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The Riddle (The Books of Pellinor, #2)
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Chris (calmgrove) I've mentioned elsewhere that The Riddle and The Crow need to be read as mirror images of each other. I suspect that Croggon at one time early on in the writing process had it in mind to alternate Maerad's and Hem's individual journeys in one book, but then had to expand them so that the projected trilogy became a quartet.

How do they mirror each other? First one goes north-west, the other south-east, one to the land of snow and ice, the other to desert scrublands; one comes up against Arkan, the other the Tree Man; they both separate from their mentors and meet them again on the same day at the turning of the year; and they both learn to extend and develop their powers while learning about themselves.

So, if you like, Volume 1 is they first meet, volumes 2 and 3 they go their separate ways, and volume 4 they finally meet up again at the climax of the series.

Chris (calmgrove) The Riddle is memorable to me in two main ways. One is for the journey north by sled, which reminds me a bit of Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, which also features an epic journey in a snowscape. The other is for the battle of wits between the Winterking and Maerad in his icy fortress, which I think indicates that Maerad strengths are not just in her Bardic abilities: this is quite an accomplishment for a young woman, to be more than a match for an older (and how much older!) male.

Chris (calmgrove) The question of the intellectual and/or emotional maturity of young protagonists in fantasy (not to mention in any fiction) is a difficult one.

You could argue that Maerad has a lot of wisdom beyond her years because of her Elidhu heritage, or even because of her innate Bardic skills; equally you could say that in general people from several tens of thousand of years in Earth's past (as Croggon dates it) may have generally matured earlier than nowadays because then was a Golden Age when such things were possible; or you can argue that such is the case today anyway, and having classes with youngsters all of one chronological ages in them is nonsensical because emotionally, physically, sexually, intellectually, artistically, linguistically (you get the picture!) individuals all mature at different ages, making much of co-education problematic. To each according to their needs and abilities, ideally.

Incidentally, knowing Croggon likes language and the hidden meanings of words, the choice of the name Elidhu is interesting. It seems to be a mix of Hebrew (el, elohim 'god/s') and Celtic (du is Welsh for 'black', and there are cognate words in Scots and Irish Gaelic). In Scotland the sgian-dubh was/is a small knife hidden in a stocking or boot, and although the primary meaning of dubh is "black", the secondary meaning is "hidden".

So, my suggestion is that the Elidhu of Croggon's imagined past world were the Black Gods, not black in a moral sense but hidden, as though dwelling in the shadows of human consciousness.

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