Yay! I was able to get a spot on Storytellers on Tour’s promotion of Marcus Lee’s new book. Tristan’s Folly picks up where Kings and Daemons left off. I can tell you one thing, the action was immediate. That’s something that I enjoyed in the first book as much as the second book. Lee knows how to pull his readers in.
Straight off the bat, Taran and the crew makes new enemies, as well as new allies. It is fun to see the characters that we followed in the previous novel coming together in this book more. The banter between characters comes easy and made me smile quite a bit throughout the novel. While others are coming together, The Witch King is still up to his dark ways and cruelties.
Maya is one of those characters that is a breath of fresh air. She’s truly good and compassionate and wants the best for those are her. The love story being her and Taran is soft and sweet, just enough to flavor the book without overpowering it or making it feel like a romance. This is a nice contrast to the constant cloud of doom, the battles that are always near. Speaking of Maya’s kind soul, through her and Astren, Lee brings up some thought-provoking conversation about the cost of war, weighing the immediate effect against the the long term effect that will strike a chord with many. There’s such a shade of grey that comes with war. It is easy to say that it is never needed, but sometimes you have to fight back. Sometimes it simply comes down to survival of the fittest. I love books that dig deeper into your subconscious.
Tristan’s Folly is a book that makes for smooth reading. Lee doesn’t fall prey to too much imagery, he sprinkles enough in to capture your attention while keeping the book’s plot at the forefront. No long, meandering paragraphs where you gloss over. I appreciate this in a novel. I like my novels to be driven by the characters, and this is certainly the case.
I also like that we get a lot of Daleth’s POV in this. Often we don’t get to see much of the “bad guy’s” thoughts, we just see them through the eyes of the other characters. Daleth’s sinister thoughts are compelling and at times, humorous. His response and thoughts to Taran’s crew are so entertaining. He leads with strength, and though people know he’s evil, they’re still willing to follow him. Reversely, on the side of good, people are having to accept a leader that isn’t quite up to their expectations. There’s treachery and twists aplenty happening. This treachery adds to the earlier question, how much are you willing to sacrifice to win? For the greater good? Is it worth giving up your own happiness?
Lastly, I just wanna say: I think the storyline Lee gave Kalas is GENIUS. It is so unique and I can’t say much without spoiling it for those that haven’t read the books yet, but he’s such an intriguing character. Whenever he’s in a scene, I always perk up a bit more than before.
Marcus Lee made another compelling read in his series, The Gifted and the Cursed. The lines between friends and foes, dark and light, monster and man are all muddled. These are some fun reads! If you haven’t had a chance to read them yet, enter this giveaway Here. Thanks to Marcus and Storytellers on Tour for including me!
Check out the other bloggers on this tour by clicking Here.
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
“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?”
“You any good at it?” “I’m a Matsuda.” “I don’t know what that means.” “It means ‘yes,’” Mamoru said.
*takes a deep breath, lets it out* Well, if I was the long-stream-of-expletive type of gal, I’d be letting ‘em roar. Okay, who am I kidding. I am that type of girl but I know some of you aren’t, so I’ll tone it down… but HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLY SHIT. Sorry. There’s only a few series that have inspired this passion in me. All time: Rothfuss and Hobb, extending somewhat further to Martin. Last year: Abercrombie and Wendig (Wanderers specifically). This year: John Gwynne. And now: M.L. Wang. The Sword of Kaigen. If you’ve heard any sort of accolade about this book, it is well deserved. I expected to enjoy this like I do most fantasy series. I did not expect to have my heart racing, to have my mind consumed by it during daily activities, for it to be the type of book that I long to get back to. There was never a moment of boredom. In the beginning, my only hindrance was learning the terms well enough to be able to continue without a hitch. I am often that person that goes through the whole novel trying to figure out terms without checking to see if there is a glossary in the back. Thankfully, I had the foresight to check out the glossary, so the sailing was smooth. Every unknown term is back there, I promise.
“We can’t claim to be crime-fighters if we disrespect life just as much as the criminals we fight.”
This is an extremely action-packed story. To be honest, I’m not usually that fond of huge battles or constant battles. I tend to glaze over for them, which is ironic, since fantasy is ripe with battle scenes and it’s my most-read genre. John Gwynne and Joe Abercrombie are some of the few authors I have read that write battle scenes well enough that I pay attention throughout the whole battle. Sword of Kaigen can now be added to that list. It starts off with the fight scenes with almost… vigilante superheroes. Misaki’s formative years are much different from her years as she matures, but we start out at Daybreak Academy, where she fights crime with her good friend Robin. Eventually she marries and settles down, hiding her fighting roots from her family. Years down the road, the fighting comes to her home and her whole family is pulled into the fight. This is where the REAL fighting happens. We watch various characters train throughout but you haven’t seen the least of what they can do until this moment. Absolutely breathtaking battle scenes start to take place. It feels like a punch to the gut, I had to put the book down at moments because it was so hard to read, my adrenaline was SOARING.
“We hold this line!” Uncle Takashi boomed. “We hold this line!” the other fighters echoed, matching his ferocity. “We are the Sword of Kaigen!” “We are the Sword of Kaigen!”
If you have any biased or sexist thoughts that women can’t write fantasy, check yourself. This is a prime example of women writing some damn glorious, and often, gory fantasy. What’s even better, it isn’t gory for the sake of being gory. It’s war. It’s ugly. It isn’t glorified. It’s traumatizing and scary and terrible. There’s beauty in fighting well, but there’s always the terrifying devastation of carnage that goes with any physical fight. People you love will die in this book.
“I believe this is why the two greatest empires are Yamma, built on the power of fire, and our own Kaigen, built on the power of water. The two exist in this realm, not to destroy one another, but to create a balance.”
The contrast of these harsh, brutal scenes with the tender, beautiful scenes is exactly the universal balance that these characters take comfort in. There’s a constant theme of yin/yang, light/dark that runs throughout the book. The balance of nature. With every tragedy, there’s a moment of grace and symmetry. The contrast of the man Misaki wanted to marry, to the man she actually married. Her father has a prediction for the man she wanted to marry and what it would mean for their family, and the ironic thing is, for that exact prediction… his worry was about the wrong man. There’s a lot more to her relationship with both men than first meets eyes and there’s a balance between the two men.
“For fifteen years Misaki had lamented being fated to raise her husband’s sons. All that time, she hadn’t considered that these boys might have something of her in them too.”
We go back and forth between Misaki’s narrative and her son, Mamoru. Misaki doesn’t hide that her bitterness at marrying her husband, Takeru, spoiled the love she “should” have felt immediately for her sons. While it makes me sad that Mamoru grew up without feeling the full envelopment of a mother’s love (especially when his father isn’t exactly warm), it reminds us that motherhood isn’t for everyone. Women are told that that’s their purpose when maybe, just maybe, alll women aren’t maternal. Even more so, the fact that Misaka probably would have been more maternal if she was allowed to choose the way she mothered is sad. Instead, she spent years denying a major part of herself. When she’s finally able to reconnect with the fighter that she was prior to getting married, she feels that intense maternal protection of her family. I think that’s so relatable to motherhood in general, as mothers often sacrifice a lot of who they were to become a mother. It takes time to find a balance between the mother you want to be, the person you were, and the person you’re becoming.
“Listen, son… when I was your age, I had to face truths that seemed to break the world. That’s what happens when you come into contact with people who aren’t quite like you. You learn over time that the world isn’t broken. It’s just… got more pieces to it than you thought. They all fit together, just maybe not the way you pictured when you were young.”
As for Takeru, I absolutely hated him throughout the entiiiiire book, almost. M.L. Wang shows her masterful writing with him. I longed for some Takeru chapters earlier because I wanted to get into his head. I didn’t think there could possibly be anything to make me see his side. The way she set this up was so effectively done. I also like that Wang acknowledges that sometimes burning, passionate love isn’t the best love. Sometimes that love can consume until there’s nothing left, can be dangerous. Often, a love that makes you feel safe, that is constant, that has the soft strumming of home to it, is the most sustainable love.
“Falleke!” Kwang swore. “You guys in this village really believe all this stuff, don’t you? You believe everything the government tells you?” “Why wouldn’t we?” Itsuki asked earnestly. “You must see what’s happening here.” Kwang’s voice was almost imploring as he looked from one face to the next. “The emperor is using you.”
I think my favorite part about this book was how it addressed government propaganda, especially in this day and age. Especially RIGHT NOW, when there is a conversation about the sanitization of American history and skewing the facts so that they fit the narrative of what the government wants to sell its citizens. There’s also this idea that you’re supposed to have blind loyalty to your country —that you’re not supposed to question them— that is addressed here. It was a hard pill for some of our characters to swallow, while others were completely aware of this. I think that’s cohesive to our daily lives.
“You’re patriotic and loyal. You’re exactly what everyone’s told you to be.”
There’s this notion that people are meant to die for their country and if you don’t want to do that or you don’t believe in what your country is selling, that you’re not a true citizen. That’s ridiculous and I’m glad that Wang takes that on. It is okay to be proud of your country but you should never blind yourself because of your service to your country.
“The world doesn’t need another powerful theonite trying to force his idea of justice on a city of adyns. That’s not what I’m going to be.”
Another thing I found so in tune with today’s world was addressing brutality from people that have sworn to protect. Robin refuses to kill just to protect himself or others. He refused to be cruel to get his job done. He would rather disarm. Maybe M.L. Wang had the foresight that these conversations were long overdue, or maybe they were just ideals of her own that she wanted to put out into the world, but she puts into words what a lot of people haven’t been able to.
“The power of gods rose, thunderous, like a wave inside Mamoru, and he rode the swell, moving his body with it. As the wave hit its apex, he sent its full force down his arm, through his open palm, into the ice.”
I really loved the pureness of Robin. I liked how Misaki was able to open up like no other when she was around him. There was the air of gentleness that mixed with the fierceness of so many of these warriors. The story starts off so softly, almost dreamlike, and quickly turns into a raging symphony of words, revelations, and war. There’s some absolutely devastating moments that made my heart break, but in the end I was left feeling so satisfied. I’m also a self-professed book masochist. The more heartbreak, the more I end up liking it. The magic system in this was glorious, too. It was a mixture of the elements and science, the power of gods, and sheer will that was awe inspiring. The culture shines through and jumps off the page. M.L. Wang will forever be an author to keep your eye on. If I could give this 100 stars on goodreads, I would. I ended up highlight 58 quotes in my kindle. I was so thankful that I read it on kindle first and ordered a paperback after. For all of the quotes that I put in this review, I easily could have put a dozen more. I was thinking how I would love to see Robin and Misaki’s kids at Daybreak Academy together and then read that her previous books DO involve Robin’s son, at least. If you’re thinking about reading The Sword of Kaigen, just do it!
“A decade later, a fifteen-year-old Hiroshi would become known as the youngest swordsman ever to master the Whispering Blade. What the world would never know, was that he was the second youngest.”
* theories will be separated at the bottom, after a mostly spoiler free review (I won’t go into specifics throughout the first portion of this)*
Ahhh, the series that makes my soul sing, the one I have read countless times and yet… it gets no less intriguing, no less confounding, no less eloquent. For this reread of The Wise Man’s Fear, I joined my bookish friends David and Lily for a buddy read. I had never done a buddy read prior to this, but I am a big fan now. Though I have read the series many times and gained something each time, this was the first time that I got to go chapter by chapter, write out my thoughts, and discuss it. For a book like Name of the Wind or Wise Man’s Fear, WOW. Whole new perspectives, more time to thoroughly get my hands dirty by digging through those theories, it was so satisfying to be able to discuss this phenomenal book as I read through it. This is one of those series that you BURST to talk to someone about but by time you find someone, you forget half of what you wanted to say.
“Then I played the song that hides in the center of me. That wordless music that moves through the secret places in my heart. I played it carefully, strumming it slow and low into the dark stillness of the night. I would like to say it is a happy song, that it is sweet and bright, but it is not.”
Okay okay, enough. Onto the gushing. Here’s the thing that sets Rothfuss apart for me. I think it’s safe to say that he really distinguishes a writing style for himself, nobody writes like him. One thing that is really remarkable, is that we don’t linger in certain areas you would think are important such as his trial or the adventure on the ship to the Maer’s. The focus of this series is on building the legend of Kvothe, and where other authors would use that time on a ship or a trial as filler for the book, it serves no purpose here. This book doesn’t need fillers, on the contrary, there’s SO MUCH knowledge and so many intertwining lines that if anything, I think we all agree that the next book will be far too short for our liking at whatever length (and Rothfuss has indicated that he doesn’t intend for it to be any longer than the previous ones). Rothfuss has pulled us in so thoroughly and efficiently. As I said: let us not forget, this series IS about the building a legendary man. I’ve heard people complain that Kvothe is too perfect, too good at things. Kvothe is extremely talented in many ways. That’s the thing about legends though… they are gods among men, so to say. They become legends for a reason. Kvothe takes his share of beatings, literally and figuratively. He knows tragedy. His life isn’t perfect, but he makes himself into something larger than life. I love how Rothfuss touches on all of these simple folklore that have been mentioned in passing, in some way these shaped Kvothe’s story and the tales told about him. Dracus, Chandrian, Fae, Amyr, even the Adem. These seemingly mythic people and creatures all come to life, after being mentioned casually throughout the novels. Honestly, I’m waiting for the shamblemen to make an appearance in the next book, they’re one of the only superstitions talked about more than a few times that we haven’t come across yet. There’s even whispers about Kvothe wearing varied rings that we eventually get reasoning for. All of these little pieces are making this story, and it’s beautifully done. As I said, I think the way Rothfuss does this is so unique, using smaller moments to create a whole instead of leading us into a pirate ship for months at a time or dragging us through a trial. We get a shock almost, when he chooses not to divulge those moments, but these would-be interesting things have been done many times in fantasy. Alternatively, I can’t say that this intricate and subtle way of building this larger-than-life person is something I’m often exposed to.
“On his first hand he wore rings of stone, Iron, Amber, Wood and Bone. There were rings unseen on his second hand, One blood in a flowing band, One was air all whisper thin, And the ring of ice had a flaw within. Full faintly shone the ring of flame, And the final ring was without name.”
The subtleties create such an immense and powerful story, which I find extremely satisfying in tandem with the innate magic system that Rothfuss creates. I can’t say enough about how much I love this magic system. It’s the best sort of “sorcery”, the kind that is wholly believable because it comes from probing your brain, from reaching deep within and coaxing, training yourself to harness this power that people so rarely have the discipline or self-awareness to reach. That’s the magic that as young kids or teenagers we wish to find within ourselves, until we are older and shelf that longing, immersing ourselves in fictional worlds where it IS possible.
“What use is care? What good is watching for that matter? People are forever watching things. They should be seeing. I see the things I look at. I am a see-er.”
As I mentioned in my review of Name of the Wind, Rothfuss is a god when it comes to characterization. The women burn with passion for life and for control over their own lives. This is furthered even more when we meet the Adem women. That is a whole new scope of female empowerment. I won’t spoil anything about their culture, but I will say: lol, man-mothers. Rothfuss takes something that is a very well known fact and completely spins it on its head. The best thing is, though it seems illogical to us, Kvothe has no way of convincing the women otherwise, especially in this time period where scientific advancement hasn’t progressed that far yet. I always get the best chuckle out of this part. While we are talking about characters, I’d like to mention that every time Bast calls Reshi, my heart grows three sizes. The tenderness between these two is something that is scored on my heart, and I long to know the journey that led them to this absolutely endearing friendship. I love that Rothfuss has created this world at the University where the oddballs of society have found a home. Puppet, Auri, Elodin. Even Manet, to some degree. The overly intelligent, the cracked ones, the ones in need of a safe haven, the ones who regard knowledge as the meaning of life. The man has absolutely seized my heart with these books. They are pretty close to perfect, my ideal fantasy series. The streak of humor that runs through them too, at the most unexpected times (the disposal of the rings, the letter to Ambrose, Elodin’s absolute manic weirdness).
“You can divide infinity an infinite number of times, and the resulting pieces will still be infinitely large,” Uresh said in his odd Lenatti accent. “But if you divide a non-infinite number an infinite number of times the resulting pieces are non-infinitely small. Since they are non-infinitely small, but there are an infinite number of them, if you add them back together, their sum is infinite. This implies any number is, in fact, infinite.” “Wow,” Elodin said after a long pause. He leveled a serious finger at the Lenatti man. “Uresh. Your next assignment is to have sex. If you do not know how to do this, see me after class.”
The last thing I’d like to touch on is the progression of love in this novel. You can finally see the maturity in Kvothe and Denna’s love. After Tarbean, when they picnic by the river, you can feel a palpable tension in the air. The first awareness between the two of them that their relationship is special. It’s like going from middle school-high school relationships to that first true, deep love. You can feel it, others can see it. No longer are they two street urchins with a fondness for each other. Their fates are set together, in a way. Their souls call to each other. They might be annoyingly afraid to tell each other, but I think they finally feel it, subconsciously. Rothfuss made ME feel that raw emotion between them, so vicarious that it brought about nostalgia for the times I’ve experienced it. This is the end of my spoiler free review, if you couldn’t guess, it’s. 5/5 stars for me. After linking David and Lily’s pages, I’ll be posting some of my favorite theories, please scroll down if you’d like to read any of those! As we know, Rothfuss hides so much meaning in his words, I can help but pour over them for clues of the story to come.
“There are so many men, all endlessly attempting to sweep me off my feet. And there is one of you, trying just the opposite. Making sure my feet are firm beneath me, lest I fall.”
You can find my fabulous buddy readers at the following links
•Auri being the piece of the moon that Jax/Iax kept. We do hear a bit more of this story in The Fae. Earlier, Elodin takes notice in Kvothe’s naming abilities once he sees what Kvothe has named her, and Kvothe thinks of her as his little moon Fae. I am also equally fond of the theory of her being a cracked Princess Ariel. Kvothe does try to tell the Smith’s Apprentice that he could tell him the true story of Princess Ariel, so we can probably expect to hear more about her in the next book. There’s a very interesting reddit link on that HERE. I’m also very scared that she’s the angel that Kvothe supposedly killed to get his heart’s desire. I think that would break my heart more than it being Denna, though I would SOB regardless (I don’t fall into the Denna hate group, a woman has gotta hustle to live and she IS good to Kvothe, he’s just a shy little lamb around her and doesn’t take his chances).
•Bredon as Master Ash. Dude. You cannot convince me otherwise. Bredon is Master Ash. First off, white hair. Second, why does this dude just come and insert himself into Kvothe’s life and guide him with the nobles? Why is he being so giving? Duh, he wants to play a beautiful game. I’m talking about more than Tak. What is more beautiful of a game than you having your hand in Denna’s live, beating her, while cozying up to Kvothe and making him trust you? Getting little secrets out of him. He puts such an emphasis on playing a beautiful game that I am sold on this theory. Also, the Cthaeh mentions that Denna’s patron BEATS HER WITH A WALKING STICK (ahem, Bredon uses a walking stick with a wolf’s head) and that IT IS A GAME TO HIM, to see how far he can push her. Yep. Also, the letters about Bredon being some pagan because he dances in rituals in the woods, Denna mentions dancing with her patron (which I assume is in private since nobody can know about him), and I think Bredon mentions something about learning to dance. There’s also a theory about Cinder being her patron but I am not convinced there.
•Kvothe’s loss of power is due to his “true” name somehow being changed. Elodin FREAKS when he thinks Kvothe or Fela has been changing their name, so we can assume this is very bad. I can’t see how else he’s lost the ability to do sympathy, to fight like an Adem, or any of the other things he’s learned. This is probably combined with the obvious tragedies he’s experienced before becoming Kote but there’s obviously a larger power at play.
•Kvothe might have some Amyr blood + some Lackless theories. Okay, okay, hear me out. Cthaeh promises Kvothe will eventually get its witty comment about sticking with the Maer because he will lead him to the Amyr’s door. After leaving the Fae he comes across some travelers and the son tells him a song about the Lackless, which mentions the Lackless door that is unopenable (and is similar to the song about the Lackless box in NotW) unless you have or do these 7 things (interesting number, given that the Chandrian are called the 7, but 7 and 3 are the most common numbers used in this world). Anyway, Felurian mentions that the Amyr sealed the first shaper behind stone. It’s curious that the Lackless supposedly have a stone door that they cannot open, though we haven’t heard a mention of it yet. Hence, Amyr blood may distantly run through their veins, if this sealed door is that same door. The Lackless were said to be much more powerful than they are now (which would make sense as they are all very intelligent but want to keep a low profile). This also would mean that Kvothe has Amyr blood running through his veins, if his mother is indeed Netalia Lackless (which, I THINK it’s safe to say, she is). If you aren’t aware of that theory, I think Kvothe’s father’s song about Laurian confirms it: Dark Laurian, Arliden’s wife, Has a face like the blade of a knife Has a voice like a pricklebrown burr But can tally a sum like a moneylender. My sweet Tally cannot cook. But she keeps a tidy ledger-book For all her faults, I do confess It’s worth my life To make my wife Not tally a lot less |(Netalia Lackless)
The Loeclos box that Meluan shows Kvothe may be the key to the door, or one of the 7 things needed to open the door. Either way, Kvothe’s training at the University makes it so he can feel some sort of power in the Yllish knot, and Meluan can barely feel it, whereas the Maer can’t at all. The Lackless/Amyr blood running through this undoubtably has something to do with them being able to sense it, and Kvothe will probably be the one to open the door. Here’s the two Lackless Rhymes. Kvothe already has the ring of wood, which could be the ring unworn, or a ring of air like Elodin and the song about his rings suggests. This box undoubtably holds another part of the puzzle. Sorry that this portion was a bunch of random thoughts but it’s still fun to try to piece stuff together!
•This is more of an observation, but I think we can take “It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man waiting to die” quite literally. Kvothe is speaking of the Chandrian, the Cthaeh, of the teachings at the University, of the teachings of the Adem. He’s not supposed to be talking about any of these things and he’s putting them all in print. He isn’t just waiting to die, he’s inviting death with relish.
Thanks for listening to a few of my theory ramblings, it’s so hard to get my thoughts straight when there’s so much to speculate.
“It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers. The harder the question, the harder we hunt. The harder we hunt, the more we learn.”
Think he’s trolling us, just a wee bit?
Now I’d love to hear your thoughts! What are your favorite Kingkiller Theories? Is Ambrose the king? Is Simmon? Who is the Angel? Is it Auri, Denna, or Fela? Why is Cinder stealing money, isn’t that a petty crime for a mythical being? Are the Amyr good or bad? Is the Chandrian’s evil fueled by a great cause? What’s behind the four plated door? How did Kvothe start the war? Who is Auri? What happens to Denna? Where is Caesura?
“Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”