Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Read-Along: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

We’re roughly halfway through Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, and this week I hosted the discussion questions!  These questions cover through Chapter 32, so beware of spoilers! 

1.Dalinar made a very dramatic decision at the beginning of this section.  Do you think it was the right one? What do you think will happen to him, Adolin (and the not-united Alethi) if he follows through?

I’m kind of split on this one.  I think Dalinar is becoming far too different from the ordinary Alethi noble to become an effective leader, if only because no one will listen to him anymore.  However, Adolin isn’t going to do anything about uniting the highprinces, if he is left to his own devices.  So it seems kind of like a necessary decision right now, but not necessarily the right one. 

I think the best case scenario would involve Adolin becoming the face of Kholin house, while Dalinar coaxes him towards the path that the visions want him to follow.  I don’t know if this can happen, though, since Dalinar implied that abdicating would mean he had to leave the battlefront.

2.We’ve gotten to see a little more of Shinovar with Rysn the apprentice merchant.  In terms of plants and animals, it seems to be pretty much like our world.  How do you think it happened that there’s such an ‘ordinary’ place, or what do you think might have happened to turn the rest of the world so unusual?  Given this and the chapter on Szeth, do you have any more ideas on what the meaning of his "Truthless" title might be?

I really don’t have an answer for this, which is why I asked it!  I was wondering if maybe this world was a far-future Earth, where Shinovar is the only place that is still like it was long ago. Given how strange the rest of the world is, it seems really odd to have such an Earth-like region, unless it was meant to imply connection to another world (like ours).

As for Szeth, my current theory is that a Truthless is someone with a Shardblade.  The Shin revere farmers and see soldiers as lowly, so someone who obtained an extremely powerful weapon might be at the bottom of everyone.  Also, Szeth’s two rules are that he can’t kill himself and that he can’t give up his Shardblade.  That seems to imply that having a Shardblade is part of being Truthless.

3.  Shallan and Jasnah’s story has returned!  Based on Jasnah’s words to Dalinar, and the clues Shallan is picking up, what do you think Jasnah’s project is about?  What do you think she hopes to accomplish? 

It seems to me, so far, that she is researching the Desolation cycle, because she believes a Desolation is coming.  It was really interesting to see a Chasmfiend recorded as a ‘Voidbringer’.  Are some of the creatures that the Alethi fight now actually part of the Desolation, and they are just oblivious? 

I also noticed her concern about exactly when the Parshendi appeared.  I somehow didn’t realize before that the Parshendi were an undiscovered (or nonexistent) people, up until sometime during Gavilar’s reign.  Maybe they are also a precursor to Desolation.  Someone mentioned last week that they may have a kind of hive mind—maybe their whole purpose is to stir up war?

4. Concerning Shallan, it’s starting to seem that her drawing ability is a supernatural gift. Do you have any theories on the bizarre figures Shallan accidentally drew behind the king?

I am wondering if Shallan’s drawing ability, Kaladin’s magicalness, and Dalinar’s visions are all of a similar source, like they’re all something to do with the Desolation or the radiation.  Maybe Shallan is now beginning to be contacted, but through her drawings instead of visions.  If that’s the case, maybe the figures are related to Dalinar’s mysterious vision-giver?

5. Back to the bridge crews, now that we’ve seen a bit more into Gaz’s perspective, does he seem any more sympathetic?  Why do you think he owes Lamaril money?

I actually found him a bit more sympathetic at this point.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he’s a great guy, or even a good guy.  But he is a guy that is trapped into perpetuating a system he thinks is horrendous, by the fear that he will be killed by that same system.  I don’t really know what’s up with Lamaril, though.  My first thought was that he regularly bought some kind of drugs, or maybe there is some regular favor that the lighteyes man is doing for him.  Alternatively, maybe it’s blackmail?

6. Kaladin has won over his bridge crew, and enacted a brilliant plan to protect them—which utterly ruined the military strategy. Do you think his plan was a good one, or should he have seen the chaos coming? What do you think will happen to him next?  Also, what do you think he’ll do if he figures out the real reason why bridgemen aren’t allowed shields?

I think he didn’t even really know that it would work, so he can’t be blamed for not anticipating that he would ruin the battle.  Also, Gaz and the others put him in a situation where he needed to do something desperate to keep his bridge moving.  If he’d lost any more men (as it seemed certain he would) then they might not have even been able to carry the bridge.  I think he also couldn’t have expected that all the other Bridge Crews would emulate him.  I think he believed that they mostly hated him, and he wasn’t really thinking of setting an example.

As for what happens next, I’m still holding out hope that the troublesome bridgeleader will be sent to Dalinar!  I hope that happens soon, because I think that Kaladin is going to be extremely angry if he realizes the truth about the lack of shields.  I think he might be so angry that he actually starts a rebellion, which can’t go well when it’s 30 bridgemen against an armed camp.

Other Notes:

--The safe hand custom is beginning to seem more and more silly.  I’m now wondering if it’s some kind of weird assumption of female superiority—they can match men with one hand tied behind their back!   But seriously, why would you force all women to do everything in their life one-handed?

--The chapter on the spren-cataloguer was pretty neat, too.  I didn’t realize that there were so many different kinds!  The cataloguer seemed inhuman, with his ability to change his own skin at will.

Here are other peoples' answers:
Lynn's Books
Musings on Fantasia
Over the Effing Rainbow
Coffee, Cookies and Chili Peppers

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Review: The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
Published : Gollancz (2013)
Series : Book 3 of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence

This is the third book of a series, so there may be spoilers of the first two books below.

The Book :

“Through their work as conmen in Camorr and elsewhere, Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen have made more than their fair share of enemies.  The most dangerous may well be the Bondsmagi of Karthain, who jealously and violently control the use of magical abilities. However, when the Bondsmagi catch up with Locke and Jean, they don’t want to kill them—they want to hire them. 

A faction of the Bondsmagi want Jean and Locke to run a political party for the election of the non-magi authorities of Karthain, and Locke’s long-lost love Sabetha is going to run the opposition. Locke and Sabetha have a lot of intimate history together, but can they have a present or a future?  An election in Karthain may be a dangerous place to find out, since nothing is as simple as it seems when the Bondsmagi are involved!” ~Allie

This is the third installment of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence, and I would strongly advise against reading it before the first two.  While the main plot may be fairly self-contained, the novel both relies on the knowledge of the previous two novels and sets up situations for the future of the series.  I read this with a read-along group, and the spoiler-filled posts are here, here, here,  here and here.  

My Thoughts:

A major purpose of The Republic of Thieves seemed to be to introduce the long-awaited character of Sabetha, Locke’s former girlfriend.  I have no doubt that reactions to her character have been very split among fans, based on the many discussions that centered on her in my read-along group.  From my perspective, Sabetha more than lived up to expectations.  She was clever and talented, like all Gentleman Bastards, but she also had a dedication and ambition to her trade that I felt trumped Locke’s own.  She usually planned carefully, while Locke often got by on luck and nerve, and that was one source of the tension  that came between them.  Sabetha could also be selfish, proud, impatient and unwilling to explain herself, but I felt that her flaws made her seem even more realistic and compelling.

The novel told the story of Sabetha and Locke’s relationship, both in the past and the present. In the past, the story covers Sabetha and Locke’s early days together, including the first adventure of the Gentleman Bastards, which involves a theatre troupe.  This storyline fills in the Sabetha-shaped gaps in the story of Locke’s early life from the previous novels.  I loved the realistically awkward and inexperienced back-and-forth between Sabetha and Locke, as they both struggled to figure out how to navigate their feelings for one another.  It was also extremely fun to see the two of them working on the same team; I think they could be a pretty unstoppable duo. 

The present-day story featured the election in Karthain, where Locke and Sabetha finally reunited.  They were still rivals, they still fought, and it seemed that they still loved one another.  Of course, that alone doesn’t mean that they would necessarily get right back together, and I appreciated that the obstacles between them seemed real, and not contrived. The election plot ultimately just felt like an excuse to get the surviving Gentleman Bastard team together in Karthain, though it also involved a pretty amusing prank war between Locke’s team and Sabetha.  Near the end of their time in Karthain, various events and revelations came about that seem likely to drastically change the direction of the series.  I expect that these revelations have had a polarizing effect on readers, but they left me really eager to find out what happens next.

I think the weaknesses of the novel could be summed up in the fact that it seems to me to be largely a transitional novel.  It introduces Sabetha, tells the story of her and Locke’s romance, and sets up a lot of potential developments for future novels.  The central plot of the novel risked feeling a little bit irrelevant next to these considerations.  Since there was a lot of setup for future books, this also means that there were many things that weren’t resolved in the conclusion.  The Republic of Thieves is much less of a standalone novel than the previous two, but it may just be because it is ramping up the major, overarching plot of the series.  I am eagerly awaiting the next book, The Thorn of Emberlain, hopefully coming this November!

My Rating: 4/5

The third novel of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence, Republic of Thieves, does not disappoint.  The mysterious Sabetha finally makes her entrance, and she met my high expectations—as a character in her own right, and as a match for Locke.  This novel is much less of a standalone story, since it focuses heavily on the relationships between the characters (especially Locke and Sabetha) and on setting the stage for developments in future books.  There were many unanswered questions at the end of the novel, which has left me incredibly impatient to get my hands on the next book!    

Monday, January 27, 2014

Read-Along: The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, Part 4 (END)

I’m running a little late this week, but here is the final post for the read-along of N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdoms. I’m hoping to finish up an overall review of the novel for later this week (or this weekend), and I believe there is a week’s delay before we start up with the read-along of the final book in Jemisin’s trilogy, The Kingdom of Gods.  Many thanks go to our hosts, Dab of Darkness, Violin in a Void, and Books Without Any Pictures. It has been very excellent sharing discussion with all of the participants, and I hope that I will see you all again in the next read-along!
The questions this week are courtesy of Books Without Any PicturesThe questions and answers below will contain spoilers for the full novel, so beware!

1.  We finally meet T'vril in his new role as Lord Arameri.  Is he what you expected?

He seemed suitable for a leader of the Arameri that might remain in power—ruthless, but not unnecessarily cruel, and above all concerned with retaining the power of the Arameri.  His offer to Oree was probably the kindest he could be without risking his own interests.  His punishment of Serymn seemed very calculated, in order to hide his secrets (by removing her tongue) and placate Nahadoth’s fury (by giving him someone alive to torture). 

2.  Oree is given a choice, to live as the Arameri's weapon, or to die.  What would you do in that position?

I guess I’m with Hado on this one.  Given the option to live or die, I would always choose to live.  Living as the Arameri’s weapon didn’t seem so bad, anyway.  It’s likely they would never even use her, so she would just live as a kind of captive almost-noble.  It would probably be a relatively comfortable life, except for the fact that they would insist on her having children.  Even for that, I see no reason why they would dictate her choice of lover.  Of course, I would prefer freedom, but there are many things that I think I could endure if the alternative was death.

3.  Do you think that Oree made the right decision by sending Shiny away?  How do you feel about Yeine's role here?
I thought this was a very interesting dilemma, and I think Yeine handled it as best she could.  I feel like the situation with Shiny approached the question of punishment, vengeance and rehabilitation.  In terms of justice or vengeance, he probably deserved to lose Oree. However, if he is ever to be able to rejoin his family, he needs to be rehabilitated—which probably won’t happen if Yeine and Nahadoth remain obsessed with making him suffer.  It’s possible they can slowly switch from vengeance to punishment to rehabilitation over the next few thousand years.  In that case, allowing him to love Oree is clearly too soon.
I actually really loved how Oree broke up with Shiny.  I was afraid there was going to be one of those awkwardly fake “I don’t love you anymore!” scenes.  Oree started out that way, but then they ended the conversation with honesty.  I think that Shiny understood that Oree only had to tell him to leave because he hadn’t yet re-earned the privilege to be loved.  I think that the way they parted may well set him on the path to rehabilitation, as Oree had hoped.
4.  What did you think of the ending of the book?  Were you satisfied?

Yes, I was very satisfied.  Oree changed so much in the world, even down to causing the prohibition on godling travel outside of Shadow to be lifted.  At the same time, her experiences have cost her dearly.  I didn’t want her to get together with Itempas, but I am actually pretty happy with the way they parted.  Also, she may no longer have any magic, but she has a magical child to raise and love.  It seems right that the story does not end with Oree alone.

5.  How did The Broken Kingdoms compare to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms?  Which did you like better?

It’s been a while since I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and I did like it pretty well.  I think I prefer The Broken Kingdoms, though.  Oree is just such a wonderful protagonist, and I loved the world with all the godlings in it.  Having the story from a blind woman’s point of view was a very interesting choice, even though she could kind of see some things (magic).  I liked that she didn’t magically regain her sight at the end of the story, and that her disability was never shown as either good or bad, it was just part of who she was. 

I also feel like the first book was more of a romance, with Yeine and Nahadoth, and the history with Nahadoth, Enefa, and Itempas.  There was some romance in this one, too, but it seemed to be less of the passionate, whirlwind variety, so I found it more emotionally compelling.  Also, I loved the juxtaposition of Itempas and the Itempas cult, and the slow development of Shiny from a total jerk to not-quite-as-much-of-a-jerk (asking more in this short time scale would probably be unreasonable).

Friday, January 24, 2014

Review: 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
Published : Orbit (2012)
Awards Won : Nebula Award
Awards Nominated : BSFA, Campbell, Clarke, Hugo, and Locus SF Awards

The Book :

“In 2312, humanity has moved beyond the Earth.  Through great feats of creativity and engineering, communities of spacers now live on planets, moons, and asteroids throughout the solar system.  While the spacers are busy building countless new societies and ways of life, Earth is still overflowing with people and held back by ingrained problems.

Swan Er Hong lives in the city of Terminator, which perpetually circles Mercury just ahead of the deadly sunrise.  An unexpected death of a relative, Alex, leaves Swan with many unanswered questions.  It seems she may be expected to join Alex’s friends, including the toad-like Fitz Wahram and the small Jean Genette, in continuing her work.  Apparently, some qubes (quantum computers) have been acting strangely lately, and the consequences could be deadly.” ~Allie 

It looks like I’m still managing to review one KSR title per year!  This one, as well as a few other upcoming reviews, won’t count for any of my 2014 challenges, since I mostly read the books in 2013.  Also, if you’re wondering what happened to the review of Never Let Me Go, that was designed for a series on WWEnd, so I will post just that one here after it makes it through the WWEnd blog queue.

My Thoughts :

In a lot of ways, 2312 feels like a sequel to the Mars Trilogy, though it is a standalone story.  It uses a lot of the same ideas, in terms of terraforming and general philosophies, and features some attitudes that I could see developing from the narrow-minded hedonism of the young natives in Blue Mars. It is not a sequel, however, as the dates of the future history, as well as some events and developments, don’t follow the timeline of the previous novels.  I feel like, if the Mars Trilogy had been updated to extrapolate the future from our current decade, 2312 might have been a direct sequel to those hypothetical books. Having read the Mars Trilogy first gives a lot more context to many of the ideas of 2312, but it also somewhat robs them of their novelty.

The story moves at a pretty glacial pace. Unraveling the mystery of the qubes’ behavior could be considered the main plotline, but I think it would be incredibly frustrating if one were to read the novel with interest in that mystery alone. Long stretches go by with very little progress on that front, and the main characters were often not directly involved in the investigation.  The novel can also be read as a slowly developing romance, as Swan and her eventual lover find that sometimes differences in personality are complementary.  The main characters are also involved in a lot of interplanetary politics and projects, and all three of these plotlines end up involving the characters spending quite a lot of time traveling from one place in the solar system to another.

This constant travel provides an opportunity for long descriptions of various asteroid habitats, other settlements, ways of living, and so on, which can become rather dry.  One interesting aspect of this future was the fluidity of sex, gender, and partnerships.  For instance, spacers can modify their bodies in many ways, and using gendered pronouns is considered a mark of familiarity. Swan thinks of her herself as “she”, though she has both borne and fathered a child during her long life.  The story is also interspersed with chapters of excerpts and lists that provide more context for various aspects of the world.  While the plot moves along very slowly, 2312 gives a wide overview of the various human communities and experiences that are available in this fictional future.

Initially, I was not extremely fond of the main characters, but they won me over through the stories of their experiences, as I came to understand them more thoroughly. Swan was capable of creating great things as a habitat designer, but she seemed incredibly impetuous and immature.  She handled her long life by always jumping for the next possible experience.  Wahram balanced her energy with his stolidity, and sought his comfort in routine, a happy ‘pseudo-iterative’. Other notable characters include Inspector Jean Genette and Kiran, an Earther who Swan helped relocate to Venus.  Kiran was especially entertaining, as someone who quite accidentally becomes embroiled in a lot of political scheming.  In the end, I enjoyed experiencing some of the major events of the year 2312 through their eyes.

My Rating : 3.5/5

2312 is a standalone novel set in a world that seems similar to a future that might arise post-Blue Mars. The story involves mystery and romance, but the action is very slow and meandering, with lots of traveling across the developed solar system.  The novel is quite dense with information, as expected from Robinson, and the plot is full of plenty of descriptions of living spaces, experiences, and communities.  The two primary main characters, the mercurial Swan and saturnine Wahram (who are, in fact, from Mercury and Saturn, respectively), work surprisingly well together.  2312 explores a lot of the same ideas as the Mars Trilogy, but it remains an entertaining exploration of a complex future inhabited solar system.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Read-Along: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, Part 4

It's time for the fourth post about Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings. Questions this week were provided by Lunar Rainbows, and cover up through chapter 27.  Keep in mind that there are spoilers of the book through chapter 27 below!

1.  We seem to be getting more and more proof that there is some ''luck'' or magic at play when it comes to Kaladin's safety,  survival and his skills - especially during those battle scenes.  Even when performing that Kata in the Chasm, there was something  incredible about his movements according to the rest of the crew. Initially the blade seemed to be the source of his skills (to me at least) , what do you think might be fueling his powers?  Do you think they're getting stronger?

I am not sure what’s fueling his power, though my best guess is the “Radiant Reborn” idea.  I think they’ve always been pretty much this strong, from what we’ve heard.  He felt the ‘magic’ the first time he picked up a staff, and he was far more amazing and unkillable as a soldier than someone with his training was expected to be. 

Also, I could be misreading it, but I think Kaladin is implying he killed a Shardbearer, which is a remarkable feat for an ordinary soldier.  My theory from what we currently know of his situation is that he killed the Shardbearer we last saw in his first chapter, but then Amaram sold him into slavery instead of letting him keep the Shards and become a lighteyes.  We’re slowly working our way through Kaladin’s life, so I hope we get to that chapter soon!

2. We were introduced to Navani, King Gavilar's widow and the current King Elhokar's mother.  What was your initial impression of her?  There seems to be some complicated history between her and Dalinar,  do you think she might end up being an ally or an eventual hindrance?

My first impression is that she is probably going to be Dalinar’s love interest.  Dalinar clearly still has a thing for her, though he might be conflicted by the fact that she’s his brother’s widow.  In their history, he comments that they both always knew she’d pick Gavilar (I assume because he was the heir).  I can’t help but wonder if that love triangle existed because she wanted to pick Dalinar, and just felt she couldn’t.  Things might be different now.  In short, I think she’ll be an ally.

3. What did you make of Sadeas' maneuver against Dalinar to gain the King's favor by being named the High Prince of Information?  How do you reconcile his actions with the advice Dalinar received ''to trust'' Sadeas?

That was a clever twist, and it was really frustrating to see that Elhokar didn’t even notice. He can’t even recognize maneuvering when it happens right in front of him, but he obsesses over a broken strap.  He is such a rubbish king.  Anyway, I still think (hope!) Sadeas is trying to assassinate Elhokar, and the advice is aimed at getting Dalinar the throne.

4. Where you surprised when Rock admitted to Kaladin that he was seemingly born being able to see the Spren and therefore could see Syl following Kaladin around? That led to a pivotal point for Kaladin, gaining Rock's favor and then Teft's.  What were your thoughts on that whole scene? Can you speculate as to why some people are able to see the spren when others can not?

It was very nice to get to know some of the bridgemen!  I wasn’t especially surprised when Rock said he could see the spren.  We know this world has some wide diversity, since the Alethi and Parshendi seem so biologically different, so it makes sense that other races have different ways of seeing the world.

It was great seeing Kaladin slowly winning the group over, not through intimidation but through making their lives worth living.  I kind of dread the next bridge run, because now that they’re actually becoming a team, the next wave of deaths is going to hit them hard.  I’m hoping that Sadeas decides they’re a ‘problem crew’ and gifts them to Dalinar, to teach him how to use these bridges.

5.  We got to see Adolin confront his father Dalinar because of his visions and lay all his cards on the table. Clearly Adolin thinks his father is losing it and his words seemed to shake Dalinar's own convictions as well.  Do you think this will have a lasting effect on Dalinar's belief in his visions? Not to mention his acting on them?  Moreover, do you think Adolin will ever be convinced that there is more to Dalinar's visions any time soon?

I think Adolin is wrong, but I can’t fault him for his perspective.  He really should have talked to his dad more privately, but I think Dalinar was the one who was preventing that from happening.  I respect that he cares enough about his dad to talk to him that way, rather than just quietly scheming to get him out of power.  I think Adolin will believe him when the Desolation starts to come, but maybe not before.

I don’t know if the outburst shook Dalinar’s faith in his visions, but I think he did bring an important point to his attention.  The war might be a stupid trophy-winning game, but no one will listen to Dalinar unless he has his own stack of trophies.  He has no hope of uniting the highprinces unless he works within the framework of the things they value.

6.  As if in further indication of Dalinar and Kaladin's collision course towards one another, Dalinar has agreed to train a bridge crew - without putting them directly into assault or harm's way (of course, love these two!!) do you think their joined efforts might be enough to change the way the the other High Princes  go about things during battle?  Especially Sadeas?

Come on Sadeas, give Dalinar Bridge Four!  That’s what I hope will happen, anyway.  I think it would be great if Dalinar can find a decently moral way to up his speed, based on the previous idea of gaining the respect of the other highprinces.  If he ends up taking Kaladin on as a soldier, and giving him Shardplate and blade, I think that might be enough to turn the tides in favor of his house.

Other Notes:

What has happened to Shallan and Jasnah?  It seems like we haven't seen their storyline for a few hundred pages, and I miss the break from all the war stories.

At least we're starting to get a tiny bit of information about the Parshendi.  Apparently they grow their own armor exoskeletons!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Read-Along: The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

It's time for part 3 of the read-along of N.K. Jemisin's The Broken Kingdoms!  Questions this time were provided by Violin in a Void.  This week's section includes chapters 11-16, and the book will conclude next week.  Keep in mind that there are spoilers through chapter 16 of The Broken Kingdoms in the following discussion!

1.Oree chooses not to reveal Shiny's identity to Dateh. Did you agree with her decision? What might have happened if she'd chosen otherwise?

Yes, I think that was a good decision.  I don’t know what would have happened, but I don’t think that they would have suddenly decided to listen to Shiny.  I’m guessing they might have decided he was some kind of godling imposter, and they may have tried cutting out his heart and eating it.  I have no idea what that would do to Shiny, but maybe it would have ended up putting Itempas soul into Dateh… that would be truly horrible.

2. Madding's dead :( How do you feel about his death? What do you make of his last words to Oree?

Very, very sad!  I knew this was a possibility, since godlings had been dying and the threat of demon blood had been revealed, but I just hoped somehow that Madding would be okay in the end.  The way he died, in particular, was just devastating.  Not only is he dead, Oree has to deal with the fact that it was her blood and actions that killed him.

As for his last words: “Don’t let him use you, Oree. They never understood… too quick to judge.  You aren’t just a weapon.  I would have loved you… until…”

I wonder if Madding once had demon children of his own, who were killed in the first war.  I don’t know if he understands something special about demons, or if he simply sees them as people who deserve to live and be loved.

3. Itempas has seen what terrible things people do in his name. What do you make of Dateh's interpretation of Itempan faith? Could this help rehabilitate Itempas or will he simply see the New Lights as a delusional sect?

I think this whole situation is helping Itempas change, which, as he says, is not something he’s supposed to be able to do.  Dateh’s interpretation of the Itempan faith is actually a bit stricter than Itempas himself—they interpret everything he did as something he approves of, because why else would he do it?  I think they would be quite shocked to learn how much Itempas regrets some of his actions.

4. After Madding's death, Oree loses the will to live, except to stop the New Lights. Shiny wants to kill her because she's a demon. Do you think she'll survive the events of the novel? Is it safer to wipe out the demons?

I think her reaction to grief and guilt was very believable, and I was actually surprised at how relatively kind Itempas was to her, even though he wanted to kill her.  I think that Oree will survive in the end, somehow.  I’m not sure how just yet. It’s definitely safer for the gods if the demons are wiped out, but much safer for the humans if they are allowed to exist.  What other defense do they have against the whims of the gods?

5. Itempas shares his feelings about his actions in the God's War. Have your feelings about him changed at all?

In some ways, yes, but in others, no.  He’s still an arrogant jerk, despite his regrets.  But in a way, he is trapped by his inflexibility, as Nahadoth is controlled by his changeability, and all the godlings are affected by their affinities.  I don’t know what will happen if Itempas is able to become more compassionate.  Will he become a different person? However, I still hope he and Oree don’t end up together, in a romantic sense.

6. There's something odd about Hado. Shiny says to him "You are not quite yourself. […] Something of him lingers." Oree notes that Hado's shadow is darker than the non-magical things around him. Could he be more than just a spy, and if so, what?

I’m pretty sure I remember the answer to this from the first book, so I’m just going to keep quiet on this one.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Read-Along: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, Part 3

Now it’s time for week 3 of Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings !  Questions this week were provided by Lynn’s Books, and the questions this time cover the content through chapter 19.  Keep in mind that there will be spoilers up through this section!

1.After the Chasmfiend attack there were a number of altercations.  Two of these that particularly drew my interest were: the little scene where Wit ridiculed Sadeas - which seems to be a dangerous thing to do given that this could result in a dual or assassination - any ideas about why Wit seems to enjoy provoking Sadeas so much and: during the discussion with the King, Dalinar and Adolin - it seemed that the King became fleetingly suspicious - and later in the story the same look of suspicion crossed his features again during conversation with Dalinar.  What do you think is going on in the King’s head in relation to Dalinar?

I am not sure why the Wit keeps provoking Sadeas, other than the fact that he thinks Sadeas is a bit stupid.  So far, I think Dalinar just hates him out of guilt for having been unconscious and drunk while Sadeas was trying to save his brother’s life.  

As for Elhokar, he seems like an awful king, but his personality seems to reflect the culture of his nation. To be fair, Elhokar’s father was assassinated, so I don’t think it is too unreasonable for him to fear dying in a similar way. Also, his suspicion of Dalinar might be coming indirectly from his belief that encouraging his nobles to fight and plot against one another is a good royal strategy.  Maybe Dalinar seems too honest, like he’s laying it on too thick, or maybe one of those scheming nobles is telling the king that Dalinar’s up to no good. 

2.We seemed to get a little more insight about why the bridgemen are not given shields of protection - what did you think of the reasoning behind this and what do you make of Sadeas - is he trustworthy or not?

I really appreciated their explanations of the war, because it made no sense to me before.  I still don’t understand the Parshendi half of it, but the Alethi side seems a lot clearer.  Alethi people seem to value wealth, power and loss of life in the pursuit of both above everything else.  This war started in order to seek vengeance, and now it’s a war of who can get the most loot.  I think Dalinar is right to be trying to find a way to end it.  I don’t really think Sadeas is trustworthy, but I don’t really think anyone in that plotline is trustworthy, with the possible exception of Dalinar.

3.Elhokar has suspicions about attempts on his life - is he paranoid or not and, if not, who do you suspect might be responsible?

Well, in a general sense, people probably are out to get him.  He's the king, that’s just kind of what the Alethi are like, and he even encourages the infighting.  It would be an interesting twist if Sadeas was plotting to kill him.  The voice may have told Dalinar to trust him, because it knew Sadeas would get rid of the king.  Then, Dalinar would be next in line for the throne (I’m guessing women can’t inherit, in this world), and he would have a shot at uniting the high princes.

4.Kaladin is a very intriguing character, what did you make of the latest bridge scene where he put himself at the front of the bridge and then his actions following that?  Did you think it revealed anything more about him?

He seems to be un-killable, so it was pretty nice of him to take lead.  He’s clearly trying to get them to respect him, but I like that he’s doing so through protecting and healing them.  He is a very unusual Alethi, but I like him more for it.  I’m thinking we have his father’s unconventional upbringing to thank for that! Also, it may just be that darkeyes Alethi culture is very different (better) than lighteyes culture.

One interesting thing to note is how his money started mysteriously losing stormlight.  I think he’s using it unconsciously, in some way.  Can the Radiants use stormlight without a fabrial?  That might be one more mark for the theory of Kaladin as a Radiant reborn.

5.During Elhokar and Dalinar’s later discussion the king said that Dalinar was becoming more like Gavilar near to his end ‘When he began to act … erratically”  It seems like Dalinar is becoming more like his brother.  Do you think this is significant??

Probably, yes. I wonder if Gavilar had begun to have those visions, too, or was in some way similarly contacted about the future.  That could explain his obsession with the Codes and history, near the end.  If this is true, it supports my speculation that these mysterious powers want to kill Elhokar. After Gavilar was murdered, maybe the mysterious voice realized that Elhokar wasn’t going to listen, so they’d need to get a different guy in charge.

6.We finally witness one of Dalinar’s visions.  Do you think there is any significance about the visions always taking place during a storm and what were your feelings about this particular vision?

I’m not sure what the storms really are yet.  I assumed at first that they were natural, but evidence against that assumption is piling up. For instance, ‘stormlight’ seems equivalent to magic, and it comes from these storms.  Also, they all come from a single place, an origin of storms, which doesn’t sound like normal storm behavior.  I wonder if the storms represent a crack between our realm and another, or something like that.  If that’s the case, then that might be why the storms are the only time when the voice can reach Dalinar.

I really appreciated this particular vision, but for maybe slightly weird reasons.  Through this section, I came to really despise Alethkar and most of the people in it (save Dalinar).  Even Adolin made dueling his life’s Calling, which seems to follow the Alethi fondness of killing people for trivial reasons.  Also, they all seemed to believe that being a soldier was the highest Calling, but being a soldier in Alethkar mostly seems to involve killing people to get loot.  I liked that the vision showed that modern day Alethkar is a warped and debased version of their nation’s original purpose, which was to protect all the lands from horrible void creatures.  Maybe Dalinar can pull them back up there!

Other Notes:

I thought it was sweet that Dalinar promised to give his younger son the next set of shardplate and shardblade they take in battle, even though I think the trophy-war is horrible. 

Do you think we'll get to have a female character wielding a Shardblade sometime soon (I'm thinking back to the female Radiant in the vision)?  It would be pretty neat if Jasnah or somebody ended up with one.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Read-Along: The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

It’s time for the second post of the read-along of N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdoms!  This time, questions were provided by Dab of Darkness, and they cover chapters 5-10.  As a warning, this discussion will contain spoilers of The Broken Kingdoms through chapter 10.
1) We learned some tidbits about Oree's father in this section. Who, or what, do you think he was and what do you think of the suspicions about mob madness that Lady Serymn brought up? 
They introduced the idea of ‘demons’, children of godlings and mortals, in this section.  It seems like this might have some bearing on Oree’s heritage.  I’m not sure if Oree’s father could be a demon directly, since I don’t think there were godlings around at the time of his birth.  My main guess is that he, and therefore Oree, are descended from a demon. 
However, if the demons have a longer than usual life-span, he may just be one.  I am wondering if there is a link for demons between mortality and magic-use.  Oree’s father warned her that she could kill herself by using all the magic inside of herself, so maybe demons age and die depending on their magic use. 
As for Lady Serymn, I think I’m with Oree’s reaction.  Serymn is obviously saying this in an attempt to sway her opinion towards killing Nahadoth, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.  I don’t think I would say it was Nahadoth’s fault, exactly, but the loss of Itempas stability and the return of Nahadoth could well have affected people around the world.   
2) Shiny has some stern views about the relationship between Oree and Madding. What do you think of him testing her love for Madding? Do you think she said yes to Madding for the right reasons?
I think Shiny is an arrogant jerk, and I’m really hoping the story doesn’t end up putting him and Oree together.  I think that ‘test’ mostly just revealed that he was a good kisser, and that he doesn’t understand anything at all about love, relationships, or even power dynamics.  At this point, I wish Yeine would show up to make him truly start over—banished from Shadow with no powers whatsoever and no companions.
After that, I guess it’s clear that I think Oree said yes to Madding for right enough reasons.  I think that after everything in this book goes down, it’s possible that Oree won’t even have to hide in Shadow anymore.
3) The House of the Risen Sun has some followers with skills. What do you think of the holes, The Empty, and what has happened to Oree's friends, both mortal and immortal? Shiny? 
They are much more powerful than humans are expected to be.  The Empty is pretty terrifying… I’m glad Oree didn’t permanently harm herself in fighting it.  I’m guessing the immortals are still there, but we also know that these people are capable of killing immortals.  I really hope they aren’t dead!  As for Shiny, I imagine he got away.  Maybe he’ll help Oree, maybe he won’t.
4) Are the ambitious plans of the House of the Risen Sun justified? Noble? Or is there a particular follower you already want to seen tossed into The Empty for a spell? 
I don’t see a good solution to the current situation.  Nahadoth has murdered a lot of people, even destroyed an entire continent, so I can see where it might seem a good idea to kill him.  On the other hand, I am totally with Oree on the peace of the Arameri, which was based on the persecution and murder of anyone who didn’t follow all their many orders exactly. 
5) Lord Dateh, the Nypri, requested a bit of Oree's blood for study. What do think he will do with it and what part do you think the House of the Risen Sun hopes Oree to play in their plans?
If my guess about her descendance from a demon is correct, maybe he’ll study it to find out who and when.  Also, we’ve seen that gods blood gives mortals their particular power.  Maybe he expects Oree’s blood to have a similar kind of usefulness.  I am not sure if they have an exact role for her worked out yet, because I don’t think they’ve really explored her capabilities.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Best of 2013

The Best of 2013

The third calendar year of Tethyan Books is coming to a close! I didn’t end up reviewing quite as many books as I’d hoped this year (36), but I did end up getting my doctorate in physics!  The coming year has some major changes ahead as well, but I hope I can learn from experience and keep up with my reviews a bit better this time around.  Hopefully, I can also nudge my number of reviews for 2014 back up above 50. 

Most Highly Recommended New Books

These are my most highly recommended books that were published 2011-2013.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente: A fascinating and sometimes bewildering combination of Russian folklore and history, this story of Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless was my first review of 2013.

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone: An impressive debut novel with a unique take on magic and deities, and a vivid, energetic world I hope to revisit in his future novels.

The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan: A poetic story from the point of view of a mentally ill woman, who struggles to explain and make sense of her experiences in a narrative shaped by urban myths, popular culture, and art.

Most Highly Recommended Old Books

These are books that were published before 2011, but which I read during this past year.  I’m sure most of these have been read and enjoyed by many already, but it’s never too late to draw attention to a good book!

Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle: An impressively detailed story of mercenaries in 15th century Europe, as well as a science fictional mystery.

Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson: I know this is a series, not a single book, but I finished the final book in 2013.  This trilogy is the most detailed imagining of the colonization of Mars (and further) that I have ever read.

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller:  The only novel he published in his lifetime, this story follows a certain monastery through the long destructive cycle of human civilization.


Thanks to WWEnd’s Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge, I became familiar with many new-to-me authors this year.  In addition to Mary Gentle and Caitlín R. Kiernan, I really enjoyed Pat Cadigan’s Fools, Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice, and Patricia A. McKillip’s Ombria in Shadow.

This year, the WWEnd Reading Challenge theme is wide open!  The site is inviting people to design their own challenges, in what is called “Roll-Your-Own ReadingChallenge.”  There are already a number of interesting challenges here, including the one I designed, 12 Awards in 12 Months.  My visual art skills are pretty much nonexistent, so I’m going to have to forgo having a banner for my particular challenge. Everyone is welcome to join me in my reading challenge, but there are plenty more to choose from if mine doesn’t strike your fancy!

Happy Reading in 2014!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Read-Along: The Way of Kings, Part 2

It's time for the second read-along post of Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings. This week's post covers through Chapter 13, and the questions were provided by Over The Effing Rainbow.  I'm still running a little late this week, but more on schedule than last week! 

Reminder, there are spoilers of The Way of Kings through Chapter 13 in the questions and answers below!

1. Shallan's determination pays off, but Jasnah Kholin seems to change her mind a bit suddenly, and when Shallan isn't expecting her to. She mentions knowing of Shallan's family... Do you think perhaps she knows more than she admits? Or is she really just a bit more soft-hearted than she lets on?

Right now, I don’t think Jasnah knows anything more than she’s mentioned about Shallan’s situation.  I think that Shallan’s letter, persistence, and sketch book helped quite a bit to make her stand out as an applicant.  It’s easy enough to reject the young, uneducated lady who wants to use you to climb into a better social position (Jasnah’s first impression).  It’s a little more difficult to reject a motivated, self-educated, young woman who seems to think that having you as a teacher would be the best thing that could ever happen to her. 

Is Jasnah soft-hearted? I’m not sure that’s how I would put it, but she doesn’t seem hard-hearted. She seems to value treating people with respect, and she seems willing to re-evaluate her own decisions.  I think her decision was partially swayed by the new information she gained about Shallan, from the letter and sketch book. However, I think the flattery of Shallan’s attitude towards her and Jasnah’s guilt at having yelled at her also played a part.

I really hate that Shallan is planning to rob her.  Maybe she’ll give up on the scheme and just be a student!  The rest of the Davar family seems pretty awful, so maybe she can just use Jasnah as a lifeboat while the rest of them sink.

2. Yalb comes to the bargaining rescue as Shallan tries to buy books... Do you think there's going to be a bigger part in events for him to play?

I’m betting that there will be.  He would make a good companion for Shallan, providing the practical knowledge she’s missed out on while locked away in the Davar home.  Also, I really enjoyed his trick—and the fact that he bargained successfully while having no idea what the books were worth!  That is a skill I wish I had.

3. Part One ends with a ray of hope for Kaladin, as he rediscovers a sense of purpose... What did you think of the scene in the Honour Chasm, and then with Gaz afterward?

I suppose there is some power in realizing there’s no way to go but upwards.  He doesn’t have to worry about getting the bridgemen killed, because they’re going to die anyway.  There’s nothing he can do to make his situation worse.  I’m betting Bridge 4 will become his new squad.  He had already started thinking of simple ways to dramatically reduce the loss of life, so I think he can build them into a team of survivors! Maybe that feat will make the army notice him, and he’ll end up a soldier after all.

4. We catch up with Szeth for an interlude, and things are very different for him... What do you make of his choice to enslave himself - if it is in fact a choice...?

I get the impression that it is a punishment, but one he believes he deserves.  He refers to himself as “Truthless” which I’m guessing has something to do with this punishment.  Also, I thought he was already enslaved when he was ordered to kill the king, and his masters just discarded his stone of ownership after the assassination.  He seems to like being used for trivial stuff more than fighting with Shardblades, so he must have done something to really make him hate himself.

5. We also meet Dalinar Kholin, Jasnah's father, and get something of a hint that he's important where the Radiants are concerned... What do you think Dalinar's 'fits' might mean?

Probably some deity trying to get him to unite the people to face dangers to come, or something.  It's awfully embarrassing for his son, but I suppose adults are meant to embarrass their children from time to time!  I'm betting it will be a Noah-type story, where no one laughs at him anymore once the wisdom of his visions is becomes clear.