , Croggon simply stands back and lets the reader observe what a great team these two make in every way.
Recommended to anyone who’s getting sick of the instalove and drama that comes part and parcel with YA these days, and doesn’t mind slow-paced chapters with lots of landscape description.
You may also like:
- The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix - The Shadowfell trilogy by Juliet Marillier - The Chanters of Tremaris trilogy by Kate Constable - The Annals of the Western Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin - The Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale - Chalice by Robin McKinley
I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading the next book. It is a fairly standard fantasy story - orphan is rescued from a horrible life and is found to be the holder of great power and the possible savior of the nation/world. There are bad guys and treachery and so on. It is a bit uneven in places and there is a bit more repetition that I would like, but otherwise quite good.
My biggest quibble is not with the book but with the many reviewers, here and elsewhere, who compare it to The Lord of the Rings series. Apart from the dark big bad, the plot has very little in common with LOTR. The main character is a GIRL for one thing, a creature that is very rare in Tolkien. Yes, the author has made up a language and a history, with appendices, for her book and country, but this is not exclusive to Tolkien. There are no Hobbit like creatures, no ring of power, etc, etc. Heck, there are not many modern fantasy writers who DON'T have elements of Tolkien in them, and many who create whole worlds. I think it does the author a disservice really, and doesn't let the book's own merits shine. And I see far more traces of other authors, like Garth Nix and Kate Constable to name a couple, than I do of Tolkien.
-- The Pellinor Series -- (5.5/10) The Naming (Book One)
I found Alison's writing to be rather obvious, full of clichés, and on the whole unsatisfying. When one of the main protagonists almost died, I found myself indifferent as the main characters were of a relatively uninteresting sort. Her analogies were overused (e.g., "eyes as wide as saucers"). The conversations seem contrived, and the emotional state of being of her protagonists are volatile and explicitly stated rather then revealed by the characters actions.
I think the book is geared towards a younger audience as I imagine a 13 year old girl might enjoy the book and better connect with things like her repeated references to a the newly discovered woes of a woman's menstrual cycle...
Her invented language of the "Speech" is a fairly un-original "magic system", and while she may have gone through some effort to develop that language, I don't care or appreciate it. Overall, the book was a bit formulaic and slow, although not bad.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
If it weren't so good, I would say this book is a mixture of every other fantasy book on the block. Test: can you match each plot line with another famous work? ...The "chosen one" is raised in a secluded farm, identity hidden...The girl was trained in musicianship by the local bard, and her prodigious talent allows her to be named as a bard when she finally arrives at the school...While travelling together, the neophyte receives instruction from a famous bard with a slightly sinister past...Understanding the words of the ancient speech are crucial...The evil black riders, each a hull of a person turned to the dark side, pursue the travelers...They receive hospitality from a beautiful but immortal queen who rules over a hidden nation...When they finally arrive at the great city, which is a fortress built in nine circles, they are shocked to find evil has penetrated to its heart... Croggan has potential as a fantasy writer but she needs to invent her own plot lines!!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This book is very slow paced. Most of it is a travel log of the scenery, and the level of detail is much more than is needed. Any potential tension is completely lost in these sections.
I didn't feel like I knew or understood the world very well by the end. We're told a great deal about the landscape, a bunch of intricate but insignificant objects (furniture, etc.), and some ancient history, but very little about the current history and politics which are supposedly driving the character's actions. [Note: Some of this information is included in the 21-page Appendices, but I didn't read them.]
The characters were not uninteresting, but the reader is kept at a distance from the main characters (and their secrets) until the end. Then, they get interesting! Unfortunately, I'm not willing to slog through the over-descriptions again (since the next book appears to also be mostly a travel log) on the hope the characters will stay interesting.
On the positive side, there was no sex or cussing. All that said, if you like slow, "fat" books, then you probably will enjoy this book.
A great read, I thoroughly enjoyed it and have gone straight onto Book 2 in the series. A tale of a young woman rescued from slavery, who is found to be someone special with hidden talents. Her rescuer helps her find out who she is and to develop her skills and talents. Their journey is arduous, thrilling and fraught with danger at times. A thrilling magical fantasy story and a great start to the series.
I truly loved reading this book, and I re-read it constantly. The plot is teased out through out the book in an expert manner with characters that are believable and loveable. With so many twists and revelations it would be easy for a lesser writer to waver, and yet The Naming (or The Gift as I know it in the UK) is an amazing work of fiction which captures my imagination and heart every time I read it. A once slave is liberated from her morbid life and thrown head first into a battle between good and evil, yet the author does not fall into the trap of then portraying her characters as either wholly black or white, but there are many grey areas in between. The world where this epic takes place is a land where magic resides in Bards, a musical bunch of magicians essentially, which gives the story a different side which is both refreshing and timeless. The plot unfolds at just the right pace, allowing for everything to happen without everything happening at once, which shows true skill.
Overall this book is a gem, and has pride of place on my bookshelf, along with a few others. I can't imagine ever being bored of reading this book, as it is just too good to only read once!
I LOVED these books. If I could give them 10 stars, I would. The writing was BEAUTIFUL. I have never felt so at home in a book before as I felt in these. Rich, vibrant descriptions and characters and amazing story!!
I admit, I kind of judged a book by its cover with this one. The cover art was pretty and the spine design was also pretty. The blurb on the back cover made the book sound intriguing and I went home and read reviews. The reviews for this book were mostly positive, so I thought, "Hey, why not?"
POTENTIAL SPOILERS. READ AT OWN RISK.
In a word, this book is: boring. So extremely slow-going. The book clocks in at nearly 500 pages. While fantasy is known for its longer books, I've read some books where the 500-page length is pulled off well and seems justified. But at least 50 or so pages could have been cut without losing any essential plot. Too many unnecessary scenes and details. We are treated to a description of nearly every landscape the characters come across. We learn about many different traditions different cultures had. While it helped with the world-building and created a storng fictional world, I think some of this information could have been conveyed without an info-dump. As an extra bonus, readers also get a scene describing Maerad's first period! Fun! >.<
The characters weren't very interesting. Maerad was okay at first, but she quickly became a cliche "Chosen One." She was also very whiny. Yes, she's sixteen, but she became annoyingly whiny.
Cadvan seemed like a typical Gandalf/Obi-Wan/Dumbledore mentor. While not unlikable or annoying like Maerad, he simply didn't feel original or interesting.
I liked Hem's character. While his whole was completely predictable, he was still one of the most interesting and well-rounded characters in the book.
One thing that bothered me was how the whole "Chosen One" thing played out. While it was blatantly obvious that Maerad was the Chosen One(since no good fantasy book was ever about the Non-Chosen One), it was handled poorly. Cadvan spends most of the book speculating that Maerad might be the Chosen One and then it's revealed that she is. It was anti-climatic. We all ready knew she was going to be the Chosen One. It wasn't a moment of, "Oh, cool!" It was a moment of, "'Kay, I knew that all ready. Can we move on now?"
The writing style in this book was okay. I've read Croggon is a poet and it shows. She definitely wrote some very beautiful descriptions and lines in this book and the poetry was, for once, not painfully cheesy. However, she would sometimes get waaay too into the whole Ye Old Medieval Tymes talka and it got annoying.
Overall, The Naming is not a book I recommend. It was slow-going, plodding, and lacked likable characters.
The pace is not too slow, but not too quick. The characters are not too bland, but not too unique. The writing is good but not great. But instead of being the baby bear of fantasy novels, this one ended up being very run of the mill. I felt like I'd read the story before (the danger of reading too much in one genre), with nothing in this book making it really stand out. I eventually got bored with it and stopped reading about two thirds through.
The Naming is a traditional style fantasy with many familiar fantasy elements that are regardless fresh (to my mind), although others might not think so. This is an epic tale of the sort that made me love fantasy in the first place, and I can't say I mind the nostalgia for classic fantasy that this familiarity evokes.
In many ways it did remind me of the LOTR - in the formal tone of the language, the songs, the descriptions of nature (particularly woods), the mood that presses in on you from the memories of the land itself, the rising conflict between Light and Dark, the travels through often-hostile countryside, and the havens full of light and wonder that break up the danger and darkness of the journey.
These are all aspects of the LOTR that I love, and while reading The Naming, I relished that feeling which I have found is rare in other fantasy. Actually, I can't really think of anything that has so pleasantly reminded me of Tolkien's work in tone and description before. I especially love the juxtaposition of light and darkness throughout the book - danger, injury, and low spirits are contrasted with the growth of new friendship, the opportunity to rest, eat and bathe, and to take in some of the beauty of the world. I quickly grow tired of fantasy that focuses mainly on the dark. Here we also have light, and not just a sliver of it.
All of that said, this is enough its own story not to be a Tolkien ripoff. The feeling and tone is there, but the plot itself is completely different. First of all, the story focuses on a girl, and the storytelling also feels more personal, dealing with her emotions and internal struggles.
It starts out with Maerad, a slave-girl, who is discovered and rescued by a bard, Cadvan (bards are mages). The rest of the book reveals who she is, and why the Dark and the Light care who she is. It deals with her struggles to find her sense of self when everything she knows has been completely turned upside down. She must learn to read, to fight, to trust, to discern whom not to trust, and to control the magic that she's not even aware she has. The only constant in her life is her music.
In the midst of Maerad's attempts to adjust to a new life, the Dark is already ahead of her and all around her, attempting to stop her before she realizes her power and finds her purpose. She is protected and guided by Cadvan, who is also trying to figure out who she really is before it's too late. There are prophecies, dreams, and visions. There is a sense of urgency, of time running out. There is betrayal, and there is loyalty.
It's a lot of fun to read. In short, I loved it, and I've already started the second book.
Not only was I seduced by the pretty uk version cover of this book (which i listened to in a pricey audio format) but it came highly recommend, so I really wanted to like this book and its fair to say I did like this book... but only for a little while.
I liked this book very much at the start. The setting in particular. One cant help but wonder how our young Maerad, will escape and what clever way she will find to do so. I found myself imagining the slave settlement a bit like the setting in the 90's Amiga 500 game- "another world" But meh - that's how geeks roll.
My first disappointment was the escape scene. I Can't help but feel it could of been done in a more dramatic way, with more imagination. A man puts a spell on her and she’s invisible and just walks out? com'on." I didn't expect shawshank but surely something a bit more compelling could of been thought up of? Even the dogs, who could of at least then added the thrill of the chase got closed down just as it got...well er thrilling? I Would loved to of scene the author really show us something with more depth, or with a bit more edge. Perhaps she does later on in the book? But I didn't find out as around 30% in to the book I stopped, and put it down. I couldn't finish it.
Another negative which is reserved only for the audiobook was the narrator, who did a fine job until they started singing! how did they get this gig when part of the story is all about singing? couldn't they of got a second voice over in for those parts from a gifted songstress? its really did take some of the authenticity away from the story since much of a bards power comes from an outstanding singing voice.
Getting back to the story, I found it very unoriginal - "Yawn. You are the chosen one. You happen to own the most priceless musical bard equipment that only legend talks of... (That hasn't been noticed or stolen before) blar blar, You've saved the life of you mentor twice already even though he's much more experienced/wiser then you & all without any effort because your gift is of such power...and after that point? Now guessing but... don't tell me! She saves the world? The end? Job done.
OK, this one frustrated me! Lots of readers have mentioned the use of many familiar tropes in this book, but fantasy tropes don't bother me. I'm fine with the Chosen One trope, the Journey trope, and the School trope if they are executed in a novel and compelling way. My main frustration has to do with one of my quirks as a reader--The fact that I find lengthy descriptions of scenery deadly dull! This book is absolutely filled with endless bleak landscapes Described in exhaustively minute detail!
My second source of frustration was the magic system; characters don't learn it it just comes upon them, whereupon they have become entitled to greatness! The reader is told, in many painful repetitions, how great Bard's are. But from what I could see, they bemoan the decline of their culture while doing nothing to stop it. Good Bard seem unwilling to challenge those who are falling away, presumably so as to avoid trampling on each other's greatness!
The third major irritation stems from pedantry on my part and involves some very minor spoilers. Maerad is a slave girl living in squalid conditions packed together with many other slaves Who do not have access to good hygiene. In such circumstances, there is no way a girl would not have learned about the female cycle by the age of 16. Later, a bard with the gift of reading into the souls of those he examines should have known that Maerad associates male desire with rape, a constant threat during her time in slavery. Besides, why is a supposedly good middle-aged man hitting on a young girl he has known for less than a week? Blech!
The last 10 percent of this book finally got interesting, but it was too little too late for me. I expected to love this book, but I was sadly disappointed.
"Maerad is a slave in a desperate and unforgiving settlement, taken there as a child when her family is destroyed in ar. She is unaware that she possesses a powerful Gift, a Gift that marks her as a member of the School of Pellinor. It is only when she is discovered by Cadvan, one of the great Bards of Lirigon, that her true heritage and extraordinary destiny unfolds. Now, she and her teacher Cadvn must survive a perilous journey through a time and place where the dark forces they battle with stem from the deepest recesses of other worldy terror."
This is on the back of "The Naming" (called The Gift in NZ). This book was on a sale table for about $5. I was looking for something new to read and had never heard of Alison Croggon and thought that if I liked it I would go to the library and borrow the rest of the series.
I was only at the end of Chapter 1 when I knew that I had to own the series. I was transported into her world and held riveted. Her story is reminiscent of Tolkien, but anyone who writes fantasy is influenced / compared to Tolkien. The language used conjures skillful imagines and believable characters.
Thank goodness I found the series when the final book has been released – I don’t have to wait for books in the series to be published (and it’s the summer holidays in NZ).
4.5! I greatly loved reading this one, I kept it on hold for a little while, but now I'm glad I decided to finished it! Now, this is what I call High Fantasy! “There is no shame in not knowing something,” he said gently. “The shame is in not being willing to learn.” Wow....just wow! We follow our protagonist, Maerad, a very helpless slave desperately trying to stay alive in the world of evil, with lovely hidden talents. Then comes Cadvan, who's character is the most inspiring in the entire book! He comes and rescues her from all the slaves who'd like her dead, also tells her about the great gift she possesses. I loved how he decided to take her to his own hometown, and keep her secure...he really cared about her! He's one of the most generous character's I've read of, as he also agrees to take a boy they meet in a not-so-abandoned house with him, although he gets a bit irritated, who wouldn't? There was a long way to be traveled in this book, it felt real slow-paced, but I still enjoyed it pretty much, considering all the interesting challenges they come up to on there incredible journey! Look, If you're a fan of High Fantasy and love LotR, this should definitely be your next read!
The Naming is from the "coming of age" genre, but is more the "I've gotten through puberty and now am trying to figure out who I am and it would be easier if I were someone magical or famous or something other than I am now". I suppose it is a book of self-discovery, though that isn't quite right either.
The story is fairly straightforward and Potterian. Maerad is an orphan slave girl with some unusual qualities that have kept her from being victimized as most of the young female slaves are. Then she meets a man in the cow barn who no one else can see - again, she has unusual qualities and they become more and more obvious and important - and he helps her escape. They face a perilous journey through dark lands together. She learns about the Light, the Dark, and a host of other things, that lead her to the discovery of her own place in this world. She is, it turns out, the One of a prophecy and her fate is to save the world.
The book is well written and the mythology, language and culture of this world are convincing. The author deals well with the loss of the security of the known that all young adults must cope with as they move from childhood to adulthood. The loss is all the more difficult for Maerad because she was late to discovering the security that childhood should provide. Simply adjusting to the new perspective of adulthood is difficult enough without having bills and broken cars and other responsibilities thrown at you - or being the fated savior of the world.
A bit too much romance for me - but well done and not desperate and negating. I am sad when a young woman can't simply be friends with men - in real life or in literature. But no bee-training. Maerad comes into her powers gradually and fairly believably.
It is part of a series and it seems worth reading the next one.
This book was very well written with incredible world building and even an appendix at the back explaining the history of the world further. Which I liked as I always love to get into a good fantasy world, but I felt things could have been edited down a bit. Like the descriptions, I felt this book described non-magical everyday situations in far too much detail when only a brief description was needed. I also felt the characters could have had more depth to them as they each had very colourful backgrounds but it didn't feel like there was anything exciting about them personality-wise.
The action scenes could have been more suspenseful not to mention more frequent.However on saying that I really did love all the revelations about the characters and world as the story moved along. I will read the next book but since this one felt like a long haul I won't hurry to the next one.
Read this in grade 3, thought I was so cool, barely remember the storyline because it was way above my reading level...
What I do remember is a scene with her standing...in a shower (?) and blood spilling down her legs, apparently she got her period but it completely flew over my head because I had no idea what a period was back then and 8-year-old me was like umm okay whatever just keep reading, I just completely...ignored it?
Also looking at the synopsis and stuff now it looks like such a Tolkien copycat but I hadn't heard of Tolkien back then so...yeah, was pretty legit, much better than the fantasy stuff now (there I am acting like a boomer book snob ah well)
all in all, 10/10 highly recommend, will definitely reread
This, folks, is a specimen of what I believe is termed 'high fantasy'; and like most high fantasy of the twenty-first century, it seems to pretty much be a rip-off of Tolkien. HOWEVER, this is a really good rip-off of Tolkien, so . . . I'll take it. ;)
Was it absolutely flawless? No. Were the similarities to Middle-earth always well-disguised? No. (I, mean, "Star of Evening"?! Is it even worthwhile to try, at that point?!) Was the style of dialogue always consistent? No. Was it always well-paced? No.
But did it hook me almost immediately and keep me the whole way through? Yes. In fact, there was a part close to the end that kind of threw me a little because it made me realize just how invested I was in the characters. I'm definitely going to continue the series; I just hope very much that Ms. Croggon didn't kill off any of my favorite characters or wreck my ship. I'mma try not to low-key panic about it, actually. :-P
(Briefly, I wanted to mention that one of my complaints is the emphasis placed on Maerad getting her period for the first time and having to adjust to that aspect of life. Technically, I understand that it actually does make sense that she could have started so late, since apparently starvation impedes menstruation and she was after all a slave for most of her life, so that combined with other factors could have brought that about. But even if mentioning it the first time would have been okay/realistic, I don't think it was necessary to have Cadvan involved in it. Then, too, the author kept on mentioning it to the point where I really felt like it was unnecessary and detrimental to the rest of the book.
But that's my main issue. I was initially a little concerned about the "magical" aspect of it, but the way it's integrated into the world works for my personal boundaries. They're abilities you're born with, not ones that anyone can assume.)
Highly recommended for fans of Tolkien's style, both in terms of genre and writing itself!
I’d seen The Naming around Goodreads and was intrigued by it but not enough to actually pick it up. I was glad when this showed up in the OSW recommendations.
The Naming was a weird book for me to read. It had tons of potential: tropes and scenarios I am familiar and comfortable with plus the fact that the main character was a girl (when often boys happen to be Chosen Ones). But I had a really hard time with the book because it was so boring and I just couldn’t get into it exactly because it was so familiar to the point of being derivative. There were things that could be considered “subverting” these familiar tropes (more on that later) but they were perhaps too minor or too superficial to mean anything of substance. That said, The Naming was an important read for me because it served to highlight and reinforce what I kind of already knew: how tired I am of the Chosen One trope, how much I dislike overly descriptive books and how I am might be over Epic Fantasy for now.
Like Ana, I’ve had my eye on The Naming for a while now. This is a book I frequently see lurking on shelves at my local bookstores and across the interwebs, and until recently, it has been one of those pick-it-up-read-the-blurb-put-it-back kind of books (love the cover and title, but there was never anything particularly OOMPH-y about the book that compelled me to buy it in the past). When this book surfaced on our OSW readalong poll list, I was thrilled because finally I had a reason to get into the Pellinor series.
And…I’m a little ambivalent when it comes to the actual book. I enjoyed certain aspects of the novel (and the story, when it is moving along and not just focused on the mind-numbingly mundane minutia of walking through the countryside and eating biscuits and berries and such). And, like Ana, I appreciate that the book attempts to subvert familiar tropes by instituting an unapologetic female character as its heroine and the Chosen One Who Will Save The Land From The DARK. That said, the book is needlessly protracted, the main character is (obviously) unparalleled in terms of abilities and power, and the story is a little bit reductive and familiar. The Naming isn’t a bad book – but it’s not a particularly memorable one, either.
1. Clearly, THE NAMING has some familiar, old school fantasy influences – which influences were the most apparent to you? Did this heavy reliance on traditional fantasy work in your opinion?
Ana: It’s funny how I saw so many influences from favourite books (Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings the most obvious one) but those left me cold here. I think this book was far too derivative, the world-building far too close to that of Tolkien (I mean, there is even an honest-to-Goddess Galadriel replica) for me to be able to enjoy it. The writing style, the long pieces of description and the “let’s walk all the way to Mordor” all reminded me of LoTR. It actually made me seriously wonder if I would be able to read (and enjoy) LoTR if I attempted a re-read now and I suspect the answer would be “no”.
Thea: There’s a fine line between homage and mimicry, and while The Naming has a few interesting ideas in terms of worldbuilding, the heavy Tolkien influences (and a little bit of GRRM, Susan Cooper, and J.K. Rowling) did not work to the book’s credit. The Naming borrows too heavily from its influences and works too closely to these older classic motifs, framing this book as a blandly predictable LOTR/Dark is Rising/Harry Potter rehash. There’s the entrenched and increasingly corrupt fellowship of Bards that refuse to Read the Signs that the Dark is Rising; there’s the downtrodden, orphaned girl who does not understand the Great Power she wields or her illustrious past and destiny. And to Ana’s point, not only is there a Galadriel figure in The Naming, but there are also “dark bards” called Hulls and an old evil king that has become a paradigm of evil (named Sardor). There’s an honest to goodness sorcerer who has turned to the Dark and resurrected the Evil. There’s even an analog of Rivendell hidden deep in the forgotten places of this particular magical world.
And, at one point, someone actually says “Winter is coming.”
2. In the same vein, let’s talk fantasy tropes. THE NAMING employs the old Chosen One standby – one foretold to staunch the rising darkness and Save The Land. Discuss the tropes in this book – what worked? What didn’t? Are you a fan?
Ana: Well, there is not only the Chosen One trope, but also its ultra familiar packaging – i.e. the Chosen One who is an Orphan and a slave who never knew or suspected her background.
I think that my apathy toward the novel was somewhat mitigated because the Chosen One happens to be a girl here. The potential was immense especially considering how there were attempts to talk about it within the story. Maerad is always questioning her role as a Chosen One as well as her background. One of the few positives was how the enemies of the Chosen One completely overlooked Maerad because to their minds the prophecy could not be about a girl. So in a way, the fact that the main character is a girl is not an accident – I feel there is definitely a feminist point being made here and I wonder if this aspect will be more developed in further installments.
That said: is the fact that the Chosen One is a girl subversive enough to compensate for the fact that she is still a Special Ultra Powerful Person who doesn’t even have to learn to use her Ultra Special Powers? I don’t think so.
It seems then that I am not a fan.
Thea: You know, I’m not intrinsically opposed to the Chosen One trope. Like most fantasy standbys, when it is done well, this trope is a beautiful thing (see everything from Harry Potter to Star Wars). Unfortunately, The Naming doesn’t really do enough with the tropes it employs to shake the oppressive mantle of formulaic blandness. Like Ana says, the fact that Maerad is a young woman and the Chosen One is, on its face, a good thing. The fact that Maerad questions herself, her destiny, and her abilities is also a very cool thing – not to mention the fact that she is growing up from child to woman (gets her period for the first time, struggles with desire/attraction) is also an interesting and different dynamic than the usual male Heroes that play this role in epic fantasy.
Of course, this is exacerbated by the fact that Maerad is not just the Chosen One, BUT she possesses unparalleled magical powers, she has the sweetest most beautiful singing voice and bardic abilities, she is effortlessly beautiful and everyone (except those that are Evil) loves her instantly. She learns how to read in a single lesson, she thwarts unbeatable evil with a single phrase, and… well, you get the picture. THIS to me is the most irritating part of the book. I like Maerad as a considerate, questioning, intelligent heroine (which humanizes her character), but I hate the fact that she is so exceptionally powerful and perfect (which de-humanizes her character and reduces her to a stock character).
3. Let’s talk about worldbuilding: this first book of Pellinor introduces a new fantasy world in the Western European paradigm, with a system of Bards and the threat of the Dark (dark bards called Hulls, and fearful creatures called wers, and Wights). What are your thoughts on the world of Annar? Well developed or underdeveloped? Memorable or forgettable?
Ana: I guess the answer is “Well developed” but “forgettable.” It’s well developed in the way that it well thought-through: the author obviously spent time creating her own mythos, her own world (considering the appendixes as well as the introduction). But again, it is so derivative and familiar and concerned about descriptions of random things and scenery that it ends up being forgettable. At least, that’s how I felt about it.
Thea: I love the idea of a society of magical Bards and the power of music and stories in The Naming and this fantastical world. The idea of that the world of Annar has different cultures and competing schools of Barding is a little Harry Potterish, but in a good way. I also like the idea of a young person coming into their power by discovering “The Speech” – that is, usually by conversing with animals (again, Harry Potter, anyone?). That said, all of these different worldbuilding nuances are lost in a bloated story and the more derivative, familiar aspects of the book.
4. On the character front, how does Maerad stack up as a heroine? How about Cadvan, her teacher and companion? What other characters did you like or not like in THE NAMING?
Ana: I am conflicted on this point: I kind of liked Maerad but because the writing or the execution of the story didn’t appeal to me, she ended up being rather non-descript. Her early dynamics with Cadvan when the two first meet almost drove me up the wall especially when he was horrible to her, telling her to “catch up” and I just wanted to punch him because the girl spent her life to that point as a prisoner/slave without ever knowing who she was and the potential for magic she had.
I read this one week ago and can barely remember any other memorable character and that’s a problem in itself.
Thea: When you separate Maerad from her awesome abilities and powers, I appreciate her more as a heroine. She has a sharp, inquisitive mind, and I like that she questions the people around her and her own role in this great future of saving the land and whatnot. I also appreciate the fact that for all Maerad’s unparalleled strengths and uniqueness, she’s not a badass warrior and struggles with violence.
I generally liked the supporting characters in this book, although they all seem to fall into helpful generous benefactor roles – the motherly Sylvia and smitten scholar Dernhil fall firmly into this category. The tortured Cadvan is an interesting mentor to Maerad – I do like that others question their relationship, and that you never really know what Cadvan is thinking (although his frequent patriarchal exasperation with Maerad is annoying, especially in the early chapters). AND of course, there is the late addition of the rascally Hem as a character – whom I enjoyed, even if his introduction to the story felt AGAIN very “All the Stars are Aligning as the Prophecy Foretold.”
What is your favorite thing from this book? What weren’t you enthusiastic about? And, most importantly, will you continue with the series?
Ana: Hummm…I am sorry to say I was not enthusiastic about anything. I was bored out of my mind and do not plan on reading the series any further.
I do have one last question I want to throw out there: would you consider The Naming a good introduction to Epic Fantasy to younger readers? Are there good enough aspects of the novel that would appeal to those who haven’t read a lot of Epic Fantasy yet?
Thea: The strongest parts of the book, to me, lie with Maerad’s characterization and the worldbuilding – although these elements are not without significant drawbacks (Maerad’s uniqueness, the world’s utter familiarity). There was one particular aspect of the book that bothered me that we haven’t discussed here – that is, there were parts of the book where the regular western fantasy speech would turn into crazy archaic speech, complete with “thee”s, “thou”s, and so on. (Talk about overkill and an entirely jarring experience.)
I think on the whole, I’m feeling a little more charitable towards The Naming than Ana, but I do think the book suffered from the most fatal of flaws: banality. This book is entirely too similar to other fantasy books that did it first and did it better. As I said before, this isn’t a bad book. It’s just not a particularly memorable one, either. I probably won’t be reading the next book in the series (unless someone can tell me that it gets REALLY GOOD).
When Maerad, a young slave, meets a man looking for shelter, she is thrust into the world of Bards, magic and darkness against light. Maerad, who has no memory of her childhood, finds out she is from a special magic school called Pellinor, and she herself also contains the ability to do magic and a powerful at that. Now she travels with Cadvan, her friend, saviour and teacher, as they try to warn others about the powerful rising of darkness before it's too late.
This is a really nice high fantasy story with all the classic tropes you expect to see in the genre, with some nice elements thrown in that give the story charm and intrigue. I really enjoy Maerad's perspective from her fears and doubts to the times she is confident and powerful. There are some moments of coincidence in this book but I like how this was used as 'not so much chance meeting but faith and destiny intertwined'. I also like the dynamic of Maerad and Cadvan as student/mentor and I wonder if there is potential for that to become something more in future books.
Kudos to this book too for not forgetting that women in fantasy books also menstruate (and a wonderful scene when Cadvan thought he was going to have to explain how to handle your period to Maerad).
One thing I also appreciated in this book was the important of nature and animals. Bards in this book speak a special language and through this they can communicate with animals in a really lovely way from letting dogs know they mean no harm, sending messages via birds and forging an even deeper connection with horses. The nature in the book such as the woodland also plays an important part in the feelings it gives out and the characters know through the air and their own instincts when to feel on edge and wary of danger.
A strong first book in a series, and I'm looking forward to reading more!
Das war diesmal ein Re-Read der Geschichte, da ich die Reihe endlich vollständig gekauft habe und nun endlich durchziehen möchte. Auch beim erneuten Lesen hat mir die Geschichte wieder gut gefallen. Der Schreibstil der Autorin ist sehr angenehm und detailliert. Jedoch gab es auch immer mal ein paar etwas langatmigere Passagen. Jedoch konnte die dieser High Fantasy Roman mit seinen tollen Protagonistin Maerad, tollen Charakteren und spannenden Wendungen bei mir punkten. Bin schon gespannt wie es weiter geht.
I can't believe that I've never written a full review for this book, definitely something I need to do! This is probably the 50+th time I've read this and I loved it just as much as always!
I did it! I finally re-read my favourite book! The Gift, by Alison Croggon, was my most read book when I was younger. I’ve re-read it at least 50 times, with the pages completely falling out of the book and the binding ruined. I’ve been absorbed in its pages so often. Somehow, I hadn’t re-read it since I started my Bookternet life though, and I finally rectified this! So, let’s get into it!
The Gift, known as The Naming in the US, follows Maerad (my-rad), a young slave girl in dire circumstances. She’s saved from slavery by Cadvan, a passing traveller whom no-one else can see, and is introduced to a life of Bards and schooling. Despite this new world of learning, her life isn’t set to be an easy one, with Maerad and Cadvan set on a perilous journey in order to battle the dark which has sunk its teeth into Annar.
This book. Damn. I’m so so happy that I still love it! This was 100% a five star read for me! There’s always the worry when you go back to a childhood favourite that you’re not going to love it as much. Tastes change, and especially when you go back in age range it can lend a different viewpoint that leads you to not enjoy the book so much. Thankfully, I adore this book just as much as I always have done!
I adore how Maerad has been written as a 16 year old. She felt realistic to me when I was younger than her and at the same age, and she still feels realistic to me now! She’s very nervous being dumped into these new situations and there are definitely times when she feels like she knows everything and then learns the hard way that she doesn’t. With Maerad coming from such a place of ignorance, we get to learn about her powers along with her. Every revelation is a surprise to all parties involved and seeing how everyone reacts to these as the book (and the series) progresses is one of my favourite parts of the book!
Cadvan, Maerad’s rescuer, teacher, friend, companion and so much more. I adore how he is so desperate to atone himself for his past actions. How he’s so truly towards the light. How he isn’t perfect. He can get impatient and harsh but he always apologises when needed. That’s another aspect of characterisation Croggon does incredibly, is making her characters real. They make mistakes, and not always just huge ones but the simple everyday ones we all make.
There is a lot of lore related to this book. I remember when I first read it as a kid I was convinced it was a fictionalisation of real world events. That just shows #1 how much historical fiction I was reading (and how accurate it was!) and #2 how well and in depth Croggon has written this world. Every aspect and facet that could reasonably be known from the “limited translations” is there and she has put so much thought into this world. As a child I wished that I could live there and learn in one of the Schools of Annar and as an adult I found myself wishing the same thing!
I read this for one of the Booktube Rereadathon prompts and I’m so glad that I’m going to be able to fit the other 3 books into the next 3 prompts because I 100% need to re-read this series now! I can’t wait to fully submerse myself in this world again and to see how much I adore the other books upon an “adult” re-read!
Well it's a fantasy series which I had in my bookcases for the longest of the time so I finally decided to take it out for the ride well it took me for a ride instead as it took me well over 10 months to finish this book. Review continue later gotta catch a train.
My dream of being a writer is realized and I am now a Goodreads Author. People who don't read generally ask me my reasons for reading. Simply put I just love reading and so to that end I have made it my motto to just Keep on Reading. I love to read everything except for Self Help books but even those once in a while. I read almost all the genres but YA, Fantasy, Biographies are the most. My favorite series is, of course, Harry Potter but then there are many more books that I just adore. I have bookcases filled with books that are waiting to be read so can't stay and spend more time in this review, so remember I loved reading this and love reading more, you should also read what you love and then just Keep on Reading.