The Return of the King (Lord of the Rings #3) ★★★★★ & ★★☆☆½

returnoftheking (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Return of the King
Series: Lord of the Rings #3
Author: John Tolkien
Rating: 2.5 & 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 770
Words: 209K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia & Me

Book V: The War of the Ring

Gandalf and Pippin arrive at Minas Tirith in the kingdom of Gondor, and there Pippin gets to view for the first time the mighty city built on seven levels and with the Tower of Ecthelion high above the Pelennor Fields. They meet Denethor, the Lord and Steward of Gondor, and deliver the news to him of Boromir’s death (which Denethor already knows of, because he holds Boromir’s cloven horn in his lap), as well as the fact that a devastating attack on his city by Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor, is imminent. Stung by the scorn of Denethor, Pippin enters the service of the Steward as repayment of a debt he owes to Boromir, Denethor’s dead son and preferred heir. Pippin then meets Beregond, a guard of the Citadel, who tutors him in his duties, and his young son Bergil, who guides him around Minas Tirith. In the middle of the night, Gandalf returns to their room, frustrated that Faramir has not yet returned.

Meanwhile, in Rohan, King Théoden and his Rohirrim are recovering from the Battle of the Hornburg, in which they defended Rohan against the forces of Saruman at great cost. On their way back from Isengard, Aragorn, the king, and his company are met by the Company of Rangers from Arnor in the north (the “Grey Company”), led by Elladan and Elrohir, the sons of Elrond, and Halbarad, a leader of Rangers from the North. They had answered the summons of Galadriel to join Aragorn in his cause. When they return to Hornburg, Aragorn informs the king that he shall not ride with the Rohirrim, having confronted Sauron through the palantír (seeing-stone) of Isengard. Instead, able to see a new threat to Gondor, he decides to travel the Paths of the Dead and find the lost army of the undead oathbreakers who dwell under the Dwimorberg, the Haunted Mountain. These spirits were cursed because they did not help Isildur during the War of the Last Alliance. Helped by his companions Legolas and Gimli as well as the Grey Company,  they ride to Dunharrow.  When they arrive, Éowyn, tries to dissuade Aragorn from going and then—desperate to stay with him—tries to go as well. Aragorn cannot release Éowyn from her duties and cannot return the love she has for him and reluctantly sets out the next morning to recruit the Army of the Dead to his cause. The company then passes under the Haunted Mountain where they come across the bones of a missing prince of Rohan, who had foolishly ventured on the Paths of the Dead. The company then comes out on the other side of the mountain into the valley of the Morthond River in Gondor and then proceed to the Stone of Erech. There, the Oathbreakers gather around the Grey Company in the middle of the night and resolve to fulfill their oath. They all then ride east to the great port of Pelargir and vanish into the storm of Mordor.

After Aragorn departs on his seemingly impossible task, King Théoden, Éomer, and Merry arrive in Dunharrow to muster the Rohirrim (mounted warriors) and come to the aid of Gondor. They enter the upper hold of Dunharrow via a narrow switchback path where they see old “Pukel-Men” sculptures guarding the turns. Merry is so moved by the kindness of Théoden that he enters his service and is made a Knight of the Mark. Seeing Éowyn grieved by Aragorn’s departure, Merry then asks about the Paths of Dead and is told the story by Théoden of how King Brego and his son Baldor discovered the entrance to the chambers under the Haunted Mountain and how Baldor rashly spoke an oath to travel the Paths of the Dead. The next morning was dominated by the darkness of Mordor and two riders from Gondor showing Théoden the Red Arrow, which was Gondor’s official call for aid from Rohan. The King and Éomer then gather the riders and set out from Dunharrow and then Edoras. Eager to go to war with his allies, Merry is refused by Théoden several times. Finally Dernhelm, one of the Rohirrim, secretly takes Merry up on his horse so that he can accompany the rest of the Rohirrim.

Back in Minas Tirith, Pippin is now clad in the uniform of the tower guard and watches the fortunes of war unfold. Faramir, Boromir’s younger brother, returns from his campaign with the shattered remnants of his company from Ithilien where he reveals that he has met Frodo and Sam and allowed them to continue on their mission. When Gandalf hears that they are heading for Cirith Ungol, he becomes afraid, and Denethor becomes angry at Faramir for what he thinks was a foolish decision. The next day, Denethor orders Faramir to ride out and continue the hopeless defence of Osgiliath against a horde of orcs. Osgiliath is soon overrun and a gravely wounded Faramir is carried back to Denethor. Denethor then descends into madness as the hosts of Mordor press ever closer to Gondor’s capital city of Minas Tirith, burning the Pelennor Fields and then the first circle of the city. His people seemingly lost and his only remaining son all but dead, Denethor orders a funeral pyre built that is to claim both him and his dying son. A fearful Pippin witnesses all this and runs down to the first circle to find Gandalf. There, the hosts of Mordor, led by the dreaded Witch-king of Angmar, have succeeded in breaking through the gates of Minas Tirith—using a terrifying battering ram named Grond, and only Gandalf is left sitting on his horse Shadowfax to oppose him. Just as the Witch-king raises his sword to strike the wizard, the horns of Rohan can be heard coming to the aid of Gondor.

Aided by a tribe of Wild Men of the Woods who resemble the Púkel-men of Dunharrow, Théoden’s forces travel through the long-forgotten path to avoid an Orc ambush on the main road and reach Minas Tirith by stealth. At first it seems that they are too late, but then the winds change and begin to dispel the darkness. Revived, the Rohirrim charge into the enemy on the Pelennor. Théoden is mortally wounded when the Nazgûl cause his horse to go mad and fall on him and placing him at the mercy of the Witch-king. In the following Battle of the Pelennor Fields the Witch-king is slain by Dernhelm, revealed to be Éowyn the niece of King Théoden, with help from Merry. The battle is also joined by a “black fleet with black sails”. The forces of Mordor initially rejoice at its arrival; and then are horrified to see the banner of the King upon the ships. Aragorn has succeeded in using the Oathbreakers to defeat the Corsairs of Umbar; the men of Gondor who were once slaves on the ships are brought back to fight the host of Mordor. Thus the siege is broken, but at heavy cost: many warriors of Gondor and Rohan fall, among them King Théoden.

While the battle is raging, Denethor attempts to immolate himself and Faramir on his funeral pyre, but Gandalf and Pippin succeed in saving Faramir, aided by Beregond, who has deserted his post and killed several of Denethor’s servants in order to save Faramir. When Gandalf advises Denethor to put aside his madness and go out into battle, Denethor reveals that he has used the palantír of Minas Tirith and declares the situation hopeless. Denethor also reveals that he knows of Aragorn and his claim to the kingship but will not accept him. He then burns himself with the palantír on the pyre. Gandalf realizes that Denethor—in his desperation—had looked into the seeing-stone several times. Unlike Saruman, Denethor was too noble of purpose and too great of will to submit to the will of Sauron, but the Dark Lord duped the Steward into despairing of the situation. The resulting madness kept Gandalf from joining the battle and perhaps saving Théoden and keeping Éowyn and Merry from harm. Faramir, though, is brought to the Houses of Healing where Gandalf awaits the wounded and Pippin and Beregond guard Faramir, the new Steward of Gondor.

Aragorn comes in secret to the Houses of Healing, removing his regalia of the kingship (to which he has not yet made his claim), and wearing only his elven-cloak and elven-brooch. Aragorn heals Faramir, using athelas or kingsfoil (the same weed he used to ease Frodo’s pain at Weathertop and outside of Moria). Aragorn also heals Merry and Éowyn, who were hurt by the Witch-king before he fell, and he then turns his attention to the numerous wounded, fulfilling the prophecy in an old Gondorian wives’ tale saying that “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer.” This earns him the love and admiration of the people of Minas Tirith, who name him “Elfstone” for his elven-brooch, which also fulfils the prophesied name of the legitimate king. Legolas and Gimli are reunited with Merry and Pippin and tell of their great journey on the Paths of the Dead and how Aragorn could even command the spirits of the Dead. They then tell the story of the capture of the Black Fleet and the rescue of Minas Tirith.

The kings and warriors then hold a final council with Gandalf, who has been chosen as the leader of the forces opposed to Sauron. Knowing that it is only a matter of time before Sauron rebuilds his forces for another attack, Gandalf and Aragorn decide to draw out the hosts of Mordor with an assault on the Black Gate, providing a distraction so that Frodo and Sam may have a chance of reaching Mount Doom and destroy the One Ring, unseen by the Eye of Sauron. They realize that it may be a suicide mission, but they also know it is the only hope for the Ringbearer.

Gandalf, Aragorn and the other Captains of the West lead an army to the Black Gate of Mordor and lay siege to Sauron’s army. In a parley before the battle, the Mouth of Sauron, a messenger from the Black Gate, displays Frodo’s mithril shirt, his elven-cloak and Sam’s barrow-blade and then demands the surrender of the Captains and their obeisance to Sauron as conditions for Frodo’s release. Despite the shock of seeing the objects and the complete loss of hope, Gandalf perceives that the emissary is lying, seizes the items, and rejects the terms. The battle begins and Pippin kills a Troll, which then falls onto him, and he loses consciousness just as the Great Eagles arrive.

Book VI: The End of the Third Age

Bearing the One Ring in Frodo’s place, Sam resolves to rescue his master from torture and death by Orcs in the Tower of Cirith Ungol. He enters the tower through the front gate and overcomes the silent sentinels using the Phial of Galadriel. He discovers that the orcs have mostly killed each other over Frodo’s mithril coat and then confronts the orc-captain Shagrat, who has just finished off his rival Gorbag. Shagrat escapes with the mithril coat, the elven cloak, and the Barrow-sword. Sam goes up to the top chamber of the tower, kills a small orc hurting Frodo, and then discovers his master lying naked on the floor. Sam reveals that he has saved the Ring, and Frodo becomes nearly insane demanding it back from him. They are forced to disguise themselves in Orcish armour and manage to escape the tower and the Watchers just as the Nazgûl flies in to take over command of the tower. Frodo and Sam navigate the barren wasteland of Mordor. Unable to cross directly to Mount Doom, they travel north, are nearly discovered by two orcs tracking them, and realize that Gollum is still on their trail. Just as they are about to reach the pass into the Morannon, they are overtaken by a company of Orcs. They escape, but the burden of the Ring and the torrid conditions begin to break Frodo’s will.

Gandalf’s plan to distract Sauron from the Ring is successful: Mordor is almost empty as all the remaining Orcs have been summoned to defend the land against the assault of the army led by Gandalf and Aragorn. After a weary and dangerous journey on the road to the Dark Tower itself, Frodo and Sam finally reach their final destination of Mount Doom. As they climb up the Mountain, Gollum attacks them once more; but Frodo is easily able to throw off the starving and emaciated creature. Sam spares Gollum’s life in one last show of pity and kicks him down the Mountain. As Frodo is preparing to throw the Ring into the Crack of Doom, he succumbs to the Ring’s power and claims it as his own. Just then, Gollum attacks Frodo and bites off his finger and the Ring. Gollum gloats over getting his precious back, but he ends up losing his balance and falls to his death and takes the Ring with him. The Ring is finally destroyed, freeing Middle-earth from Sauron’s power. Mount Doom erupts violently, trapping Frodo and Sam among the lava flows until the Great Eagles eventually rescue them. Upon Sauron’s defeat, his armies at the Gate flee. Sauron finally appears as a gigantic shadow trying to reach out for the armies of men, but is now powerless and is blown away by a wind. The men under Sauron’s command that surrender are forgiven and allowed to return to their lands in peace. Frodo and Sam are saved from the lava, meet again with the other surviving members of the Fellowship, and are then honoured on the Field of Cormallen in Ithilien.

In Minas Tirith, Faramir and Éowyn meet in the Houses of Healing and fall in love with each other, with Éowyn choosing to eschew any further hopes of glory with Aragorn. Aragorn comes to Minas Tirith and is crowned King of Gondor outside the walls of the city in a celebration during which Frodo brings Aragorn the ancient crown of Gondor, and Gandalf places the crown on Aragorn. A healed Faramir is appointed Prince of Ithilien, and Beregond—who saved Faramir’s life from the madness of Denethor—is named captain of Faramir’s guard. Gandalf and Aragorn go off high above the city and find a seedling of the White Tree, which Aragorn then plants in Minas Tirith in place of the dead tree. Soon after, Arwen, daughter of Elrond of Rivendell, as well as Celeborn and Galadriel come to Minas Tirith, and Aragorn marries Arwen.

A series of goodbyes then takes place, with many riding to Rohan for the burial of Théoden and the wedding of Faramir and Éowyn. They then return to Isengard and find that Treebeard has removed the stone circle, planted trees, and created a lake out of which Orthanc still stands. He informs Gandalf that he let Saruman and Gríma go out of pity, but Gandalf says that Saruman might still be capable of doing some harm. Aragorn says farewell at Isengard. They then overtake Saruman and find that he has completely devolved into meanness and Wormtongue is barely able to act human.

Elrond, Gandalf, and the hobbits return to Rivendell and find that Bilbo has aged tremendously now that the Ring has been destroyed. Elrond advises Frodo that he should be ready to meet them on one last journey soon. They then leave Rivendell and arrive at Bree and find that the little town is in a great state of fear. The innkeeper Butterbur informs the travellers that evil men had come up the Greenway and started trouble, even killing some of the inhabitants, while others like Bill Ferny had joined in with the vagabonds. Butterbur is put at ease and finally understands when they tell him that things will soon improve because Strider is the new king and will come north to stabilize the region. They leave Bree and come to the borders of the Shire where Gandalf leaves them to go and visit Bombadil.

The Hobbits finally return home to the Shire, only to find that the Shire was in ruins, its inhabitants oppressed by Lotho Sackville-Baggins (usually called “The Chief” or “The Boss”) who is in reality controlled by a shadowy figure called “Sharkey”. Sharkey has taken complete control of the Shire using corrupt Men and half-orcs, and had begun felling trees in a gratuitous programme of industrialization (which actually produces nothing except destruction and misery for the locals). The worst area was around the villages of Bywater and Hobbiton, leading the hobbits to realize that Mordor had come home to them.

Merry, Pippin, Frodo and Sam make plans to set things right once more. With the help of the Cotton family, they lead an uprising of Hobbits and are victorious at the Battle of Bywater which effectively frees the Shire. At the very doorstep of Bag End, they meet Sharkey, who is revealed to be the fallen wizard Saruman, and his much-abused servant Gríma. After Saruman reveals that Gríma has murdered (and probably cannibalized) Lotho, Gríma then jumps on his back and slits his throat. Gríma is himself slain by hobbit archers as he attempts to escape. Saruman’s soul is blown away into the east, and his body decays instantly into a skeleton.

Over time, the Shire is healed. The many trees that Saruman’s men cut down are replanted with Galadriel’s gift of dust used to facilitate growth and a small nut that is planted to replace the party tree; buildings are rebuilt and peace is restored. Sam marries Rosie Cotton, with whom he had been entranced for some time. Merry and Pippin become the Master of Buckland and the Thain of Tuckborough respectively and become renowned as heroes throughout the Shire along with Sam, who will eventually become the Mayor. However, Frodo recedes from the picture and also cannot escape the pain of his wounds, having been stabbed by the Witch-king and poisoned by Shelob in addition to losing a finger. Furthermore, his long burden of carrying the Ring has left him with post-traumatic stress.

Frodo departs for the Undying Lands in the West with Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins, and many Elves, including Elrond, and Galadriel. Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel all carry with them the Three Elven Rings out of Middle-earth. With their departure, the Third Age ended. Sam, Merry, and Pippin watch Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo, and the Elves depart and return home. Now heir to all of Frodo’s possessions, Sam returns to Bag End, saddened by Frodo’s departure. When Sam returns home at the end of the book, though, he is greeted by Rosie and his daughter, Elanor.

Then the next half of the book is the Appendices and you should skip it and just read somebody elses’ synopsis because otherwise your brain will shrivel up and die.

 

My Thoughts:

I really should have looked at my review from 2012 before attempting this. I loved the first half of the book, which is the story part. It was 5 stars all the way and I simply loved it. Next time I read this, I’m reading the story in one volume and NOT reading the appendices.

The appendices simply killed this book for me. I got to the 75%’ish mark and that was when Tolkien started writing about how to pronouce names or letter combinations. I simply gave up. I’m not going to read another almost 150 pages of boring stuff like that that has zero meaning for me. If you enjoy it, have at it. But as for me and my household, we will not serve the Appendices.

So I’m giving this 2 ratings. One for the book part and one for the overall.

I realize this portion of the “review” is wicked short, but recently I’ve just been worded out. Depending on how the month goes I might end up taking a break from all non-review stuff just to re-charge myself. Since I’m writing this before April actually starts (I’m usually a couple of weeks ahead in scheduling stuff) I might change my mind, but I doubt it.

★★★★★ & ★★☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Bell at Sealey Head ★★★★★

bellatsealeyhead (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Bell at Sealey Head
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 245
Words: 71K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The small ocean town of Sealey Head has long been haunted by a phantom bell that tolls as evening falls. The sound is so common that many of the town’s inhabitants do not even notice it, let alone questions its existence. Ridley Dow, a scholar from the city, comes to investigate the mystery, and sets up residence at the old inn owned by a young man named Judd and his ailing father. To aid Ridley, Judd enlists the help of his friend and love-interest Gwyneth, a young woman who writes her own stories to explain the bell.

On the other side of town is the ancient manor Aislinn House, whose owner, Lady Eglantine, lies dying. Emma, a servant in the house, is able to open doors that lead not into another room, but into another world. On the other side of Aislinn House’s doors is castle where the princess Ysabo moves through her daily rituals, tasks that Ysabo hates and does not understand, but cannot question. While Emma and Ysabo are able to speak to one another, neither has ever tried to cross into the other’s realm.

When Lady Eglantine’s heir Miranda Beryl comes to Aislinn House, Sealey Head’s secrets begin to reveal themselves, sometimes with dangerous consequences. Miranda brings to Sealey Head an entourage of friends from the city, as well as a strange assistant. As the town gets pulled deeper into the strange magic that Ridley, Judd, Gwyneth, and Emma uncover, Ridley breaches the border between Aislinn House and Ysabo’s world. It is only when the bell’s location and owner are discovered that Aislinn House and all of Sealey Head are able to return to safety.

 

My Thoughts:

I so enjoyed the time I spent reading this. While my reads in March were pretty cool, there is just something about McKillip’s writing that soothes my soul.

Everything I might have to say I’ve said about McKillip before. I’m not going to repeat it ad nauseum. Beautiful language, highly recommended, go read it.

You Are Welcome.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Academ’s Fury (Codex Alera #2) ★★★★★

academsfury (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Academ’s Fury
Series: Codex Alera #2
Author: Jim Butcher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 720
Words: 183K

 

 

Synopsis:

CodexAlera.fandom.com & Me

Tavi has managed to enter the Academy under the patronage of Gaius Sextus, the First Lord of Alera and is training to be a cursor. Despite facing bullying at the hands of other students due to his lack of furycrafting talent, Tavi has managed to make numerous friends among his classmates, such as Max and Ehren. Tavi is also serving as a page for Gaius Sextus. Isana has also come to the capitol to get her citizenship and join the Dianic league. Back at home in the Calderon valley, Doroga, the leader of the marat, warns Bernard and Amara of a new threat, the Vord. He tells them that one nest has been killed, leaving 200 out of a force of 2000 Marat. Another nest is in the Calderon Valley, and one of the queens seems to be heading towards Alera Imperia. Tavi is sent on a mission as a Cursor in training, to find the mysterious thief “Black Cat”, who has managed to circumvent various fury guards to steal things. Gaius Sextus falls ill, and Max is called to replace him. However, during a fight, Max is arrested and Tavi must break him out of Jail. Isana is also kidnapped. Eventually, Tavi manages to catch the thief, who is revealed to be Kitai, one of his Marat friends who followed him to Alera Imperia. Using her talents, Tavi breaks Max out of jail. Back in the Calderon Valley, Bernard is investigating reports of disappearances and goes to investigate Aricholt, the new Kordholt. However, it is completely abandoned, with the exception of a few children kept in a bunker underneath. The vord attack the holt, possessing many soldiers, and Garrison Legion is forced to hide in a nearby cave. The Canim Ambassador, Varg, shows Tavi the nest of Vord in the Deeps, and Tavi goes to warn the Citadel.

Bernard and Amara, along with Doroga and the remaining holders of Isanaholt, take refuge in a cave and fight off the Vord. Their situation looks hopeless and Amara agrees to marry Bernard since they are going to die the next day. Only they don’t die, they are rescued by mercenary knights led by none other than that scum Aldrix Ex Gladius. The Taken and the Vord Queen are destroyed.

Isana can’t get an audience with the First Lord (because he’s incapacitated) nor can she get a hold of Tavi (who is trying to run things, as he’s one of the few people who knows that Gaius is out of commission) and after a nearly successful attempt on her life, makes an alliance with Lord and Lady Aquitaine. They send the Knights Aeris to rescue Bernard.

Tavi is juggling trying to keep Gaius’s secret safe and figure out how to deal with the Vord AND the Canim. One of the Canim, a blood priest, has made an alliance with the Vord Queen in the city and they plan an assassination attempt on Gaius. Ambassador Varg, as the last non-Taken Canim, reveals the plot to Tavi and it is up to Tavi to thwart it. With help from Fade (who slips back into his role as Araris, legendary swordsman), Kitai and many legionnaires, Tavi stops the attempt on the First Lord’s life.

The Vord Queen, along with the Blood Priest, slip aboard a Canim vessel and head back to their land.

Gaius recovers and reveals that one of Tavi’s friends (Gael) is actually a spy for Lord Kalarus and the book ends with Gaius baiting a hook to draw Kalarus out before he is truly ready. Gaius sends Tavi to an archeological dig in the same area where the bait is being dangled. With Tavi now being a Cursor it’s time for him to begin truly working for the First Lord.

The book ends with Isana revealing to the readers that she is Tavi’s mother, not his aunt.

 

My Thoughts:

I have these Codex Alera books in ebook, paperback and hardcover. I’m currently reading the paperback editions, as I am using these as my “word read”. Very easy to throw one into my book bag and since it’s paper it doesn’t matter if it sits in the sub-freezing cold all day. Can’t do that with my kindle, sadly.

What that means is that I’m reading these books in dribs and drabs and not at a steady pace. However, much like Furies of Caldern, this takes place in just a couple of days. So while there might be a lot going on, there isn’t too much going on simply because of author imposed time constraint. I think everything happens in a couple of weeks here but the majority of everything immediately happens in just a couple of days. I rather like that to be honest, as it fits the 5-15 minutes I have to read when at work.

Considering this is my 3rd read of this book in 10 years and I still enjoyed it, I’m going to call this a good book. I don’t think I’ll read it again for another decade though. For some reason, Tavi the main character seems younger than I remember! (hahahahaa)

I enjoy this series a lot. I’m sure someone else could come along and list all the faults. I simply have no interest in even thinking like that. As long as the series stays this strong, I’ll be a happy and contented camper.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time #2) ★★★★★

greathunt (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Great Hunt
Series: Wheel of Time #2
Author: Robert Jordan
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 1072
Words: 276K

 

Synopsis:

From TarValon.net and authored by Toral Delvar

The book begins a few weeks after the end of The Eye of the World. Rand has remained in Fal Dara, practicing the sword with Lan, even though he had said he would get as far away as possible. Any plans he had to leave are shelved when a contingent of Aes Sedai visit, the Amyrlin Seat among them. Rand is questioned by one of them, Liandrin of the Red Ajah, who uses the Power on him to try and get answers to her questions. Moiraine convinces the Amyrlin, Siuan, that Rand must be allowed to go his own way, and that she will be there when he needs her.

Trollocs attack the town, freeing Fain from the dungeons and taking with them the Horn of Valere and the dagger, which are within the same chest. They leave Dark Prophecies on the wall, linking Luc with Isam, Lan’s cousin.

Rand is brought before the Amyrlin, Moiraine and another Aes Sedai, Verin, who has realized that Rand must be the Dragon Reborn. They tell Rand that he was born on Dragonmount at the end of the Aiel War, where Tam, his father, found him. They also tell him he is the Dragon Reborn, which he refuses to accept.

Moiraine convinces Rand to follow after the Horn, telling him it is important that Mat gets the dagger back. As the Aes Sedai are leaving, an arrow is shot from one of the towers, which only just misses the Amyrlin, though it might have been meant for Rand.

They set off after the Horn, using a man called Hurin, who can smell violence, to locate it. Perrin and Mat see Rand with the Dragon Banner Moiraine gave him, and Perrin reasons that Rand can channel. Fain, meanwhile, is beginning to show increasing abilities, which enable him to take control of the Darkfriends and stake a Myrddraal to a door.

Lord Ingtar, the leader of the Shienarans, tells Rand that Moiraine has made him second in command. Rand enters a room in a deserted village and experiences strange flashbacks. During one night, Rand, Loial and Hurin are transported to an alternate world via a Portal Stone. Rand wakes to find a heron branded into his hand. Hurin is able to use his abilities to keep on the trail, so they set off after the Horn. On the way, they meet Lanfear, calling herself Selene. She spends much of her time imploring Rand to seize greatness. They see a memorial of the victory of Trollocs over Artur Hawkwing and realize that in this world, all animal life has been destroyed. Eventually they find another Portal Stone, which Rand uses when they are under attack by creatures known as grolm to transfer them back to the real world. They find they are ahead of the Darkfriends, as Hurin had been smelling where the Darkfriends were going to be, not where they have been. Rand and Loial sneak up on them, and take the Horn and dagger back.

The head on to Cairhien, outside of which they see a sa’angreal in the form of a giant great statue which Rand feels calling to him. Rand is taken for a Lord, and gets mixed up in Daes Dae’mar; the noble houses begin sending him invitations, which he just burns, leading to invitations from greater and greater Houses, eventually leading to invitations from the King and Lord Barthanes, the King’s main rival.

Rand sees Trollocs in the city, and ends up in the Illuminators chapter house when he tries to flee them. His actions lead to the chapter house burning down. He meets Thom, who survived the Myrddraal in Whitebridge. While Rand visits him, the Darkfriends steal the Horn back.

Ingtar and the rest of the Shienarans are joined by Verin, who claims that Moiraine had sent her. They meet an Aiel claiming to be seeking He Who Comes With the Dawn, but Verin says they have seen no signs of him. They then catch up with Rand and the others.

Hurin traces the Horn to the manor of Lord Barthanes. The group uses an invitation to attend a party Barthanes is throwing. Here, they discover that Fain has taken the Horn through the Ways to Toman Head, on the Aryth Ocean, where Barthanes, a Darkfriend, says he will wait for Rand. The Waygate in Barthanes’ manor is blocked by Machin Shin, which tries to come out when they open it, although Verin insists it can’t be controlled. The following day Barthanes is found dead, his body completely ripped apart, presumably by a gholam. Thom’s girlfriend is killed by men working for the king who was suspicious of his involvement with Rand and his presence at Barthanes party. Thom kills the king.

They try a Waygate outside a nearby stedding. In here they meet more Aiel, which is unusual, as Aiel never leave the Waste. Mat tells Rand they are searching for him, as he is the only Aiel they know. Rand is not amused. Loial is nervous, since he doesn’t have permission to be outside his own stedding. He meets a female Ogier, Erith, who he is attracted to. The Waygate outside is also blocked by Machin Shin. They try using a Portal Stone. Something goes wrong when traveling through the Stone, enabling them all to experience many lives they could have led if circumstances had been different. In each of them, Rand is defeated, hearing the words “I have won again Lews Therin” as he dies. They arrive in Toman Head in autumn, having actually lost time due to their use of the Portal Stone.

In Falme, Fain meets with the Seanchan High Lord, Turak, claiming to be a descendant of men who kept their oaths to Artur Hawkwing. Fain gives him the chest with the Horn and dagger in it, though he is only interested in the dagger. The High Lord opens it and intends to present it to the Empress. Bayle Domon is also taken to see Turak, as one of the Seanchan, Egeanin, believes that his interest in the Age of Legends may prove interesting.

The girls head for Tar Valon, beginning lessons in the use of the Power on the journey. It becomes apparent that Nynaeve cannot channel unless she is angry, but when she does, she is very strong. Egwene starts having dreams of Rand, and one of the Aes Sedai, Anaiya, suspects she may be a Dreamer. In Tar Valon, Egwene befriends Elayne and Min, and meets Elayne’s brother, Gawyn, and their half brother, Galad, who Egwene is immediately attracted to. She also sees Logain, who looks utterly forlorn. Both Gawyn and Galad fall for Egwene. Nynaeve is raised immediately to Accepted. Passing three times through a ter’angreal that is perhaps connected to Tel’aran’rhiod, she first fights Aginor. She is then forced to abandon the Two Rivers, then Lan, in order to prove her desire to be Aes Sedai.

Liandrin comes to tell Egwene and Nynaeve that their friends are in danger and that they are both needed to help them. They agree to go with her through the Ways, bringing Elayne and Min with them. When they come out of the Ways, they are met by a group of Seanchan and it becomes apparent that Liandrin belongs to the Black Ajah. Nynaeve and Elayne escape but Egwene and Min are captured. Egwene has a collar fastened to her neck, which gives another woman total control over her. She is told she is a damane and the woman her sul’dam.

Nynaeve and Elayne stay around to try and figure a way to rescue Egwene. Nynaeve eventually discovers a way to use the Power to remove the collars; these make her angry enough to channel just by looking at them. Nynaeve arranges with Bayle Domon to take them away from the area. They release one damane and capture her sul’dam by using the collar, much to the sul’dam’s surprise. They then go to rescue Egwene.

Moiraine visits with two old Aes Sedai, Vandene and Adeleas, who she believes to know more about Dark Prophecy than anyone else. Whilst there, they are attacked by a Draghkar that is warded in some way so that Aes Sedai cannot detect it. They believe this means it was sent by one of the Black Ajah.

Mat, Rand, Perrin, Ingtar and Hurin enter Falme, to try and retrieve the dagger and the Horn, after Verin warns them that the Seanchan may sense a man channeling. They go to the house of the ruling Seanchan lord. Rand kills him, and they escape with the dagger and the Horn. Rand sees Egwene and decides he cannot leave her behind. Ingtar reveals that he is a Darkfriend, but wishes to return to the Light, and stays behind to prevent them being caught. They end up between two large armed groups: Whitecloaks, led by Geofram Bornhald and Seanchan. Mat blows the Horn to enable them to escape safely. The Heroes, led by Artur Hawkwing, appear, claiming to know Rand and telling him they need the Dragon Banner to be able to fight. Perrin raises it and the Seanchan are driven back. Rand is involved in a fight of his own, against Ba’alzamon. This duel is visible in the sky, with the pattern of their fight influencing the battle below. Eventually, Rand decides to let Ba’alzamon strike him, so that he can strike Ba’alzamon, who disappears.

Rand is severely wounded, and Min, Elayne and Egwene are drawn to him. Min keeps him warm, and is greeted by Lanfear, who tells her that Rand is hers.

 

My Thoughts:

Ok, this shows Jordan’s writing in top form! In the first book the characters really annoyed me on several occasions but in this book, I don’t think it happened once. Yes, they were still them, but the fingernails on chalkboard aspect wasn’t there. A big part of it is that they’re going their separate ways and aren’t in one big group, where everything gets ratcheted up annoyance-wise. I don’t think I’m going to have as much to say about this book as the previous, but here I go.

As I mentioned, the characters were much more palatable. It helps that Matt is pretty much sick and out of commission for the entire book because of not having the dagger. His obsession with getting it back makes him more focused, less mischievous and not a dick. Nynaeve isn’t a witch the entire time because she’s getting a solid dose of humility with starting her training as an Aes Sedai. I in no way advocate violence against women, but my goodness, Nynaeve makes me want to stuff a sock in her mouth and spank her til she cries. But she’s not nearly so insufferable this time around. We also get to see just how smart she is when the rescue for Egwene happens. I needed to see another side of her and thankfully Jordan provides that. I think Rand is the one who changes the most though and as the main Main Character, he needed to. He’s maturing and growing up and beginning to take on some of the responsibility that the Dragon Reborn is going to have to shoulder.

Darkfriends and the Black Ajah and the Seanchan and the Forsaken. The book starts off with a gathering of darkfriends, with hints that some extremely powerful people are part of the dark cabal. Jordan moves Darkfriends from a group of hick villagers who lust after power (like we saw in the first book) to a real Cabal of the powerful. The Black Ajah goes from being something that nobody really believes to having it shoved in our faces with the selling of the girls to the Seanchan by one of the Black Ajah. They haven’t really amped up their threat level in terms of power but have definitely made their move into the larger storyline. The Forsaken, namely Lanfear and Balzaman, show just how divided the Forsaken are, with each having their own goals alongside trying to return the Dark Lord from his prison. Finally, the Seanchan and their chained, trained and battle ready slave women who can channel. I found it almost heartbreaking to know that the descendants of this worlds version of King Arthur had turned into a stratified slave society.

The world continues to grow at a very organic pace. As our various groups of villagers go out into the greater world, they learn about the world they inhabit and we as readers are along for the ride. I think Jordan made the right choice with starting out with ignorant characters, as it doesn’t feel like we’re having information shoved down our throat. What the characters learn, we learn. It is also becoming apparent that this world does nothing but cycle through Ages. Thankfully we readers aren’t running for our lives so we have time to think about what “X” could mean AND we have several viewpoints all feeding us input. It is no wonder this series spawned a rabid fandom that thrived on speculation.

To do the whole Wheel thing, I’ll end where I began with this review. Jordan’s writing is as good as I could ask for. Not once during these 1000 pages was I bored, or confused or overwhelmed. I might not have understood everything but I was never flailing. It takes consummate skill as an author to guide your readers like that and Jordan showed a deft and masterful hand that way. I ended up giving this the Best Book of the Year tag as I enjoyed every part. I suspect several of these WoT books will get that tag this year 🙂

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Great Expectations ★★★★★

greatexpectations (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Great Expectations
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 679
Words: 184K

 

Synopsis:

Wikipedia and Me

On Christmas Eve, around 1812,Pip, an orphan about seven years old, unexpectedly meets an escaped prisoner in the village churchyard, while visiting the graves of his parents and siblings. The convict scares Pip into stealing food and tools from Pip’s hot-tempered elder sister and her amiable husband, Joe Gargery, a blacksmith, who have taken the orphan in. On early Christmas morning, Pip returns with a file, a pie, and brandy, though he fears being punished. During Christmas Dinner that evening, at the moment Pip’s theft is about to be discovered, soldiers arrive and ask Joe to mend some shackles. Joe and Pip accompany them as they recapture the convict, who is fighting with another escaped convict. The first convict confesses to stealing food from the smithy, clearing Pip of suspicion

A few years pass. Miss Havisham, a wealthy, reclusive spinster who was jilted at the altar and still wears her old wedding dress lives in the dilapidated Satis House. She asks Mr Pumblechook, a relation of the Gargerys, to find a boy to visit her. Pip visits Miss Havisham and falls in love with Estella, her adopted daughter. Estella remains aloof and hostile to Pip, which Miss Havisham encourages. Pip visits Miss Havisham regularly, until he is old enough to learn a trade.

Joe accompanies Pip for the last visit when she gives the money for Pip to be bound as an apprentice blacksmith. Joe’s surly assistant, Dolge Orlick, is envious of Pip and dislikes Mrs Joe. When Pip and Joe are away from the house, Mrs Joe is brutally attacked, leaving her unable to speak or do her work. Orlick is suspected of the attack. Mrs Joe becomes kind-hearted, but brain-damaged, after the attack. Pip’s former schoolmate Biddy joins the household to help with her care.

Four years into Pip’s apprenticeship, Mr Jaggers, a lawyer, informs him that he has been provided with money from an anonymous patron, allowing him to become a gentleman. Pip is to leave for London, but presuming that Miss Havisham is his benefactress, he first visits her.

Pip sets up house in London at Barnard’s Inn with Herbert Pocket, the son of his tutor, Matthew Pocket, who is a cousin of Miss Havisham. Herbert and Pip have previously met at Satis Hall, where Herbert was rejected as a playmate for Estella. He tells Pip how Miss Havisham was defrauded and deserted by her fiancé. Pip meets fellow pupils, Bentley Drummle, a brute of a man from a wealthy noble family, and Startop, who is agreeable. Jaggers disburses the money Pip needs.

When Joe visits Pip at Barnard’s Inn, Pip is ashamed of him. Joe relays a message from Miss Havisham that Estella will be at Satis House for a visit. Pip returns there to meet Estella and is encouraged by Miss Havisham, but he avoids visiting Joe. He is disquieted to see Orlick now in service to Miss Havisham. He mentions his misgivings to Jaggers, who promises Orlick’s dismissal. Back in London, Pip and Herbert exchange their romantic secrets: Pip adores Estella and Herbert is engaged to Clara. Pip meets Estella when she is sent to Richmond to be introduced into society.

Pip and Herbert build up debts. Mrs Joe dies and Pip returns to his village for the funeral. Pip’s income is fixed at £500 per annum when he comes of age at twenty-one. With the help of Jaggers’ clerk, Wemmick, Pip plans to help advance Herbert’s future prospects by anonymously securing him a position with the shipbroker, Clarriker’s. Pip takes Estella to Satis House. She and Miss Havisham quarrel over Estella’s coldness. In London, Bentley Drummle outrages Pip, by proposing a toast to Estella. Later, at an Assembly Ball in Richmond, Pip witnesses Estella meeting Bentley Drummle and warns her about him; she replies that she has no qualms about entrapping him.

A week after he turns 23 years old, Pip learns that his benefactor is the convict he encountered in the churchyard, Abel Magwitch, who had been transported to New South Wales after being captured. He has become wealthy after gaining his freedom there but cannot return to England on pain of death. However, he returns to see Pip, who was the motivation for all his success. Pip is shocked, and stops taking money from him. Subsequently, Pip and Herbert Pocket devise a plan for Magwitch to escape from England.

Magwitch shares his past history with Pip, and reveals that the escaped convict whom he fought in the churchyard was Compeyson, the fraudster who had deserted Miss Havisham.

Pip returns to Satis Hall to visit Estella and meets Bentley Drummle, who has also come to see her and now has Orlick as his servant. Pip accuses Miss Havisham of misleading him about his benefactor. She admits to doing so, but says that her plan was to annoy her relatives. Pip declares his love to Estella, who, coldly, tells him that she plans on marrying Drummle. Heartbroken, Pip walks back to London, where Wemmick warns him that Compeyson is seeking him. Pip and Herbert continue preparations for Magwitch’s escape.

At Jaggers’s house for dinner, Wemmick tells Pip how Jaggers acquired his maidservant, Molly, rescuing her from the gallows when she was accused of murder.

Then, full of remorse, Miss Havisham tells Pip how the infant Estella was brought to her by Jaggers and raised by her to be unfeeling and heartless. She knows nothing about Estella’s parentage. She also tells Pip that Estella is now married. She gives Pip money to pay for Herbert Pocket’s position at Clarriker’s, and asks for his forgiveness. As Pip is about to leave, Miss Havisham accidentally sets her dress on fire. Pip saves her, injuring himself in the process. She eventually dies from her injuries, lamenting her manipulation of Estella and Pip. Pip now realises that Estella is the daughter of Molly and Magwitch. When confronted about this, Jaggers discourages Pip from acting on his suspicions.

A few days before Magwitch’s planned escape, Pip is tricked by an anonymous letter into going to a sluice house near his old home, where he is seized by Orlick, who intends to murder him. Orlick freely admits to injuring Pip’s sister. As Pip is about to be struck by a hammer, Herbert Pocket and Startop arrive and save Pip’s life. The three of them pick up Magwitch to row him to the steamboat for Hamburg, but they are met by a police boat carrying Compeyson, who has offered to identify Magwitch. Magwitch seizes Compeyson, and they fight in the river. Seriously injured, Magwitch is taken by the police. Compeyson’s body is found later.

Pip is aware that Magwitch’s fortune will go to the crown after his trial. But Herbert, who is preparing to move to Cairo, Egypt, to manage Clarriker’s office there, offers Pip a position there. Pip always visits Magwitch in the prison hospital as he awaits trial, and on Magwitch’s deathbed tells him that his daughter Estella is alive. After Herbert’s departure for Cairo, Pip falls ill in his rooms, and faces arrest for debt. However, Joe nurses Pip back to health and pays off his debt. When Pip begins to recover, Joe slips away. Pip then returns to propose to Biddy, only to find that she has married Joe. Pip asks Joe’s forgiveness, promises to repay him and leaves for Cairo. There he shares lodgings with Herbert and Clara, and eventually advances to become third in the company. Only then does Herbert learn that Pip paid for his position in the firm.

After working eleven years in Egypt, Pip returns to England and visits Joe, Biddy and their son, Pip Jr. Then in the ruins of Satis House he meets the widowed Estella, who asks Pip to forgive her, assuring him that misfortune has opened her heart. As Pip takes Estella’s hand and they leave the moonlit ruins, he sees “no shadow of another parting from her.

In the original ending, Pip meets Estella, who has married a doctor who took care of her deceased husband. He is a kind man and is helping Estella heal her broken heart. Pip confirms his bachelor days.

 

My Thoughts:

My goodness, what an absolutely excellent book. When I read and reviewed this back in ’08 Pip’s selfishness really bothered me. This time around, I was a lot more charitable towards his weaknesses. I guess I’ve gotten a little more sympathetic in the intervening years.

I tore through this. I think I started it on a friday night and was done by monday evening?

I have come to the realization that Dickens simply isn’t for everyone but that I really, really, really click with his writing. I find it engaging, interesting and intriguing. His characters are all truly characters with names truly worthy of their character. I mean, what kind of stuffed shirt do you imagine when you hear the name “Pumblechook”? The drama and plots, as coincidental and drama’y as they are, never have me rolling my eyes. I like how character driven everything is.

I like Dickens original ending better, as it just fits with the characters better. Yes, it isn’t as happy, but the publisher forced ending has Estella changing too much too quickly for my taste. It just doesn’t fit.

For a book that I enjoyed so much and gave the “best book of the year” tag, I am having a very hard time coming up with stuff to actually write. You’d think it would be easier to praise this with specifics. I guess my highest praise would be that I read this in less than 4 days and loved every minute of it.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time #1) ★★★★☆

eyeoftheworld (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Eye of the World
Series: The Wheel of Time #1
Author: Robert Jordan
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 1154
Words: 314K

 

Synopsis:

From TarValon.net and authored by Toral Delvar (thanks ol’ chum!)

The book begins in the region of the Two Rivers, which has been virtually cut off from most of the rest of the world for over a thousand years. It is spring festival, Bel Tine. On the way from his father’s isolated farm, Rand notices a strange man watching him. The man, whose cloak doesn’t move in the wind, frightens him. He tells Tam, his father and a widower, but the man is gone when Tam looks.

They arrive in the village of Emond’s Field, where Rand meets his friends Mat, who is fond of foolish pranks, and Perrin, an apprentice blacksmith. They also reveal having seen the man. They learn of strangers in the village, Moiraine and Lan, something that is almost unheard of. There is also a gleeman, Thom and a peddler, Padan Fain. Moiraine gives each of the three a coin, a token; she claims it is for any work she might ask them to do for her. Fain tells of a false Dragon in Ghealdan, which sets the village worrying, as Ghealdan is not far from Emond’s Field, though it is all but unreachable. The Village Council orders patrols, mostly to calm the nerves of the villagers.

Rand and his father return to their house. When Trollocs attack Rand’s farm, his father Tam brings out a sword to fight them. Rand briefly speaks with Trolloc which wants Rand to wait for someone, before Rand kills it. His father takes a wound which quickly incapacitates him. In a delirious moment, Tam reveals he found Rand on a mountain, during the Aiel War. Rand takes him back to Emond’s Field where Moiraine, who has been revealed as an Aes Sedai, Heals him of the wound he took. When the people blame Moiraine for the attack, she tells them of the time in the Trolloc Wars when Manetheren was destroyed and that she is disappointed at what its blood has come to. This shames the villagers who leave her alone.

Moiraine convinces the boys that the Trollocs were after them personally as it was only their houses and farms that were directly attacked, and the man looking at them was a Myrddraal and they must leave the village. They are accompanied by Rand’s girlfriend, Egwene, who wishes to become Aes Sedai, and Thom.

Fleeing Emond’s Field, they pass through Taren Ferry, where Moiraine misdirects the following Myrddraal and sinks the boat they crossed the river on. They see a Draghkar above. They head for the town of Baerlon, which amazes them because of its perceived immense size. On the way, Rand channels for the first time, to help Egwene’s horse stay ahead of the Trollocs, though he is not aware of it at the time. In Baerlon, Rand meets Min, a young woman who claims to see strange auras around him and his companions.

Rand, Mat and Perrin start having dreams of a man clad in black, calling himself Ba’alzamon who tells them they will serve him. He breaks a rat’s back, and in the morning, all the rats in the inn are dead. The village Wisdom, Nynaeve catches up with them. Min tells Rand that this means the trouble they are in is worse. Though Nynaeve wishes to take them home she agrees to go on with them. Mat plays a trick on some Whitecloaks, including Dain Bornhald, getting Rand, who is suffering the ill effects of channeling for the first time, into trouble for laughing. They leave Baerlon at night, Moiraine using a trick of the One Power to scare the Whitecloaks who are intent on stopping them. Behind them, they see the inn they stayed in on fire. They set off on the road to Tar Valon. They are chased by Trollocs, prompting Mat to unknowingly chant the ancient battle cry of Manetheren in the Old Tongue.

To escape, they are forced to seek refuge in the abandoned and tainted city of Shadar Logoth. Despite being warned that even the Trollocs and Myrddraal fear to enter the city, the boys go exploring, where they meet a man called Mordeth, who casts no shadow. When they notice this, he swells up to many times his normal size and tries to get them. They only just escape him, but Mat manages to get a dagger with a large ruby from his treasure. They return, telling Moiraine that Mordeth did not give them anything. Trollocs and Myrddraal enter the city which worries Moiraine and Lan, as normally no Myrddraal would do so, unless under great duress, due to the disappearance of a Trolloc army there in the Trolloc Wars. In order to avoid the Trollocs and the mindless danger of Mashadar, they split up.

Perrin and Egwene end up across a river which runs near the city. Trying to head for Tar Valon, they encounter a strange man, Elyas Machera, who was once a Warder and who is accompanied by wolves. He is able to speak to wolves and claims Perrin can do so as well. The three of them meet up with some Tuatha’an, with whom they spend a few days before heading off. One of them, Aram, takes an instant dislike to Perrin. Aram’s grandmother claims that this is because he has a hard time trying to follow the Way of the Leaf. They are told of an encounter with the Aiel some years previously, in which one claimed that the Dark One wished to turn the Eye of the World to his own purpose.

After leaving the Tuatha’an, the three are chased by a pack of ravens. Before they are caught, they enter a stedding, where creatures of the Dark One are reluctant to enter. Here, they encounter a group of Whitecloaks. Fearing for their lives, Perrin kills two of them before he and Egwene are captured. The Whitecloaks are convinced they are Darkfriends, as Perrin runs with wolves and their leader believes wolves are creatures of the Dark One. Egwene is told that unless she repents, she will be killed. Perrin is told by Geofram Bornhald that as he killed Whitecloaks, he will definitely be killed. Another Whitecloak, Jaret Byar, appears to develop a personal hatred of Perrin. He offers to let them escape, but Perrin realizes he will kill them both if they do.

Nynaeve, Lan and Moiraine also end up together. Moiraine makes Nynaeve accept that she can channel by pointing out that she can sense her presence, and also that Nynaeve can sense the presence of someone who she has Healed with the One Power. She also tells her of apprentice Wisdoms who have died, a common thing amongst those who try to learn to channel on their own. Nynaeve agrees to go to Tar Valon to become Aes Sedai, so that she can get revenge on Moiraine. She and Lan also begin to fall in love. The three of them then catch up with and rescue Perrin and Egwene, who Moiraine can trace because of the coin she gave Perrin.

Mat, Thom and Rand escape from Shadar Logoth onto a boat owned by a man called Bayle Domon. Domon is aware of the Trollocs, but believes they are after him, as he has been followed since Saldaea. He shows them ancient objects, including one of the seals on the Dark One’s prison, and an object that some men perceive as warm, possibly a male angreal. Domon takes them to Whitebridge where they leave for Caemlyn. They are caught by a Myrddraal, but Mat and Rand escape when Thom stays behind to fight. On the way to Caemlyn, Mat grows steadily more distrustful of everyone except Rand. Darkfriends assail them on the way, encouraging them to swear to the Dark One. One, a woman in silks, tries to kill them, but they escape. Rand has to talk Mat out of killing her. Rand is forced to unknowingly channel again, to escape from a Darkfriend at an inn they are trapped in. They encounter a third Darkfriend later. In Caemlyn, they head for Basel Gill’s inn as it was recommended by Thom. Gill refuses to believe Thom would have been killed. Here Rand meets and befriends Loial, an Ogier, who at first takes Rand for an Aiel, and tells him he must be ta’veren. Whilst trying to get a good view of the false Dragon Logain, who laughs as he sees Rand, Rand falls into the Palace Garden after being distracted by Elayne. She tends his injuries, while Gawyn watches and Galad fetches the palace guard, led by Tallanvor. Elayne believes Rand to be a loyal Queen’s man, as he has a ribbon on his sword that indicates this, but in reality, it is only meant to cover the Heron Mark, and was the cheaper colour. He is taken before Morgase, Bryne and Elaida, who has a Foretelling and announces that Rand stands at the center of all the suffering and destruction to come. Bryne states that the sword belongs with him. Morgase releases him though, as she has heard the accent of the region before, and though Rand does not look like those from the area, he must have grown up there. On the way out, Gawyn reveals that Rand looks like an Aiel.

The others arrive at the inn, and Moiraine temporarily Heals Mat, who had been behaving strangely because the dagger he was carrying had infected him with some of the taint from Shadar Logoth. She says if she hadn’t done so, the taint would have spread throughout the world. Moiraine learns of the plot by the Dark One to use the Eye of the World in the Blight, and they head there via the ways, which Loial knows how to navigate. They only just avoid Machin Shin. They are followed through by Padan Fain, but he stays out of view.

Once out of the ways, they stop in the town of Fal Dara in Shienar, where Padan Fain is captured and revealed to be a Darkfriend, responsible for bringing the Trollocs at Bel Tine. He had been hunting the Dragon Reborn for years. Moiraine reveals that Machin Shin caught up with him but for some reason did not consume him.

They then head off into the Blight. They are attacked by creatures which they fight off, before being pursued by a type of Shadowspawn referred to as Worms, but escape these when they meet the Green Man at the Eye of the World, which is a pool of pure saidin. Whilst there, two of the Forsaken, Aginor and Balthamel, appear. They are very much decayed, as they were close to the top when sealed. They quickly deal with everyone, except the Green Man, who kills Balthamel, though he is killed himself. Rand flees and is pursued by Aginor, who is killed.

Rand finds himself in a strange room with Ba’alzamon, who tells him that he has his mother. Discovering he can channel, Rand cuts a black cord coming out of Ba’alzamon’s back, before returning to the real world. There, he discovers the Eye of the World to be empty of saidin. Several objects are found in it. These are the Horn of Valere, a banner with a Dragon on it and one of the Seals on the Dark One’s prison, broken. Loial sings at the place the Green Man fell, growing a strong tree, which he hopes will not fall to the Blight. They then return to Fal Dara, through an unusually quiet Blight.

 

My Thoughts:

First things first. I plan on using the Tar Valon Library synopses for each of these Wheel of Time books as they fully describe the plot (hence the multiple pages of them!) and I like them better than the wikipedia version. Tar Valon Library is a fansite as far as I can tell and it shows. So expect a super long synopsis every time I review a Wheel of Time book!

Second, even My Thoughts here are going to be chalk full of spoilers. It is simply unavoidable. This series is too big to talk about it in any form besides “I liked it” and not have spoilers. Of course, considering this book is almost 30 years old (it was first published in 1990), chances are you aren’t going to read it if you haven’t already! 😀

 

Characters.

  1. What struck me this time around was just how PETTY a lot of the characters were. Some of the characters (Matt for example) really annoyed me by their actions and “how they were” but I realized that Jordan wrote him that way for a reason. But the pettiness, I don’t understand. Nynaeve was the worst example. Almost everything she did was in reaction to the Aes Sedai Moraine. They barely escape with their lives from trollocs and fades and all Nynaeve can think of is how she’s glad that Moraine is rumpled looking. Petty! While I singled out Nynaeve here, that kind of thing is across the board. I had not noticed it, or remembered it, from my previous reads but it stood out strongly this time.
  2. I wanted to kill Matt Cauthon so many times! His “pranks” are dangerous and put everyone in danger time and time again. It seemed to me that if his dad had spanked him more as a kid that he wouldn’t have been so irresponsible now. Of course, that would mean he wouldn’t have taken some of the actions he did which in turn does X, Y and Z. So I just have to put up with it. But my goodness, what a jerk.
  3. Nobody explains ANYTHING to anyone else. People spend days riding horses together or walking together and yet they can’t find time to talk? Moraine tells everybody to not take anything from the cursed city and Matt (obviously) does anyway. But she never explains WHY or what could happen. If the group had known the consequences or the symptoms, what happened to Matt might have been averted or taken care off much sooner. Another example is Perrin and his wolf-brother ability. He finds out from Elyas that he can communicate with wolves and that it probably comes with other abilities. But during the days or weeks (?) that they are travelling together does either one try to figure anything out? Of course not! Perrin pretends it isn’t happening and Elyas is just as happy to let Perrin reinvent the wheel all over again. It really frustrated me.
  4. I’ve complained before, in Another Book Review, about how a large cast of characters is usually off-putting to me. But in this book, even with 7 MAIN characters and a plethora of main side characters, I had no problems. Nada. None. Zero. Zilch. It helped that even when Jordan split them up they were still clumped together in mini-groups but I think the biggest thing is that Jordan was skilled enough to write them in such a way as to not confuse his audience. He also didn’t included Named Characters “just because”. I never mixed anyone up.
  5. The world building was pretty explicit in that Jordan told us a lot about the world by introducing a lot of Groups of People. The Aes Sedai. The Warders. The Children of Light. Darkfriends. The Forsaken. Trollocs and Fades. Ogier. The Tuathan. And more. As each group is introduced, usually with a named character to keep me vested, Jordan reveals a little more about the current world and the past. It was just fantastically done and I never felt overwhelmed, confused or annoyed. It was like I was in a gondola and Jordan was the man using the one oar to gently guide me down the river of the story. I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. I never worried about going down a wrong channel or hitting the rocks, etc. As much as fans rag on Jordan (and rightly so) for doing stupid things like repeatedly talking about hair pulling or snorting or whatever, the man was skilled in the art of story telling.

 

Plot.

  1. I believe this series was originally pitched as a trilogy. That is hearsay though, as I can’t find any substantive proof to back it up. However, I can believe it. A lot happens. Rand (the main MAIN character) goes from a farmboy to possibly being the Dragon Reborn (the savior or destroyer of the world, depending on what prophecies you read or how you interpret them) and along the way meets all the people he’ll eventually need. And not just to being the Dragon Reborn, but someone who battles several of the Forsaken (the generals of the Dark One), wins and then possibly kills the Dark One himself. So much happens!
  2. At the same time, there is also a lot of what Karlstar (from Librarything) called STTM, or, Slogging Through The Mud. The story is limited to the speed of horses. At least until right near the end of the book and Jordan happily keeps us at that pace.
  3. That leads into another possible issue, depending on how cynical and jaded you might be as a reader. Things Happening When Needed. Near the end of the book they suddenly find out about the Waygates, which allows them to travel great distances very quickly (not without danger mind you and something that they risk their lives doing every time). If you are cynical, you say that Jordan pulls them out of a hat. That was my first impression too. But upon reflection, things CAN’T happen until certain characters are either introduced or meet other characters. Moraine knows about the Waygates, as she is Aes Sedai, but not being an Ogier (the Waygates were a gift from the last of the male Aes Sedai to the Ogier) she wouldn’t have been able to navigate them. It isn’t until they meet Loial the Ogier that they can take advantage of the existence of the Waygates. This type of thing happens several times.
  4. This is a complex story that is made up of many strands being woven together. Considering that The Wheel of Time weaves the lives of men into the Pattern of Ages, it really isn’t a surprise that Jordan writes this way. He’s being very thematically true to the world.

 

General Thoughts.

I met Jordan at a book signing at my local bookstore back in 2005 when Knife of Dreams was released. He was a genial fellow and knew how to keep the patter going so no one got bored, almost a showman you might say. He stated then, in answer to a question, that he had envisioned the ending of the series right from the beginning. That was to reassure us that there was going to be an end, as we were all worried about it turning into something Never Ending. So imagine my surprise when I was reading this and B-A-M!!!, there is the end scene from the final book in one of the visions/dreams Rand has. It made me put my kindle down and laugh and clap my hands! So Jordan didn’t lie to us, he DID have the final scene, it just seems like he either didn’t know how to get there or he took a lot of detours to milk the cash cow. Of course, him dying the next year or so didn’t help fans feel any better at the time! Thank goodness Brandon Sanderson took over and finished it up.

I gave this 4 stars this time around instead of 5 like last time because Matt was a real jackass and Nynaeve was petty. Also the romance between Nynaeve and Lan really came out of no-where. I knew it was coming but even still, there was no indication besides a couple of glances or red cheeks. That really isn’t enough for 2 adults to have a midnight talk about marriage.

Overall, I enjoyed this but am not sure if I’m still the target audience any more.

★★★★☆

 

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The Burning White (Lightbringer #5) ★★★★★

burningwhite (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Burning White
Series: Lightbringer #5
Author: Brent Weeks
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 1325
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

SPOILERS OBVIOUSLY

This book has several main Point of View characters. We follow Teia, Kip and the Mighty, Gavin Guile, Andross Guile and his daughter in law Karris the White and also Liv the Ferrilux. With each main viewpoint we also get stuff from minor characters.

Teia has been ordered by the Broken Eye to follow Gavin Guile (now a prisoner) onto a ship and kill him once he completes whatever task the Broken Eye has given him. The Order holds Teia’s father hostage and claims they will exchange his life for Gavin’s. Teia backs out at the last second and decides she will hunt the Order down. She contacts Karris but has a fit of the feelings because of something that Karris did so Teia goes it alone. This leads to her getting captured by her Order mentor, Murder Sharp, and being tortured for information. She tricks Murder into killing himself while he reveals just enough info for her to continue her hunt. She takes some poison and finds a wagon of wine that the entire Order is going to drink from and poisons every barrel, pretending to be the poison tester. Of course, she doesn’t know she is masquerading as the poison tester until after she poisons it all. Then she has to taste test the wine and take the poison herself. Which means when the sun rises the next day that the poison will interact with the light and kill her, along with every other Order member. She succeeds and in killing the Order foils a plot by them to open the city gates to the White King. She misses the Old Man of the Desert however. Kip does what he can to save her and succeeds. By the end of the book she is being re-integrated back into the Mighty.

Kip and the Mighty start out still in Blood Forest, where they have to decide whether to save the town they are currently in or to save another larger town that is a lynchpin in holding the current Satrapy together. If the White King gains either town, the entire Satrapy will fall to him. Tisis, his wife, figures out that Kip is being hemmed in not to prevent him from saving either town but from heading back to the Chromeria, where the White King is going to attack with all his forces and all 7 of the Banes. Kip takes on the mantle of the Lightbringer and takes the best of his forces back to the island of Jasper to fulfill a prophecy about the Lightbringer being on the Island to prevent a world wide disaster. He has also discovered, through a message from Liv, that the mirrors on Jasper are part of a network that are capable of killing the Banes. Kip and the Mighty get to the Island, delay the initial attack by the White King and bring some needed news to Andross Guile, who as the Promachos, is the military leader. Andross is still playing games with his grandson and Kip lets the title of Lightbringer go because he realizes he needs to focus on his people instead of his grandfather. Kip begins killing off the Bane by using the Mirror System but Zyman Guile, his insane half-brother, kills him and proclaims himself the Lightbringer and Prism and Emperor of the Chromeria. Kip’s last actions are to send a stream of White Luxin to some point in space. A wave of Black Luxin returns and turns everything darker than night and then Kip is brought back to life by Orholom’s intervention. He is out of the battle but has done enough to allow others to finish things up. At the end of the book he publicly proclaims Andross as the Lightbringer and he and Tisis will head back to Blood Forest to reign as Satraps, while still investigating more about what Orholom actually meant all the various luxins to do.

Gavin, who is really Dazen, is taken to an mythical Island where Orholam Himself supposedly used to meet with mortals. Grinwoody, the Old Man of the Desert and leader of the Broken Eye, tasks Gavin with ascending the tower on the island and destroying whatever he finds on top with a dagger of black luxin. Grinwoody holds the life of Karas and Kip in his hands as leverage. Gavin, now blind in one eye, crippled in one hand and completely color blind and unable to draft, does as he is bid. He meets up with a former rowing slave, coincidentally nicknamed Orholam for his self-righteous preaching. Gavin makes the journey to the top of the Tower, where he expects to find a nexus of magic (Grinwoody doesn’t believe that Orholam is real) and that by slicing it with the Blinding Knife that he will destroy all magic in the world. What he finds is Lucidonious, the First Lightbringer, who is now immortal and apparently evil. He fights Lucidonious and somehow banishes him back into the mirror world from which he came. The Orholam Himself appears. He is Real. He and Gavin have a long conversation and Gavin gets a lot off of his chest but also realizes just how bad a life he has led to that point. He pledges his life to Orholam and sends a wave of Black Luxin to the Chromeria to stop the White King and his Banes. It isn’t enough however and with his wounds he can’t do any more. Until a massive wave of White Luxin hits him and regenerates him. He then uses all the Black Luxin from the Tower and turns it into White Luxin. He then hitches a ride with Orholam and gets to the Island of Jasper in time to take part in the battle. By the end of the book he and Karris are re-united and Dazen (having given up all false pretenses) decides he is going to go into the color dungeon and kill some immortal Fallens.

Andross’s point of view begins with a split timeline. It starts many years ago when he is trying to court his wife. Even back then he thought he was the prophesied Lightbringer and he married his wife because of her scholarly knowledge and ability to read and interpret so many foreign prophecies. Each new chapter brings the timeline closer to the present and we see all the terrible things that Andross does to fulfill what he thinks the prophecy means, all the way up to killing his youngest son. We see how his obsession drives his wife away, his family away and how despicable a person he becomes. By the end of the book he begins to redeem himself and both Kip and Dazen are reaching out to him to prevent him from going down that path again. Of course, he proclaims himself the Lightbringer and the new Emperor of the Chromaeia and the new Prism. He is still a jackass.

Liv, Kip’s friend from the first book, now a godling herself, is under the thrall of one of the Fallen and doesn’t even realize it. She provides insight into what the White King is doing and his eventual goal to proclaim himself the God of gods and to become one of the Immortals himself. He obviously fails and is obliterated.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, just a warning. As you can tell by the synopsis, this is going to be a long review. I don’t know how long this section will be, but it will definitely NOT be my typical 3-5 paragraphs.

This final book in the Lightbringer series was released at the end of October and I was desperately hoping someone else would have written up a synopsis by now over at the wiki page. No such luck so I had to do it myself. I left out a lot of detail, even major detail because this book was just that big. My kindle page count was just over 1300 pages. That number comes from a character count (letters, not words) with X characters per page, not how many page clicks I had to do on my Oasis (which would change if I changed the font size). I sped through it though. I’d read 25% at one go and then go read another book just so I didn’t over do it. That formula worked out perfectly for keeping me interested but not burning out.

So lets start with the negative and potential negative. The only truly negative for me was that it had been long enough between books that I was lost at sea a couple of times. Weeks does provide a short synopsis of each of the previous books at the beginning and I read them. I’d have been even more lost without them. 5 books over nine years is just a lot to deal with. There were a couple of times that something was referred to that I had NO idea about simply because I’d forgotten about it from a previous book. The “potential” negative is the very long talk between Dazen and Orholom at the tower. I say “potential” because it wasn’t a negative for me at all (it probably was the best part) but I don’t know how other readers are going to react to a theological talk between an Omniscient God and a powerful but broken and hurting man.

I liked the almost continual revelations about the history of the Chromeria and the Lightbringers and the 1000 Worlds and the Immortals, etc. Just when I felt like I was getting my feet under me Weeks would bring in another wave and knock me right over. The revelations about Lucidonious was enough to really rock me.

The action was top-notch and was just as good, if not better, than anything that came before in the series. From the Mighty fighting against the corrupt Light Guard, to civilians fighting against the White King’s forces to Cruxer fighting against Ironfist to Teia and Murder Sharp’s fight, even down to the card game between Kip and Andross, it all had the proper amount of tension. All the scenes were what I wanted in my action. I was satisfied with them, completely.

The ending is a pretty happing ending too. The bad guys are defeated, the good guys win and even the despicable scum get a shot at redemption. I didn’t find it sappy or over the top or too much. I have to admit that I wished that Andross Guile had been killed. He was one of the major despicable scum and while it was in keeping with what Weeks was writing, I wanted to see Andross get some Justice from Orholam instead of mercy.

Speaking of Orholam, the reason this got a full 5 stars from me is because of the conversation between Orholam and Dazen. Weeks doesn’t shy away from having Dazen ask some of the hard questions, questions that I struggle with in real life. There were a couple of times during this part of the book where I just cried. I cried with relief knowing that other people ask the same questions and feel the same way I do, I cried because of the pain that causes such questions to even be asked and I cried because I’m sure that Weeks himself struggles with these issues. He couldn’t have written like he did if he hadn’t fought these things out. Weeks is obviously a Christian but much like CS Lewis and Narnia, he doesn’t shy away from exploring the “What If” in regards to theology and fantasy. He’s not quite as explicit as Lewis, as there is no Aslan/Christ figure, but Dazen and Kip definitely play out the Father/ Son role of God the Father and God the Son at the crucifixion. All of these reasons are also why I am giving this the “Best Book of the Year” tag. It has some stiff competition from the other books I gave this tag to this year, so we’ll see what book actually wins at Year’s End.

Overall, I enjoyed the series enough that I wasn’t crying “foul” over the 2 year wait between books. It did show me though that my semi-recent plan to only read completed series is the right way to go. Whatever Brent Weeks writes next I’ll be reading, but I won’t be reading it as it comes out. If you read the first book, I think whatever you feel about that will guide how you feel about the rest of the series.

★★★★★

 

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Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera #1) ★★★★★

furiesofcalderon (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Furies of Calderon
Series: Codex Alera #1
Author: Jim Butcher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 688
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia: With Spoilers Galore!

The story takes place in the Aleran Empire, which contains “crafters”, people who can control the elements: water, air, earth, fire, wood, and metal, through a person’s bond with an element’s fury.

A young woman named Amara travels with her mentor Fidelias as part of her graduation exercise. Amara is training to become one of the Cursori, messengers and spies for the First Lord of Alera, Gaius Sextus. They infiltrate a camp of mercenaries, when Amara is tricked by a watercrafter named Odiana and betrayed by Fidelias. Odiana is the lover of Aldrick ex Gladius, the greatest swordsman since Araris Valerian, a legendary swordsman who had been in the service of the Princeps of Alera, the First Lord’s late son. Amara escapes and makes contact with First Lord Gaius using her aircraft. He instructs her to go to the city of Garrison.

The story switches to a steadholt controlled by Bernard, a man who lost his wife and children and stays with his sister Isana, and their nephew Tavi who is furyless. Tavi finds that one of his sheep has gone missing. He and Bernard track the sheep when they are attacked by a Marat warrior. The Marat and the Alerans had fought a war before Tavi was born in which the Marat killed Gaius’ son, Princeps Septimus. The Marat are a warrior people who form tribes based on bonds with different animals, for example horses. In the fight, Tavi and Bernard kill the warrior’s war bird but not before Bernard is wounded. Tavi is running for help when a furystorm hits. While seeking shelter, he finds Amara and the two find the Princeps Memorial, a cave dedicated to Princeps Septimus. Bernard makes it back to his steadholt, where Isana uses her watercrafting skills to heal him. Bernard then finds Tavi and Amara and bring them back to the steadholt. Fidelias, Odiana, and Aldrick stay at the steadholt where they discover Amara and attempt to capture her. Amara and Tavi escape with Fade, a slave of the steadholt who is mentally challenged, and together they travel through the woods before Amara splits from the other two.

Tavi and Fade are attacked by Kord, the leader of Kordholt and a slaver. During the fight, Bernard and Amara attack Kord when Fidelias, Odiana, and Aldrick attack. Aldrick kills Kord’s son Bittan and after arriving, Isana floods the river. Bernard and Amara go one way; Tavi and Fade a second, and Fidelias and Aldrick another; Isana, Odiana, Kord, and Kord’s oldest son Aric are washed to Kordholt. Tavi and Fade are captured by a Marat Headman named Doroga. Odiana and Isana, captured by Kord, are locked away and Odiana is raped. Bernard and Amara continue to Garrison where they rouse the Legionares. Fidelias and Aldrick go to the Marat leader Atsurak, who decides to invade Garrison immediately. Tavi convinces Doroga to let him undergo a trial that can stop the attack on Garrison. Tavi faces the trial with Kitai, Doroga’s daughter, and wins, saving Kitai’s life in the process, and undergoing some sort of bond with her which changes the colour of her eyes to match his, although he does not understand the meaning of this change.

Isana and Odiana convince Aric to help them escape Kordholt, and they split up and head to Garrison. Tavi and the Marat head to Garrison to stop Atsurak. Bernard and Amara hold off the Marat, while realising their feelings for one another, and Isana arrives and hides. Tavi and Doroga attack and kill Atsurak, and Tavi reunites with Benard and Isana. They are attacked by Fidelias and Aldrick, who defeat Bernard and Amara with ease. Fade then attacks Aldrick, defeats him, and leaves him alive. It is hinted here that Fade is Araris Valerian. Fidelias throws Fade off the wall, attacks Tavi, and takes Aquitaine’s dagger.

Garrison survived the attack and Tavi is granted a scholarship to the Academy by the First Lord. Bernard and Amara become Count and Countess of the garrison, and Isana is given the title of Steadholder, making her the first woman ever to own a steadholt and gain citizenship through merit rather than marriage.

Fidelias and Aldrick return to Aquitaine, greeted by Invidia, Aquitaine’s wife and discover Aquitaine sleeping with Gaius’ wife Caria.

 

My Thoughts:

You know, I really wish I had thought of this “use Wikipedia” idea for my synopsis much earlier. Mainly for these Epic Fantasy books that are big bad bruisers and part of a collection that is huge. All right, I’ll try to make this the last time I mention that. Maybe that can be my New Years Resolution for 2020, don’t whine about not using Wikipedia earlier. I think I can do that! Hahahahaaa, yeaaaaaahhh.

I read my papercopy at lunch time at work and it took me from mid-October to now to finish it. That means I “should” be able to finish up the entire series next year just reading it at lunch and whenever I have conferences. Having the entire series in paperback means I can throw it into my backpack and not care about the condition it comes out in by the end. The hardcovers are on my shelf to look pretty.

With this being my third read of this book, it doesn’t pack quite the same punch as the first time. The revelations about several of the characters isn’t as dramatic nor is the tension the same. Given, it has been almost 8 years since I last read this, so a lot of the detail is missing from my memory, but certain big plot points did stick in my memory.

That being said, this story doesn’t lack. It is pure awesomesauce and even as a coming of age story for Tavi, he’s not a total idiot like most young characters in books today. He makes mistakes but he also matures (hey YA authors, grow the phrack up would you!?!? stop acting like infantile pieces of poop). Then add in that other characters range from their 20’s into being Seniors and well, they keep the story from devolving into what most YA is today. Not that I’d qualify this as YA in any shape, way or form. Ok, no more raging against YA for the rest of the review, I promise.

One thing that I really hadn’t noticed before was just how quickly everything happens. As in, the time frame within the story. It is just a couple of days. For an almost 700 page book to span only a couple of days means that a LOT happens. We jump around to several viewpoints but Butcher doesn’t commit the cardinal sin of being a jackass and giving us a chapter from every side character. We follow the main actors, good and bad. While I wished at times that he had followed a particular viewpoint a bit longer, he did do an excellent job of weaving them altogether into one big tapestry.

My only qualm is that one of the main bad characters get raped by another of the badguys. The rape isn’t explicit or graphic in any way nor did I feel like it was included for shock value. It didn’t make me feel uncomfortable beyond the fact that it happened. It just something to be aware of though. The rapist gets the justice he deserves at the end of the book thankfully.

Wow, this went on a lot longer than I expected when I first started writing. I’d say that me writing this much says as much about the book as anything. It is a great book and even on this third time reading I had a good time. Looking forward to the rest of the series as I get to them.

★★★★★

 

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The Two Towers (Lord of the Rings #2) ★★★★★

twotowers (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Two Towers
Series: Lord of the Rings #2
Author: John Tolkien
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 436
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Fellowship is broken. Gandalf and Boromir are dead, Frodo and Sam have slipped off on their own to find their way into Mordor to destroy the Ring, Merry and Pippin have been captured by Orcs and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli must decide which set of hobbits to follow and support.

The first quarter of the book follows Merry and Pippin as they have their various adventures. Merry and Pippin are captured by the orcs and are on their way to Orthanc, Saruman’s stronghold. Saruman knows that a hobbit holds the One Ring, but he doesn’t know which one. The Orc band, however, is ambushed by the riders of Rohan and destroyed. One of the orcs from Sauron had taken the hobbits outside the orc camp to find for himself what Saruman wanted and this kept the hobbits alive during the attack. They proceed into the forest of Fangorn. There they meet the Ent Treebeard and help convince him and the other Ents that Saruman is a real threat and must be dealt with. Their part of the book ends with the Ents and their herds of trees marching off to Orthanc.

The second quarter of the book follows Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli as they try to rescue Merry and Pippin. After the breaking of the Fellowship, Aragorn is torn between following Frodo and Sam or rescuing Merry and Pippin. He chooses to rescue Merry and Pippin as he realizes that Frodo and Sam CHOSE to go off on their own. The three friends begin a tracking expedition and start running after the orcs. They find signs that the Hobbits are alive. They then run into the Riders of Rohan who destroyed the orc band. The Riders didn’t see any signs of the Hobbits but the three friends are convinced that the Hobbits are still alive. The three friends find signs that the Hobbits survived the ambush and begin tracking them into the forest of Fangorn. There they meet an old man who they take for Saruman but is revealed as Gandalf returned from the dead. Gandalf lets them know that the Hobbits are safe with the Ents and they (Gandalf and the 3 friends) must begin rousing allies against both Saruman AND Sauron. They all head over to Rohan to get Theoden ready. They find him under the influence of Wormtongue, an ally of Saruman. Gandalf drives Wormtongue out and Theoden rallies his riders. Scouts bring news that Saruman’s entire orc army has marched on Rohan and is destroying everything they find. Everyone heads to Helm’s Deep, a fortress where the Rohirrim make their last stand. Things are looking very bad for them until a whole forest of living trees and a band of riders led by Gandalf and Theoden’s nephew show up. The riders break the siege and the Forest deals with the orcs. Everyone goes to Orthanc. The Ents have destroyed Isengard (the city built around the tower of Orthanc) but Saruman has taken refuge in Orthanc. Gandalf confronts Saruman and casts him out of the Council of the Wise. Wormtongue throws a stone at them that turns out to be a Palantir, a device that allows the user to see around the world and to communicate with other Palantirs.

The final half of the book deals with Frodo and Sam and Gollum as they make their way towards Mordor. Frodo extracts a promise from Gollum to help them. Gollum leads them Mordor but they can’t get in. Gollum reveals that he knows a secret way in through a tunnel in one of the mountains. On the way there the Hobbits meet Faramir, Boromir’s younger brother. Faramir finds out the secret of the Ring but shows he’s a better man than Boromir by not even trying to take the Ring. The Hobbits continue their journey and Gollum leads them to the secret passage. There he disappears and the Hobbits must make their way through the tunnel on their own. They are ambushed by a giant spider named Shelob, who is an evil power on her own. Gollum is her vassal and plans on taking the Ring from the corpses of Frodo and Sam once she has eaten them. With the Phial of Galadriel and Sting, Sam destroys Shelob but not before she stings Frodo. Frodo enters a deathlike state and Sam is convinced he is dead. Sam takes the Ring and realizes the burden to destroy it is now his. Some orcs come along and Sam finds out that Frodo isn’t actually dead. The orcs take Frodo to their base and the book ends with Sam using the Ring to follow them so he can rescue Frodo.

 

My Thoughts:

For a 400+ page book, this felt incredibly short. Things just happen bam, bam, bam! It was great to be honest. Lean, sparse and yet fully fleshed out, the writing here wasn’t like some of the stuff we get today, ie, “world building”. Man, save me from “world building” for world building’s sake. Tolkien reveals a LOT about his world but it never becomes the point of the story and it always is secondary to the plot. It was masterfully done in my opinion.

Another thing I appreciated, that annoys me with more modern stuff, is that we stuck with one group POV for ¼, ¼ and then ½ of the book. We don’t follow a character for one chapter and then skip to another. My literary feet were firmly grounded in each POV instead of jumping and whirling and generally giving me motion sickness (I’m looking at you, John Gwynne and your horrible, terrible, no-good Valor). It was also written in such a way that I wasn’t thinking about the other characters not on page. I was fully invested in each group as I read about them.

I mentioned how short this felt. Not only that but the story itself sped by. If I hadn’t been reading carefully, so many things are mentioned by a character that aren’t fully written out, I would have missed a lot. Tolkien doesn’t pad out anything and he expects his readers to be paying attention and not need everything spoon fed to them. As a grumpy “get your YA off my lawn!” man, I appreciate that. It also lends itself towards re-reads, as you will miss some things on each read or not fully grasp the import of a sentence until you’ve read it again years later.

All of that being said, this does feel very much like the Grandfather of Fantasy. What I expect today and what I am used to (even if I am not fully behind it, like 1000 page tomes) is very different and that colors my perception of this.

Overall, this was a great read and a fantastic way to end the month.

 

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Bards of Bone Plain ★★★★½

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Title: Bards of Bone Plain
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 336
Format: Digital Edition



Synopsis:

From the Wiki

The book is set in a culture reminiscent of the medieval era, but technologically near-modern, and in which archaeology is also an established profession. Scholar Phelan Cle of the Bardic School at Caerau chooses as his graduate thesis the subject of the perhaps mythical Bone Plain, where all poetry is said to have originated, and the tale of the wandering bard Nairn.

Meanwhile, archaeologist Jonah Cle, Phelan’s alcoholic father, pursues his own investigations, urged on by his dedicated disciple Princess Beatrice, the king’s youngest daughter. At the standing stones near the school is unearthed a strange artifact, a disk marked with ancient runes that may prove key to the mysteries of Bone Plain. Beatrice soon discovers indications of the lost language it represents everywhere.

Alternating chapters recount the activities of the Cles and the princess and the legend of Nairn, and gradually the present and past are revealed to mirror each other and ultimately fuse.

My Own Little Bit

Turns out Jonah is Nairn and that Welkin/Keldin is simply trying to reverse the curse Nairn brought upon himself from the first competition back in history. Jonah faces Keldin thinking he is taking his son’s place but Keldin uses it to restore to Jonah his musical ability. Everybody lives happily ever after and Phelan’s best friend Zoe Wrenn becomes the next Royal Bard, only now she knows about the magic in the music.

My Thoughts:

McKillip doesn’t let me down. The mystery of language is explored in her typical lyrical way and the journey is beautiful with the way she crafts her story. As I noted in my 2011 review (linked below), she doesn’t hide quite so much in poetic form so the overall story is easier to understand. I liked that last time but this time I’m not really so sure. I think I would have liked MORE mystery, not less!

McKillip has moved her writing from a straight Medieval to a late 1800th Century, with automobiles and the like while still having bards and bardic schools. The magic is a given though, while most people in the story have forgotten that magic even exists.

With this move forward in time McKillip also brings forward some more modern ideas and those are what will keep this from being a 5star read for me. Several times she has unmarried couples sleeping together and that being completely normal. It was more striking to me because of its absence in her other works.

I’ve only got a couple more McKillip books to read through before this cycle of re-reads is over and honestly, I can tell I’m going to miss her stuff. I simply love her writing!

And finally, I’m including the full art spread for the cover by Kinuko Craft. They’re just so beautiful.


★★★★½


Bards of Bone Plain (2011 Review)