“If you fall bravely in war the Valkyries, beautiful battle-maidens who collect the souls of the noble dead, will take you and bring you to the hall known as Valhalla. He will be waiting for you in Valhalla, and there you will drink and fight and feast and battle, with Odin as your leader.”
Would it be Norsevember without reading Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman? Absolutely not. I have always felt an affinity to mythology, and I was lucky enough to have taken a whole course dedicated to it in high school. Though I learned many mythologies over many cultures, Greek always stuck with me the most because of the general focus on it in literature. I have very much enjoyed Celtic, Norse, and other mythologies over the years, too. I love that they’re all connected. They all feel derivative of each other even though they have major differences and themes. That being said, Norse culture deserves a lot more recognition and Neil Gaiman was just the man to bring more focus to it.
“Odin has many names. He is the all-father, the lord of the slain, the gallows god. He is the god of cargoes and of prisoners. He is called Grimnir and Third. He has different names in every country (for he is worshipped in different forms and in many tongues, but it is always Odin they worship).”
Norse mythology, rightfully so, encompasses the feel of a warrior’s beliefs. Strength, courage, and cunning over all. Odin, Thor, Frey, and Freya. My favorite Norse god, though, is Loki. He provides endless entertainment. He is suave and confident. He finds a way to work his will, even if it often backfired. I have always admired wits over brute strength. Thor takes a backseat because of this. I delight in Loki’s quips and quick thinking, and Gaiman does an excellent job of making his part in mythology seem clever instead of just plain deceitful. Though Loki causes trouble, he will attempt to fix it, if only to save his own ass.
“Loki makes the world more interesting but less safe. He is the father of monsters, the author of woes, the sly god.”
This leads me to one of my favorite things about mythology; the repercussions. Mythology, in essence, is about teaching moral values and lessons. Every culture uses their stories to do this. Loki is punished for his misdeeds. Fenrir is feared because of his sheer power. Many are mistreated, sometimes wrongfully so, and other times, through a misguided attempt to stem off a worse fate. Often, this backfires. Playful Fenrir wouldn’t have become an enemy without Odin’s paranoia. Often, we are our own downfall. When society falls, as predicted throughout our mythologies, it will be because of humanity’s failings. The end of the world as we know it will be because of our mistrust of others, selfishness, our unwillingness to work through our problems with critical thinking and empathy. Every mythology focuses on rebirth, on the cycle of destruction bringing about an end and a new beginning arising from that end. Norse Mythology has a particularly unique end, a wolf that swallows the moon, the epic battle before the rebirth.
“This will be the age of cruel winds, the age of people who become as wolves, who prey upon each other, who are no better than wild beasts. Twilight will come to the world, and the places where the humans live will fall into ruins, flaming briefly, then crashing down and crumbling into ash and devastation. Then, when the few remaining people are living like animals, the sun in the sky will vanish, as if eaten by a wolf, and the moon will be taken from us too, and no one will be able to see the stars any longer. Darkness will fill the air, like ashes, like mist.”
Gaiman reminded me of why I love mythology. Our worlds are connected through stories. We relate to another person through sharing tales, trials, and triumphs. He took the basics of Norse mythology and wove an illusion, where I could imagine mountains and valleys that are made by a blow from Thor’s hammer, where Odin’s eye watches us, and we have to be on the lookout for Loki’s tricks. I adored this novel. Mythology is an interesting subject but the wrong writer can make it seem boring. Gaiman has never subjected his readers to that fate. I mean, he made Odin’s defecation and farts seem interesting. Yes, there actually is a story about this.
“No one, then or now, wanted to drink the mead that came out of Odin’s ass. But whenever you hear bad poets declaiming their bad poetry, filled with foolish similes and ugly rhymes, you will know which of the meads they have tasted.”
Happy Norsevember to all! Read this book, you won’t regret it.
”Oh the joy of being young. Of being twenty-eight years old, of being strong, of being a lord of war. All gone now, just memory is left, and memories fade. But the joy is bedded in the memory.”
It is Norsevember, which is the perfect time to read another installment in The Saxon Stories. I finished book four, Sword Song, yesterday. As I read on in this series, I am reminded of why historical fiction and fantasy score a spot in my heart. The battles fought in this time period seem impossible to a man in modern age. Being a skilled swordsman is obviously rather unheard of in our time. The sheer talent that it would take to stay alive during medieval times (and earlier) seems fantastical in itself, and then when you add the belief in sorcery, it’s very easy to see how these lines cross. It’s evident why medieval fantasy is such a hit, because it models itself after times that actually existed, but seem impossible. The Saxon Stories are NOT fantasy, but they are excellent representations on how real historical events can seem like something out of a fantasy book.
“I was death come from the morning, blood-spattered death in mail and black cloak and wolf-crested helmet.”
Uhtred is a fictional character, but these books bring to mind all of the forgotten people that helped win wars and forge history. We may not know their names, but they were there. They fought for causes that they believed in, for the honor of their families, for glory. How many influential people have been lost to the black holes of time?
I think it is interesting that Uhtred starts getting more involved in telling this story from his old age. There’s some of mentions of a wife in his old age, one he doesn’t talk fondly of. It’s a big contrast to his loving tone towards Gisela. He refers to himself as an old man and it is a stunning contrast to his youth. I think there’s a great awareness in this novel that though we like to believe good always conquers, there’s a great deal of people that slide by while committing misdeeds. Uhtred starts picking apart his younger years with the wisdom of old age, starts pointing out (to the viewer) the evil in those around him, especially those concerned with purity.
As always, Uhtred is at odds with the Christian religion. The way women are treated by some of the priests is enough to garner disgust from him. It truly is astounding the way even noblewomen are treated and their mishandling reminds me that women have been treated quite unfairly for thousands of years, especially in the name of religion. This series manages to be wildly entertaining, but it doesn’t shy away from the harsher aspects of history.
“Lust is the deceiver. Lust wrenches our lives until nothing matters except the one we think we love, and under that deceptive spell we kill for them, give all for them, and then, when we have what we have wanted, we discover that it is all an illusion and nothing is there. Lust is a voyage to nowhere, to an empty land, but some men just love such voyages and never care about the destination. Love is a voyage too, a voyage with no destination except death, but a voyage of bliss.”
One of my favorite things about this installment is that it radiates with Uhtred’s love for Gisela. You can tell he is truly happy with her, completely content. There’s a theme of love that runs through this novel, where most of Uhtred’s love interests have been more of lust or convenience in the past. Uhtred has found a soulmate and there’s a peace in him that contributes to his victories in war. He has no use for rage at home, it all goes into battle. There’s also a theme of friendship, the previous novel really solidified Uhtred creating a safety net of followers and they carry over into Sword Song.
Another cool thing featured is Norsemen entering into the story more heavily. We often think of Norsemen, Danes, and Vikings as the same. History starts to blend these together and feel they are okay to be grouped together. Much like Native American tribes, they came from slightly different areas but adopt a lot of the same ideals and customs.
“Danes, Norse, Northmen, Vikings, pagans,” I said, “they’re all your father’s enemies.”
One of my only complaints is that sometimes there’s long stretches without dialogue. I love how balancing dialogue can be to a novel and Uhtred is in his head a lot. This doesn’t affect the book in a major way and much of the series has been this way. It is still easy reading, it is still filled with history and humor, blood and death, joy and love, honor and humiliation. It is truly wonderful! Happy Reading.
I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a while because I am a SUCKER, a straight up FOOL for animal companions in novels. This goes back to my elementary school days reading Harry Potter (owls, cats, rats, oh my!). The animals have always mattered SO much to me in books. I am especially partial to wolves, as you will see in the list below. That’s likely because I’ve grown up with dogs. If you want to feel your heart grow ten sizes… while spending the entire novel (or series) in a panic, wondering when the beloved animal might get in a scrape, this a list for you!
We will start with one of the most well-known:
1. George R. R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire: The original wolves in my heart! The direwolves of ASOIAF are what we all care about, right? Pro: there’s enough of them that at least some HAVE to survive *chuckles nervously* Con: there’s enough of them that you’re having constant heart palpitations waiting to see which ones get ticked off on GRRM’s inevitable kill list. I love Ghost so much, I named my dog Ghost and got them tattooed on me. One of my favorite things about the direwolves in these novels are that you can always count on them to come rip out a throat to protect the Starks. You’ll get a jolt of adrenaline reading about them coming in to save the day. You’ll also spend the rest of YOUR LIFE mourning our fallen friends.
“When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.”
2. Robin Hobb – Realm of the Elderlings (specifically the books that feature Fitz, starting with The Farseer Trilogy): My number one, my boy, my son… Nighteyes! There’s never been a better doggo. So, a huge part of Robin Hobb’s Fitz books is the Wit bond. This is a bond with ANIMALS. Any animal you can think of, if you’ve got the innate power. For some reason, the townspeople don’t like when people have this bond because they’re LAME AND NO FUN AT PARTIES… er, or something like that. As you imagine, we see quite a few animal bonds in this series but the bond between Nighteyes and Fitz is the best. We can actually hear the thoughts of Nighteyes and he’s snarky, hilarious, and protective. He has also graced my arm because he’s a very good doggo with a rating of 15/10. There’s a bunch of other moments where we will get to see the Wit bond in play, too!
“Come, hunt with me, the invitation whispers in my heart. Leave the pain behind and let your life be your own again. There is a place where all time is now, and the choices are simple and always your own. Wolves have no kings.”
Keeping with the theme of 15/10 very good doggos…
3. John Gwynne – The Faithful and the Fallen: I read this series after I got tattooed or I’d end up being that weird girl with 500 wolves on her arm instead of just two. The Banished Lands of tFatF heavily features wolven, dogs, war horses and talking birds. You can tell Gwynne is an animal lover! A lot of characters have faithful dogs that follow them from home to battle and beyond. Our main character has a wonderful wolven named Storm and a loyal horse named Shield. Some of our characters have strong relationships with birds, too. Craf the Crow is something special, with a lot of heart in a little dude. The animals all help at some point or another with the overall battle. My heart swelled 500 sizes during this series.
“One shall be the Tide, one the Rock in the swirling sea. Before one, storm and shield shall stand; before the other, True-Heart and Black-Heart.”
4. Robert Jordan – The Wheel of Time: Animals aren’t heavily featured in the three books I’ve read so far (I’m working on it, OKAY?) but the wolves in this book definitely help Perrin and friends out of some messy situations. Perrin is all, “oh, I don’t want a wolf bond,” because he’s CRAZY. Just kidding, I actually like Perrin the most and I’m confident he will grow into his wolf pack. By book three, he’s becoming more accepting of it and they’ve helped out in battle. All hail the wolf pack!
“A young wolfhound must meet his first wolf someday, but if the wolf sees him as a puppy, if he acts the puppy, the wolf will surely kill him. The wolfhound must be a wolfhound in the wolf’s eyes even more than in his own, if he is to survive.”
5. Jane Linskold- The Firekeeper Saga: I’m gonna have to give this one another go. Way back when, someone recommended it to me because if my love for Hobb. I enjoyed the first one but got bored with the second. Basically, a girl is left in the woods and ends up being raised by wolves. She is human in form, but she can communicate with the wolves. Eventually, she is brought back into society because she’s somebody to the Royal line and has to be taught to partake in society. Her pack companion, Blind Seer, comes with her for protection. Lots of political intrigue woven in this animal-heavy novel. This is another book where certain people are able to communicate with various types of animals.
“After a day of watching the two-legs interact from within their midst, she was certain that they could talk as well as any wolf. Unlike wolves, however, they mostly used their mouths, a thing she found limiting. How could you tell someone to keep away from your food when your own mouth was full?”
6. Outlander series – Diana Gabaldon: this isn’t as animal-heavy as some of the others but I would hate to not mention Rollo, the wolfhound/wolf mix. Ian and Rollo’s relationship is truly just heartwarming, especially because much of Ian’s story is heartbreaking. Their companionship is a nice reprieve.
“That dog is a wolf, is he not?’
‘Aye, well, mostly.’
A small flash of hazel told him not to quibble.
‘And yet he is thy boon companion, a creature of rare courage and affection, and altogether a worthy being?”
Now we get away from the wolf theme.
6. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman: okay, this whole series!! Daemons, aka animal companions that are literally a part of your soul!!! Yes, please. Who wouldn’t want a beautiful little furry friend to rely on throughout life? One that only dies when you do? When you’re younger, they change shape. As your personality solidifies, so does theirs, and the settle as one animal. This is an oddly dark series and I haven’t finished the last book yet but I LOVE it so far. Pantalaimon is the daemon we get the most of, he first appears as a moth but takes many forms, ranging from ermine, to eagle, to wildcat, and even a dragon at times. We also see quite a bit of Mrs. Coulter’s absolutely terrifying monkey! There’s a whole cast of furry friends (and enemies) in this one.
“But your daemons en’t just nothing now; they’re part of everything. All the atoms that were them, they’ve gone into the air and the wind and the trees and the earth and all the living things. They’ll never vanish.”
7. Red Rising – Pierce Brown: this happens a bit later in the series, but Sophocles!! A fox kept by House Telamanus. He’s over 700 years old after being cloned 21 times and he’s a loyal companion to Kavax. He loves jellybeans and Kavax trusts his judgement. If Sophocles finds jellybeans on someone, they’re immediately in with Kavax. Sophocles is a fierce protector when he doesn’t trust someone. He will also poop in your room if you give him licorice flavored jellybeans, as an admonishment. Sophocles is a sign of what fun you can have in Brown’s world, even though it is predominately brutal and murderous. Let us not talk about what happens to the wolves in this series, though. *winces*
“Grape! It is a sign. A sign! Sophocles has given Lyria his blessing. There is magic yet left in the world, and Sophocles has found it.”
8. Spellslinger – Sebastien De Castell: I am ashamed to say that I haven’t read De Castell yet, but I WAS told that there is a murderous squirrel cat named Reichis. I’ve done some digging and he is a witty, talking animal companion to a guy named Kellen. It also seems like he enjoys butter biscuits quite plentifully throughout the novels. This series is sure to be a magical ride with a deranged, thieving squirrel cat and I must say, this is a huge selling point for me.
“Eventually Reichis asked, ‘You know why this is such a stupid idea?’ ‘You said that already. Like, twelve times.’ ‘Yeah, but do you know WHY it’s a stupid idea?’ I stopped. ‘Why?’ Reichis shivered on my shoulder. ‘Because this place is giving me the creeps, and I’m a squirrel cat – normally we’re the ones giving other people the creeps.”
9. Nevernight – Jay Kristoff: Shadow Daemons aka not-cats and not-dogs. Specifically Mr. Kindly and Eclipse. I still have Nevernight sitting on my shelf but these seem to be protectors of our main character(s). As the name suggests, they are animals made up of shadows. I believe Eclipse is actually a wolf from the digging I’ve done. These animals are known to cater to Darkins to help devour their fears.
“Before I found you, I was just a shape waiting in the shadows.”
10. The Old Kingdom Series – Garth Nix: I’ve heard about Mogget the Cat, a being enslaved and forced to take different forms, settling into a cat for the long haul. He’s cantankerous, murderous, with a streak of good in him. There’s also The Disreputable Dog, another being trapped in a physical form. She’s known to modify her form to fly, read, and cross over into Death with her companion, Lireal. I don’t know much about this series but I am pretty intrigued by the little I have heard. It seems complex with heavy world building, and best of all, ANIMALS.
“Life,” said Yrael, who was more Mogget than it ever knew. “Fish and fowl, warm sun and shady trees, the field mice in the wheat, under the cool light of the moon.”
Some honorable mentions that I don’t know enough about or couldn’t find much info regarding the animals, but my friends on Twitter have mentioned:
• Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow: (witches and familiars)
•Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey: (referred to as having a whole zoo of animals)
•Hiero’s Journey by Sterling Lanier: (moose and mind-reading bear)
•The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart: (talking animal companions)
•The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams: (war beasts)
If you know anything about the books I haven’t read and want to let me know how awesome they are, please feel free! I want to know about ALLLLL the animals companion reads.
•If you’re looking for dragons, Alex from Spells and Spaceships has an extensive list! Just click Here
•If you’d like some more animal recs, head over to The Fantasy Hive and check out their post by clicking Here
“Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.”
I have lost many pets throughout my life. As an adult, with my own family, we just lost the first dog. My 10 year old Husky/Great Pyrenees named Ghost passed away unexpectedly. We expected it within the foreseeable future, but not as quickly as it happened. We were having a family movie night when I noticed she didn’t come into the room. Ghost and my other dog, Khaleesi, always need(ed) to be where the family was and Ghost would snuggle up on her dog bed and snore. I gave her a hug and tried to lead her into the room but she wouldn’t budge. I told my husband that I thought she was acting off. Later she came in on her own. The next day, as we were about to attend my grandmother-in-law’s memorial, we noticed that Ghost had collapsed behind me and was laying in a pile of her own pee. We took her to the emergency vet that day and they gave us some pain medicine, a tentative cancer diagnosis, and set us up with a specialist to do some further tests two days later. The following day she was wobbling and her legs gave out as I helped her to her dog bed, where she began breathing really hard. I knew then that she was ready to go. Alex and I rushed her to the emergency vet and as we brought her in, she passed away. It was traumatizing and at the same time, comforting knowing we were with her as she passed.
I am writing this blog because there’s something in me that needs to write down my thoughts when I am grieving. At times I almost feel silly for how deeply this has affected me. As an adult, I have experienced people close to me dying, and I never feel bad about the grieving process. I shouldn’t feel silly about grieving for our pet, our family. I wake up in the morning, ready to let her out and get her food for her. I’m not used to not being woken up by a whine or a nose nudge, as Ghost had always been ready for food before the alarm went off. I see an empty food bowl and I feel melodramatic as I pick it up and wonder what to do with it. I think of the bags of dog food in our pantry that Khaleesi can’t eat, as she’s a diabetic. I look at her dog bed and wonder if I should try to get Khaleesi used to it or move it around to a new spot. I look at everything that belongs to her, feel pain and am keenly aware of any part of my routine that she’s missing from. It hurts. Dogs rely on us so much that there’s a glaring hole when they’re gone. Every part of my day feels wrong.
Watching a living thing pass from this world isn’t easy. I’ve been with relatives as they’ve passed and pets. Death isn’t glamorous. There’s noises and facial expressions that will haunt you whenever you think on it. I think of how I should have let her have one of my fries earlier in the day, how I should have given her an amazing last meal. I think of all the things I would have done if I had known she was going to leave us that day. Did she know how much I loved her? I hope so.
I just feel desperately sad. This year has not been very good to us. But I also try to remember that Ghost lived a good life with us. Not every animal has that, unfortunately. I remember that she went on long trips to the cottage with us, to Traverse City, state parks, on the boat. She looooved going on the boat or sitting by the campfire, even though we had to watch her tail to make sure she didn’t catch fire with that cotton-like fur. She smiled, truly smiled, constantly. She skipped like a pup whenever she heard us say “Walk” or “Up North” and eagerly awaited the click of the leash onto her collar. She’d scare you with an abrupt, loud bark whenever you were petting Khaleesi and she felt she deserved attention too. Ghost would sit behind me while I did my make up, outside of the bathroom while I showered, next to the hammock while I read. She got puppy ice creams and peanut butter cakes on her birthday, and she was known to sneak behind our backs while we sat around the campfire to take a slurp from our White Russians (don’t worry, we stopped her when we noticed). She only got on the furniture when her bones were really aching, so we always let her in those moments. When I was sad or needed a moment to unwind, I would rest my forehead against hers and she’d close her eyes and soak in that moment where it was just the two of us. She turned heads everywhere, people delighted in seeing her wolf-like prowl, wanted to pet her lush fur.
We were truly lucky and I like to think she lived a great life with us. I don’t know when the sadness I feel will fade but I feel fortunate to know the love of a dog.
“All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.”
“We rode on the winds of the rising storm, We ran to the sounds of the thunder. We danced among the lightning bolts, and tore the world asunder.”
I thiiiink The Dragon Reborn might be my favorite read thus far in the Wheel of Time series. Do you know why I think that is? Less Rand. Rand is boooooooooooring compared to the other characters so far. I’ve said it before, but I really feel like Robert Jordan forgot to give him a discerning personality because he was so concerned with making him The Chosen One.
“The only people I ever met who were sensible all the time were so boring that watching them could put you to sleep.”
On the other hand, Perrin really takes root in this installment. We get more insight in his wolf bond (I go crazy for a good wolf bond), and he starts to really take a stance and stick up for himself and others. We get a lot of Mat in this one as well. Mat has the funniest inner dialogue and he isn’t afraid to be who he is. I love the way that he acknowledges a woman he’s attracted to by thinking, “I’d ask HER for a dance.” It makes me laugh every time. Also, Perrin, Rand, and Mat are all pretty different but they all have a sense of humility about them. Even the confidence that Mat exudes has a shadow of humbleness to it. They are all always thinking how good the other two are with women and it cracks me up (since none of them are particularly GREAT with women even though many fawn over Rand, of all people).
The magic steps up a notch in this, too. The dreamworld makes it a bit hard to tell what is reality and what is truth, which I think adds to the stories as much as it can confuse it. If it is confusing the reader, we can definitely understand how it might muddle the characters. Also, the women are underrated in this series. They’re all badasses and capable of taking care of themselves, though they need a little help here and there. Egwene especially furthers her instruction and abilities. Her future starts taking solid form. There’s so much power flowing through all of the characters in this book.
“Kill a man who needs killing, and sometimes others pay for it. The question is, was it worth doing it anyway? There’s always a balance, you know. Good and evil. Light and Shadow. We would not be human if there wasn’t a balance.”
Unfortunately, Jordan still falls victim to being overly verbose at times. The imagery is beautiful but too much of a good thing can spoil the whole pot, eh? In this installment, it isn’t nearly as bad. I don’t think he’d make it in the modern age without taking the advice of a good editor, but times were different and fantasy was less plentiful. Though the books are long, not THAT much happens in them. Lots of action that I’m sure will build to a larger story, but we shall see.
Speaking of action, I DO enjoy the battle scenes immensely. Seeing Perrin fight amongst the wolves was amazing. The dream fighting and seeking was nerve wracking. These are the moments that I find I can truly submerse myself in this world.
Overall, I’m enjoying my journey. It’s a fun series! So far, I wouldn’t rate it in the best I’ve ever read, but that may change. I hear the next book really helps solidify it as THE Wheel of Time.
“Just because fate has chosen something for you instead of you choosing it for yourself doesn’t mean it has to be bad. Even if it’s something you are sure you would never have chosen in a hundred years. ‘Better ten days of love than years of regretting,’ she quoted.”
“The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.”
It’s that time of year. Brandon Sanderson is releasing Rhythm of War next month and it is time to refresh my mind. These are behemoth novels and a reread gives me a reason to write an official review. So here we go, The Way of Kings book one of The Stormlight Archive. Get ready for a lot of quote action.
Sanderson writes fantasy that is rife with death and destruction, but the tones manages to stay hopeful and uplifting. You know that people will die, battles will be fought, but we never feel like doom is inevitable. Whatever the opposite of grimdark is, Sanderson is that. I guess he reminds me of Robert Jordan in that sense. There’s good and bad but the bad doesn’t constantly overwhelm the good. It’s just has this vibe of wholesome reading, which is wild to say because Sanderson doesn’t shy from killing off our favorites. Stormlight is definitely some of the darkest reading you’ll get from Sanderson. Especially as the story progresses, we get more layers of this very emotive storytelling that will wrench your heart in two. I ended this novel with tears streaming down my eyes, even though I’ve read it many times. Sanderson always knows how to pack a punch in the last 20% or so of his books.
“Was there no hope for men? They killed those they should have loved. What good was it to fight, what good was it to win, if there was no difference between ally and enemy? What was victory? Meaningless. What did the deaths of Kaladin’s friends and colleagues mean? Nothing. The entire world was a pustule, sickeningly green and infested with corruption.”
If Rothfuss is the lyrical prose King and Hobb is the emotional storytelling Queen, then Sanderson is the Worldbuilding Wizard. Nobody builds a world like him. The fact that Sanderson can create these awe-inspiring worlds and these intricate magic systems while consistently putting out multiple books a year simply makes him a genius. I die for eloquently written fantasy. Though Sanderson has his eloquent moments, that’s not what I associate him with, he is all about the experience of being in his world. It is immersive and unique. His story arcs for Stormlight are especially gratifying and wondrous. I know whenever I’m in a book slump that Sanderson will cure it. I never struggle with his books.
“Just because I do not accept the teachings of the devotaries does not mean I’ve discarded a belief in right and wrong.” “But the Almighty determines what is right!” “Must someone, some unseen thing, declare what is right for it to be right? I believe that my own morality — which answers only to my heart — is more sure and true than the morality of those who do right only because they fear retribution.”
Sanderson, being a deeply religious person, often has themes of religion in his books. He is always having his characters question religion, defend religion, lose faith, regain it. Being the exact opposite of a deeply religious person, I have never felt like Sanderson is preaching at me through his work. That can really turn me off from a an author. He supplies questions and seems to understand wholeheartedly why others can’t take solace in faith, but he also showcases why many people do. It seems as if he has a deep respect for people of all mindsets. The smartest person in this series has no faith, while some of the most terrible people in here have faith. Some of the best people in here have complete faith while others are more shaky. God(s) play a huge role in this series. Sanderson’s novels are all about humanity coming together to defeat evil plaguing the world. It’s about honorable people standing up to destructive forces, taking in those with apprehension and honing their unique skills for the common good.
“Somebody has to start, son. Somebody has to step forward and do what is right, because it is right. If nobody starts, then others cannot follow.”
Speaking of characters, Shallan starts off rather irritating. Her “witty” retorts seem forced. Sanderson falls prone to his famous dad jokes in this one, where he (and in turn, Shallan) seems rather self-satisfied with her cleverness. Thankfully as the series goes on, I know this tones down and I end up really liking Shallan. I will say, I loved her defense of herself to Jasnah. It takes a lot to do this as Jasnah is rather intimidating and formidable. Jasnah is one of my favorite characters and she’s intelligent without trying, important without peacocking. Shallan has always fought to prove her worth, as a result of her childhood, and she it comes off as her being a show off. I think that contrast of her with Jasnah shows how young she really is. The irritation I feel with Shallan’s personality dims when I think of her circumstances.
“I will protect those who cannot protect themselves,” he whispered.
Kaladin’s story starts off with such force. It immediately pulls me in and his journey unwraps layer by layer, in heartbreaking but captivating bursts. Sanderson was like, hey how much can I DEVASTATE the readers while keeping them invested in the story when it comes to him. Luckily, Kaladin is so honorable that it is easy to want to continue his story. He’s truly as honorable as they come. Dalinar and Adolin are lovely additions as well. Dalinar is older and wise, his honor stemming from years of experience and regret. I couldn’t help but think of Hamilton’s “Ten Duel Commandments” while he was drawing his Shardblade. Adolin has a sense of honor deeply imbedded as a result of his father’s guidance, though he keeps a streak of confidence (which can veer into cockiness) that offsets his humble moments.
“A man’s emotions are what define him and control is the hallmark of true strength. To lack feeling is to be dead, but to act on every feeling is to be a child.”
Tarvangian is one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever come across. There’s so much more to him that originally meets the eye. Same with Wit. These two characters are done splendidly and this is only the beginning. I won’t say more, as it will only spoil the journey.
“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon. Too often, we forget that.”
Finally, the magic systems and societal norms. Obviously, there’s shardblades, shardplates, the Knight’s Radiants. You’ll learn about those quickly but also in pieces. There’s a lot to unpack with the magic system here. Also, Sanderson feeds us the barest hint of the Old Magic in this installment and the people that have sought it, and it’s truly woven into the story exquisitely. Every paragraph you read in this series hums with the bits and pieces of this magic system, revealing itself at every turn, of the Cosmere, of the rise and fall of civilizations. It’s breathtaking and a lot to wrap your head around. The societal norms are so funny and shed a bit of insight on how ridiculous our ideas of modesty can be. The pinnacle of modesty is whatever has been passed down through generations. Women in this series clothe and hide their “safehand” aka their left hand as a form of social propriety. It is very scandalous if a man sees your safehand. As ridiculous as it sounds… cultural norms are what we make them. Also, systemic bias is heavily employed in this series. The people with Light Eyes get treated better, more satisfactory living, higher wages, and outstanding opportunities. Reversely, Dark Eyes are treated poorly, given low paying labor jobs, put in camps that almost positively ensure their deaths, aren’t privy to the same opportunities as Light Eyes. Sanderson manages to nod his head at all of these social issues that are conducive to real life (if you extend the thoughts to where they are due) while keeping you immersed in the story. It doesn’t feel like Sanderson is pushing and political or moral views on you but he uses his novel to expose oddities in our real life. Why should a person’s eye color determine their worth? Skin color? Heritage?
Well, that’s enough blathering from me. This series is awesome, to the deepest connotation that the word applies to. No doubt it will go down as one of the greatest fantasy series of all time. This is Sanderson’s “BIG ONE” and though I believe ten novels are scheduled, you can tell from the first few that we are in deep. The Way of Kings is just dipping a toe into the Cosmere, into The Stormlight Archive. Enjoy! Savour it.
“Death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than a mountain. So many duties.”
Here I am, slowly chugging along in The Wheel of Time with my friends Ambrine and Nahid. I just finished The Great Hunt and I enjoyed it a lot more than book one. Speaking of chugging, a drinking game for every time you hear “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills” or any close variant of it would definitely get you a bit toasty. Jordan is a fan of repetition, if nothing else.
The Great Hunt kept a good pace throughout the whole book, unlike Eye of the World, where pacing was slow and the journey between all of these characters dragged for ages. I still maintain that Rand is about the least exciting character in the bunch, but maybe that will change. Like… if he wasn’t the Chosen One, I would probably not care about him at all. Perrin’s got the badass wolf bond, Loial has those charismatic ears that convey his emotions, Mat is full of fire, Nynaeve is a badass, Elayne is strong royalty, Min sees future paths. I don’t really have anything specific to say about Egwene, but I did enjoy her arc in this novel, it provided a bit of nail-biting conflict. Rand is supposed to be super powerful but he’s kind of just BLAND in personality. Maybe that will change. Towards the end of the novel, I started warming to him a bit, so there’s still hope.
Honestly, I loved the girls’ storylines throughout this. I mean, the first half of the book kept a decent pace, but the second half really soared for me. For the first time, I found myself eager to return to this series. I liked seeing their Aes Sedai training, though I know some other readers loathed that. Seeing the process of damane being forcefully created was super interesting, as well.
“The best of men are not much better than housebroken.” Nynaeve paused, and added half to herself, “But then, the best of them are worth the trouble of housebreaking.”
I feel like I’m finally starting to get a hang of what everything is. Aes Sedai and their rankings, Forsaken, Dark Friends, Ogier, Trollocs, etc. The world the Jordan built is really intensive and it takes a while to navigate the characters and regions but it becomes immensely enjoyable once you do. I’ve found that I don’t quite care for the dry tone of classic fantasy in the likes of Tolkien, but this bridge between classic fantasy and modern fantasy that Jordan seems to provide in the second book is more my style. The first book felt more info-dumpy and dragged, where this book felt like it started advancing the plot and characterization. I would agree with the sentiment that Eye of the World felt like Jordan was trying to be like other successful fantasy authors, The Great Hunt is where he starts being himself.
I am actually pretty excited to move forward! I think the slow pacing of one every month or so, in addition to other reads, will keep me from burning out on this series. I would give The Great Hunt a 4/5 stars!
“There is one rule, above all others, for being a man. Whatever comes, face it on your feet. Now, are you ready?”
“Because fate cannot be cheated, it governs us, and we are all its slaves.”
I’ve continued on my journey with Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories by reading Lords of the North. This will also be my first read for Alex’s (Spells and Spaceships) Norsevember event, which is taking place from now until the end of November, though the bulk will obviously take place then.
If you’re unfamiliar with The Saxon Stories, maybe you’ve heard of The Last Kingdom on Netflix. This is what that is based on. I didn’t do blog reviews for the first two installments (The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horsemen), although I loved them and rated them both 4 stars. Lords of the North is a 5 star read for me.
“And yet I knew it was not my fate to be king. I have known many kings and their lives are not all silver, feasting, and women…
I wanted the silver, the feasting, and the women, but those I could have without a throne.”
As with the first two books, we follow Uhtred, who was born a Saxon but raised a Dane. He continues to straddle this line, affecting Dane mannerisms and beliefs while fighting for the Saxon cause under Alfred. Cornwell’s way if writing witty banter and humor that endears us to Uhtred. What I absolutely loved about this book is that we are finally introduced to Sihtric and Finan aka THE SQUAD. Uhtred is an amazing character because he inspires belief and loyalty from those around him. He is flawed and he is about his honor, but he is never intentionally cruel. He lives and dies by his oaths and does not make them lightly. This gets him into quite the conundrum now and again, as he’s often put into battle against people he cares about. He could rule if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. People seem to be blind to the fact that he doesn’t want to rule, so they are often wary of his charisma.
“Oaths can be broken,” he said quietly, and that was true, but in a world where different gods ruled and fate is known only to the three spinners, oaths are our one certainty. If I broke an oath then I could not expect men to keep their oaths to me. That I had learned.”
This installment had so much action, so much emotion, so much more depth. We are introduced to the slave king, Guthred, who is silly and boyish. I felt much more of a connection with him than I did in the show. He is very likeable and we get a good amount of time with him. Gisela is flawed in this book but Uhtred is drawn to her, nonetheless. Sihtric and Finan get more in-depth with their storylines and I loved reading about their roots. Finan is true and strong, always jesting, and his time with Uhtred makes him as loyal as they come. If you haven’t read this book or watched the show, I won’t ruin how they meet but though it is heart-aching, it plants that deep seed of friendship that cannot be broken. We get moments with Ragnar, Brida, and even Thyra, which speaking of heartache, Thyra’s storyline is the embodiment of that.
“Finan the Agile, he had been called, and I watched, astonished, as he leaped ahead of both Guthred and Rollo and took on the three men alone, and his two swords were as fast as a viper’s strike.”
Cornwell can pack a punch while keeping his books relatively short. He covers many events over a period of time, but it never feels rushed. There are moments without a lot of dialogue, but they always serve the plot. This is one of the finest works of historical fiction I’ve read. It almost feels like fantasy because of how outlandish some of these events read, but they are very true to life in that time. Uhtred may be fictional, but most of these characters are very real. He serves to bring together the storyline of the Danes and the Saxons, to get us in both of their mindsets. I love how he draws the juxtaposition of the Danes and Saxons when it comes to faith and honor. They both care about these things, but in different orders. The Danes are all about personal and familial honor, and they will dine in the halls of Valhalla by fighting, avenging themselves and their families. They pay homage to their Gods by living life for themselves and taking care of their family. The Saxons do everything to serve their God and their faith, and they expect everyone to serve God first. There were a few offhanded remarks about how the church takes money to serve God, and how they are willing to forgive things they normally condemn for a bit of silver. This book and series in general offers a lot of questions about faith and organized religion. The Danes worship in their own way compared to the organized fashion that The Saxons do, but is either wrong? They both kill, pillage, and wage war, but they do so under different premises. The Saxons do it to unite England under one God, and the Danes do it for honor, to make Odin proud. In actuality, they are pretty similar, though they don’t see it. The Saxons think they are civilized because they have faith in a Christian God, the Danes think they are civilized because they have faith in themselves. I also think it is funny that we often think of Danes or Vikings as barbaric, but they did things like bathe more often than the Saxons (who didn’t bathe often as they believed the cold water would kill them) because they were more in tune with the elements and how to survive. The Saxons are more reserved in their emotions where the Danes wear their emotions in their sleeves. Obviously, we see where history landed them both, but these novels show how easily we could have had a different way of life because of the fights of these two peoples. Everything could have been different if even one or two battles had gone differently.
“The other thing I like about our gods is that they are not obsessed with us. They have their own squabbles and love affairs and seem to ignore us much of the time, but the Christian god has nothing better to do than to make rules for us. He makes rules, more rules, prohibitions and commandments, and he needs hundreds of black-robed priests and monks to make sure we obey those laws. He strikes me as a very grumpy god, that one, even though his priests are forever claiming that he loves us. I have never been so stupid as to think that Thor or Odin or Hoder loved me, though I hope at times they have thought me worthy of them.”
This series is phenomenal and I highly recommend to anyone that likes historical fiction or fantasy. Though it isn’t fantasy, it has a lot of elements that make people love western fantasy specifically.
If you have any Norse inspired reads for Norsevember, let me know!
Hey all! I’ve decide to share some recipes here and there and figured it would be fun to pair them with my favorite books. I paired my take on potato leek soup with The Name of the Wind! I could just see the Edema Ruh (a traveling troupe, for those that haven’t read it) sitting around their wagons with a pot of this bubbling over the fire. Perfect for fall! Especially since Kvothe used to go forage in the forest to give his parents some *ahem* alone time. Leeks, potatoes, some broth, and a few extra ingredients and you’re all set. Even better, you can make this vegan or vegetarian very easily by omitting the cream and butter, and substituting the chicken broth for veggie broth! Most Potato Leek soups are purées but I like the texture of some chunky potatoes and sautéed leeks in mine.
Ingredients (will make about 6 bowls, feel free to double if you want more):
•4-5 large leeks, roughly chopped
•1 head of elephant garlic
•6 cups or about 2 lbs of roughly diced potatoes (about one inch pieces or less)
•9 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
•1/4 cup of heavy cream
*2 sprigs of fresh thyme
•2 bay leaves
•1/4 teaspoon of ground sage
•dash of celery salt (ok to omit if you don’t have)
•tablespoon of butter
•drizzle of olive oil
Step one: Cut head off the bulb of garlic, drizzle with olive oil and kosher salt. Wrap in foil and cook at 350 degrees in the oven for about 45-50 mins. While it is cooking, proceed with the rest of the process.
Step two: Sautée the leeks in butter in a large pot until browned. Reserve half and put those ones in blender (don’t blend yet).
Step three: add 7 cups of broth, potatoes, bay leaves, and thyme to the pot with the remaining leeks. Bring to a boil and boil for about 15 mins or until potatoes are soft. Take about a cup and a half of the softened potatoes and add to blender. At this point, garlic should be about done. Take half of roasted garlic for the blender, mash the rest and put in the pot.
Step four: add remaining cups of cold broth to the blender. Blend. While that is happening, take out the thyme stems from the pot. Feel free to remove the bay leaves if they bug you too. Once puréed, mix the purée into the pot. Add the heavy cream. Add sage and celery salt. Bring to a boil once more and then let simmer for at least twenty minutes. It’s even better if you leave it to simmer and thicken for an hour or so. If it isn’t as thick as you like, add cornstarch mixed with cold broth or water. Tastes even better the next day! Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.
Tip: if you don’t want to use cream, make more purée by using extra potatoes and broth. Also, I love topping with Ritz crackers because they go so much better with this recipe than regular saltines. If you like some spice, top with some jalapeño.
I received an advanced copy of When Harry Met Minnie by Martha Teichner, CBS correspondent, from Celadon books. I was absolutely charmed and devastated. This book was about Martha’s friendship with Carol Fertig, designer, during her journey with cancer, as well as her role in caretaking for Harry, Carol’s dog. Martha was introduced to Carol because they both had bull terriers. She would take her dog, Minnie, out every day to the market in NYC, when an acquaintance came up to her and asked her if she would be interested in meeting Carol and Harry. From here, a friendship bloomed while Carol’s health declined. Harry’s health was quite unstable as well, but Martha became enamored with him. When Carol eventually passed, Harry became a part of Martha and Minnie’s family.
This book was bursting with emotion. If you’ve ever had a pet that you’ve cared deeply for, this book encompassed the beauty and tragedy of that. Dogs will love you like no other, unconditionally. They’ll bring you happiness, but there’s also the inevitable sadness when they pass. This struck me deeply, as I have dogs that are aging quickly, as dogs do, and accruing health issues. Martha talks honestly about the quirks of bull terriers, and about how costly our pets can be. Somehow, dogs have worked their way into our hearts and we will spend our last dollar keeping them well, just like any other family member.
Another thing that resonated with me was watching a loved one fall into the depths of cancer. Carol’s cancer was a result of 9/11’s proximity to her apartment. Martha describes the way Carol declines, how her speech isn’t the same, but somehow keeps that fire and strength burning. This reminded me of my grandmother. So much diminishes in them but you still see the spark that makes them who they are.
If you want to laugh a bit, if you’re a dog lover, if you have a loved one dealing with cancer, or need a good cry, When Harry Met Minnie is for you. It is filled with heartwarming moments and tearful moments. If you’re from Michigan, you might like this even a bit more, as Martha talks here and there about her childhood in Traverse City and Leelanau, and her conservation efforts there as an adult.
When Harry Met Minnie will be available February 2nd, 2021.