Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels discussion

Paladin of Souls (World of the Five Gods, #2)
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Monthly Reading: Discussion > July 2018 "The Paladin of Souls" Discussion <Caution! Spoilers May Be Present!>

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message 1: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (last edited Jul 01, 2018 03:22AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Art | 2546 comments Mod
Group Read #11


message 2: by Bryan, Village Idiot (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bryan | 480 comments Mod
Man, I must be reading to many backstabbing-walking-dead-game-of-thrones type books. Because when Arthys dy Lutez comes to save Ista all I can think about is "Don't trust him! He's a bandit! He's working with your enemies!!" I guess we shall see if I am horribly corrupted by other, less friendly books or if I am right!


message 3: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (last edited Jul 21, 2018 06:48PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Art | 2546 comments Mod
Did anybody else find the middle parts of both books too much in the style of "whodunit"? The parts where heroes mope over seemingly "unresovable" situations, asking each other's opinions and try to gather as much information as possible about whatever the predicament they are facing and whatnot, I find those rather uhm.. I would hate saying dull because they are not entirely such.

Nevertheless I breezed through the first 40 - 50% of the book in a couple of days and then got bogged down. Now the fault might be entirely mine, I did not have enough time (nor as a matter of fact, attention) to sit down for an hour or two and just get through it. Instead I stole 10-15 minutes at a time, so that might've ruined it for me.


message 4: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kateblue | 4071 comments Mod
Hm, I guess I never noticed that, but I like whodunnits, so I guess it didn't bother me.


message 5: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 4001 comments Mod
Art wrote: "Did anybody else find the middle parts of both books too much in the style of "whodunit"? "

Yes, I agree that it added a but of mystery novel. I like when authors (cleverly) mix genres. I also liked the fact that unlike many fantasy novels this doesn't put women in 'real life medieval' male roles (except for couriers but that's fine). It is not in any case an approval of discrimination by gender - I just read non-fiction on Middle ages and it irks me that there are ahistoric depictions in largely historic settings.


message 6: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new) - rated it 4 stars

Art | 2546 comments Mod
Oleksandr wrote: "Art wrote: "Did anybody else find the middle parts of both books too much in the style of "whodunit"? "

Yes, I agree that it added a but of mystery novel. I like when authors (cleverly) mix genres..."


I guess the issue for me was that sudden change of pace, which was rapid from the start and even ever-growing, with Gods and bear-demons coming into the picture. Sudden ambush and even more unexpected rescue, everything was going at an incredible rate and then it just plateaued. Then came the repetitions of things said between various characters and even though story continues after 50-80 pages, I (I might be alone in this) felt rather cooled off by the time it did.


message 7: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kateblue | 4071 comments Mod
Art said: "then it just plateaued."

Although I read this last November, I don't remember it being uneven, which is what I think you are saying. I think the whodunit part was necessary to fix what needed to be fixed. And if it was repetitive, I didn't notice. I have recently read a book where all it did was repeat, so I can notice that

My feelings are that I was not hugely excited with it while Caz became situated back where he came from. Then it started to get really good.


message 8: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 4001 comments Mod
What do you think about the setting, including Gods? For me the series reads more like historical fiction than fantasy - in the first two volumes at least we don't see usual fantasy elements like non-human humanoids (elves orcs, etc) usual magical beasts (dragons, unicorns) or a lot of magic. The setting is quite like Europe in middle ages. While there is no monotheism, a lot of theology is also similar to the Christian theology debates (why there is evil if God is good, where souls go, etc). I liked it this way, do you?


message 9: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new) - rated it 4 stars

Art | 2546 comments Mod
Oleksandr wrote: "What do you think about the setting, including Gods? For me the series reads more like historical fiction than fantasy - in the first two volumes at least we don't see usual fantasy elements like n..."

This is one of my favorite sub-genres of Fantasy, the realism of settings and people behaviors just adds to the world building. I also enjoy way authors of certain caliber (Bujold, Le Guin, Harrison, Zelazny, etc) fool around with theology and nail it every time.

As for Kate's earlier comment, the part where Ista spends roughly 80 pages going over the same things wasn't by far badly written or boring, I just found it lacking elegance and snappy pace of the rest of the book. That in itself was a bigger letdown than anything else, but then again it might've been my odd schedule and lack of free time that was at fault.

In any case, though Cazaril was a fantastic protagonist, I was not once disappointed by Ista, far from it. A person who is not afraid to curse gods (three out of five of whom she actually met) deserves some credit in my book.


message 10: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kateblue | 4071 comments Mod
Oleksandr, I actually think these books are set in the usual type of fantasy pre-industrial setting. Most fantasies that aren't urban or futuristic use this type of setting, which makes most of them read like historical fiction. They are historical, just not "Earth in this dimension" historical. Or, in other words, they are historical, but they just have fantastical elements added.

Here, the fantastical elements are not elves, orcs, and so on; instead, we have gods. Oh, and the fact that Bujold is a terrific writer helps. Ditto why the people/settings seem so real--Bujold does all that very well.

And yes, the philosophies and arguments are all fun to read (in this book, anyway).

BTW, if anyone is planning to go on to the third book (not nominated) BEWARE. It is set 500 years before this one. I quit reading it last fall because I got so confused. Then I found out it was 500 years earlier, so much of my confusion evaporated. But I haven't gotten back to it yet.


message 11: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 4001 comments Mod
Kateblue wrote: "Oleksandr, I actually think these books are set in the usual type of fantasy pre-industrial setting. Most fantasies that aren't urban or futuristic use this type of setting."

We may have different reading lists but for my fantasy list I disagree - often the magic is systematised and actively used, orcs or other non-humans are viewed as 'plain evil', dragons are not very rare. This includes Lord of the Rings, Earthsea, Song of Ice and Fire and a lot of others


message 12: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kateblue | 4071 comments Mod
Hm . . . I am not sure we are talking about the same thing. I say--settings for pre-industrialized fantasy books always have a tinge of historical fiction to them because the settings are drawn from the past of our world. The author takes that history and twists it to fashion the background of his fantasy world. Example, Sparrowhawk's home town on Gont had a midwife/healer who happened to be a witch, but regular historical fiction has midwives in it, they are just not witches.

So all I am saying is, regardless of the active manipulation of magic
by characters or the existence of magical creatures, when a fantasy has a medieval-type setting, it seems historical, as do these.

If you are saying that the fantastical element in these books is less because the usual magic wielders and conflicts between non-human magical races are absent, sure. I agree with that.


message 13: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 4001 comments Mod
Kateblue wrote: "The author takes that history and twists it to fashion the background of his fantasy world. Example, Sparrowhawk's home town on Gont"

Earthsea is not a medieval Europe, it is much less time defined - it can be ancient Greece, or Rome or early middle ages or even non-European civilization. In Five gods we have much more Medieval Europe - feudalism, knights' orders, monarchies, church caring for poor and infirm (unlike say Greek system of oracles). In many cultures midwives and medics in general assumed to use magic as well - it doesn't pinpoint in time and place


Antti Värtö (andekn) | 853 comments Mod
Art: I agree with you, the pacing felt off. The mystery part on the middle had very different tone than the story before or after it.


Antti Värtö (andekn) | 853 comments Mod
Both CoC and PoS could be said to have "deus ex machina" -endings: a god enters the picture and saves the day. Yet the endings are satisfying, because the god doesn't appear out of nowhere: especially in PoS the god appears many times before the final miracle. Cgalion books could be seen as playing with our subverting the "deus ex machina" -trope?


message 16: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 4001 comments Mod
Antti wrote: "Chalion books could be seen as playing with our subverting the "deus ex machina" -trope? "

A very interesting thought! I always thought that the phrase specifically meant sudden and unexpected solution by a new, previously absent character (which isn't the case in these books)


message 17: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new) - rated it 4 stars

Art | 2546 comments Mod
Antti wrote: "Both CoC and PoS could be said to have "deus ex machina" -endings: a god enters the picture and saves the day. Yet the endings are satisfying, because the god doesn't appear out of nowhere: especia..."

I think it only feels this way because it is the actual Gods who enter the play in the end. However it is far from being a "deus ex machina" simply because the Gods themselves could have done absolutely nothing without the help of main characters. Curse of Chalion plot was so exquisite that up until the last moment you didn't see any of it coming. However once it did, everything fell into place and you could make sense of all the earlier references; e.g real and spiritual world existing on the same plane, only a veil apart, ghosts and whatnot.

Paladin of Souls was somewhat less satisfying to me, simply because Ista was such a wonderful character, but in the end Bastard's done the most of work in not-as-satisfying manner. Could've been much better if they haven't wasted a third of the book yapping away inside a fort.


message 18: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kateblue | 4071 comments Mod
Art, I guess I am going to have to read them again after all. I liked Paladin better. I guess I get why you describe much of it as "yapping away inside a fort"

I can't wait to see what you think of the Volkosigan books


Antti Värtö (andekn) | 853 comments Mod
Art: Funny, we had very different experiences regarding the endings. CoC felt to me much more like "deus ex machina", because the Daughter hadn't appeared in the plot before the very end, and she basically magics all the problems away while Caz just lies there dying. In PoS, on the other hand, the Bastard is one of the characters and appwars many times during the course of the book, but it is still Ista who does the actual work of banishing
the demons.


message 20: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new) - rated it 4 stars

Art | 2546 comments Mod
Antti wrote: "Art: Funny, we had very different experiences regarding the endings. CoC felt to me much more like "deus ex machina", because the Daughter hadn't appeared in the plot before the very end, and she b..."

Indeed, that is something worth exploring. I might've missed something in PoS that everyone loves.

I will throw some of the quotes from CoC your way, see what your thoughts are gonna be. Will do it when I get back tonight.


message 21: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new) - rated it 4 stars

Art | 2546 comments Mod
The subtlety of the plot made me enjoy the Curse of Chalion slightly more than the PoS, even though the two novels have similarities between them.

In CoC there are two major plot developments that share main characters so the introduction of the curse is not thrust upon the reader but is introduced little at a time. Divinity is also discussed but never explicitly, never defining the extent of the Gods' power. At some point it gets rather obvious that Caz is a tool, but once again the reader is being kept in the dark as to who exactly is pulling the strings. Apart from all that you get hints about afterlife and the curse itself.

What made the ending of CoC all the more satisfying was how seamlessly it all came together.

I suppose everyone remembers Caz and Ista seeing ghosts, I could not find the right quote but at a certain point Cazaril deducts that at the moment of death the two worlds are at their closest("And at the moment of death, we slide through altogether. Losing our anchor in matter, gaining . . . what? Death ripped a hole between the worlds.") and in fact, the whole idea behind the prophecy of promised deliverance by three selfless deaths for the house of Chalion is built entirely on this.
Upon Caz's third death Godess exploits the opening to suck out the curse which did not belong to that world:
"And now to work, the Lady whispered. Open to me, sweet Cazaril.

Can I watch? he asked tremulously.

Whatever you can bear, is permitted. "

...

The goddess drew the curse of Chalion like thick black wool into Her hands. Lifting it from Iselle and Bergon, somewhere in the streets of Taryoon. From Ista in Valenda. From Sara in Cardegoss. From all the land of Chalion, mountain to mountain, river to plain. Cazaril could not sense Orico in the dark fog. The Lady spun it out again through Cazaril. As it twisted through him into the other realm, its darkness fell away, and then he wasn’t sure if it was a thread or a stream of bright clean water, or wine, or something even more wonderful.


So the buildup for both the climax and the conflict itself has been extensive, clues subtle and exquisitely hidden in plain sight throughout the book. Daughter's actions were based on over four or five decades of history, it only appeared sudden to a reader, but once explained, everything fell into its rightful place.

There are many more quotes that I wanted to link but it's getting quite long as it is, so just let me know if you think I missed anything.


Antti Värtö (andekn) | 853 comments Mod
I agree that the ending was perfectly foreshadowed. But the human characters were just tools for the gods in CoC. Not only Caz - I mean, dy Jinoral hits exactly the right spot with his sword? Quite obviously the Daughter was guiding his hand one way or the other. And as a reward for his part, Caz can observe what happens afterwards - but only observe.

Contrast this with PoS, where Ista is very active in the climax. This is underlined when she decides not to eat Foix' demon, and the Bastard says something like "you can choose how you do your work best". PoS is all about agency: the gods can call you to action, but it is up to you, whether you answer that call - or what you actually *do* when you answer it. This feels more rewarding story to me, the characters aren't just pieces on a gameboard.

So, I don't think we actually disagree, we just appreciate different things?


message 23: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kateblue | 4071 comments Mod
Wow, I could read your debate on this issue forever.

I just knew I liked PoS a bit better (love is still love) but I think Antti has hit the underlying reason why. If there's anything I hate, it's a stuck protagonist. That's someone who has a problem to solve but can't do anything about it. (It's one of the reasons I don't really like "I Love Lucy," for example. She is always stuck.)

Caz was basically stuck, while Ista was at least somewhat active. That's gotta be a lot of it! Thanks for the clarification.


message 24: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new) - rated it 4 stars

Art | 2546 comments Mod
Kateblue wrote: "Wow, I could read your debate on this issue forever.

I just knew I liked PoS a bit better (love is still love) but I think Antti has hit the underlying reason why. If there's anything I hate, it'..."


The only thing I set out to do was to disprove the claim that CoC had a "Deus ex Machina" going for it, in which I sincerely hope I succeeded. The book has many layers that are far from being apparent, so it deserves the due credit.

As for liking one over the other, it's not even about that. I honestly cannot decide who I like better, Caz or Ista (if I were forced to, I would probably go with the latter). Besides that, I don't believe there could be one book without the other. It being a part of series of the Five Gods, neither of the novels alone covers all of them. Oh, another misconception regarding CoC, I don't think it is fair to give all the credit to Daughter, since Mother was the one who warned Ista in the first place. I believe there was a hint that it was Father who lost the curse itself and let Golden General pull it off. Son doesn't figure much in either of the stories, but knowing what sons in general are like (I'm told I actually am one), I'm not surprised at his being a lazy, useless bastard. Speaking of whom, Bastard is not an original part of the pantheon so I believe he has his own way to conduct his divine business, therefore more interesting interactions with Ista in PoS.

In any case, both books make a wonderful whole, however my feelings will remain torn between deciding which of the books I liked better. CoC for me had better thought-through (for the reasons I stated in my previous post) plot, Ista is slightly more appealing to me as a character, conflict is imo better set in CoC (in PoS it felt too forced), but resolution was beautiful in both.

Anyway, Antti has opened my eyes to a couple of things, to which I am ever grateful. Thanks for taking the time to write down your thoughts.


message 25: by Gabi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gabi | 560 comments I necropost here, cause I want to say that I loved reading the above discussion. There are some great considerations. Thank you for sharing them.


message 26: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 4001 comments Mod
Gabi wrote: "I necropost here, cause I want to say that I loved reading the above discussion. There are some great considerations. Thank you for sharing them."

You are welcome! You may post your thoughts as well, the majority of participants are still with us and may add something I guess


message 27: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kateblue | 4071 comments Mod
Gabi, I had forgotten all about this discussion. It was a good one. I hope we can get the boys going this month on at least one of the books.


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