On J.R.R. Tolkien

I recently watched the Tolkien biopic and it reminded me of my own enthusiasm for words. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and wished it would have covered more of his life, but my own research and reading will have to suffice. However, it did inspire me to begin a new section of this blog where I will write about authors and their significance to me. There are many authors I’ve wanted to write about and share, and I have recommended many of their books, but I have never really talked about them directly. That is all about to change. The first author I shall discuss is one who has played a significant role in my life and someone I do feel I have cheated as far as recognition on this web page. An error soon to be corrected.

John Ronald Reuel (J.R.R.) Tolkien has influenced more than just the millions of people who read his work when it was first published. He changed storytelling forever and was a loud voice for the acceptance of fantastical stories as serious, or popular, literature. Like many others, I have been fascinated with the man since I was a boy. I first read The Hobbit when I was perhaps 9 or 10 years old. I quickly read The Lord of the Rings (LotR) shortly after. I can remember, quite vividly, the exact moment I finished the trilogy. It was summer and I was stuck in a church where my mother worked as a daycare teacher. There weren’t any kids around and I wasn’t entirely sure what obligations brought us there. I could only remember sitting in a short hallway between two classrooms as I read the final chapters of The Return of the King in an old copy that my father passed on to me which he had bought as a kid. On the top right of the cover was the printed cost of $1.25. For a mere $5 he had gotten the trilogy and its prequel. I still have the set sitting carefully on my bookshelf. Fairly worn and slightly discolored from sunlight. The cover of the last novel has a slight tear. All bearing cover images probably first drawn in the 1930’s. I will treasure these books for many reasons. One is the story they contain and the impact it had on me. Another is the fact that my father gave them to me. He has introduced me to several significant stories and I like to think I’ve come to an age and read enough to finally return the favor.

But back to the short hallway between classrooms. The walls were white-painted cinder blocks and there was a chair and a desk. I was leaning back in the chair with one foot on the desk as I read the final words. I remember sitting forward and contemplating the meaning of that ending or, rather, what it meant that there was no more of the story for me to read and what the completion of this story meant to me. It was one of the first times I’d ever had to simply sit and think after reading a book. To let the finality of it sink in and weave itself into the threads of my life experiences.

These books have influenced much of the fantasy that has been written since their publication, but Tolkien himself was influenced by much that was written well before his own time. I think it would be ignorant to say that Tolkien is the father of fantasy or that all fantasy writers must read him if they wish to be taken seriously. In fact, V.E. Schwab gives and excellent Tolkien Lecture where she proudly states that she has never read his work. She makes some excellent points about many doorways into the realms of the fantastic. Tolkien is just one of them. A large one that has ushered generations in, but, as Gimli would say, “it still only counts as one.”

My initial fascination with LotR was partly influenced by the movies directed by Peter Jackson. I remember, again vividly, attending the first movie in a tiny, three-screen theater in Marysville, Kansas. The nearest movie theater to Hanover, Kansas, where my grandparents live. I had not read the books at this time and did not know much of what was going on, but I loved it. I distinctly remember having to leave the theater to use the restroom and while waiting to enter the small restroom, I sneaked glimpses through a cracked door as I shuffled my feet at the pain of a full bladder. The scene was the infamous defense of Merry and Pippin by Boromir, and Aragorn’s showdown with the Uruk-hai captain Lurtz. I quickly learned how to control my bodily functions after that and was easily able to hold it in during the lengthy movies. Including the final installment, which I watched with my father after he came home from work and asked if we wanted to go see it that opening night and I of course said yes. His parents had come in town that evening and I felt bad leaving my grandparents home (they declined the invitation if I remember correctly) while we went off to see The Return of the King at a much bigger theater than where I’d seen the first movie. I made the mistake of drinking most of a gigantic soda during the previews but I rallied through the 3+ hours, willing myself to hold it in, as I watched the brilliance of film-making unfold with extreme detail the epic of Tolkien’s work. I can’t think of how many times I’ve seen those movies. In fact, I feel a re-watch coming again soon. The extended versions of course.

I remember these specific moments because they have become important to me as some of the first experiences I had with the magic Tolkien wrote. The movies had almost as much influence as the text itself having first been released when I was 10 years old. The brilliance, awe-inspiring magic of it left many impressions on a malleable mind. I was hooked. I had walked through a grand archway into a new world of possibilities. I wanted to create stories like these. Tolkien’s work wasn’t the first to make me want to create stories, but it was definitely an example of the type of stories I wanted to write. Of course I wanted to write about the magic and the dragons and the battles, but more than that I wanted to create stories that would impact people. Stories that would stay with them. Inspire them. It is a dream I am still chasing today, but I am much closer than I was at age 11. I have a story published after all. Somewhere out there in the world is a one-page story that someone may happen across and enjoy. I’ve also written many things. Most of which will never see the light of day, but I’ve written and continue to write. I may not have the fascination with languages that Tolkien himself had. I simply have a fascination with words and stories. If you are reading this, I imagine you do to.

Another unexpected thing that comes from a story becoming massively popular is what is known today as a fandom. There are many now and some contain toxic elements but they all originate from a love of a fictional world or the characters that inhabit it. I cannot imagine how many people have become friends because of a common interest in a book. Especially LotR. Stephen Colbert is a super nerd when it comes to Tolkien and his works. I like Stephen Colbert. Even though I probably shall never meet him (I would jump on any opportunity to do so), I know with certainty that I would have the subject of any of Tolkien’s works to fall back on as a topic of conversation should I ever mumble my way past a simple introduction before he walked off to continue his busy life. I know this about Stephen because he turned his entire set of The Colbert Show into a Hobbit hole and wore prosthetic Hobbit feet for the entire week he interviewed Peter Jackson, Ian McKellen, and others from the then soon-to-be-released Hobbit movies.

I received the Ring of Barahir, also known as Aragorn’s ring worn in the movies, as a gift when I was in high school. I’ve worn it every day since. It is a more obscure LotR item than those hanging in my office as I type this; which include a map of Middle-Earth, Gimli’s Axe & helmet, Legolas’s short swords, Aragorn’s sword (Narsil before it was broken and remade, aka Elendil’s sword), and a cardboard cutout of Ian McKellen as Gandalf from a standee I took home from when I worked at a movie theater. I am a big fan. I even visited several of the filming locations for the movies when I studied for a semester in New Zealand. I am also listening to the movie score as I am typing this. Whenever someone comments on my ring, I let them know where it is from, but when someone recognizes it, I have an instant common interest with that person and we can give each other a smile of appreciation for having similar tastes. This is an incredible thing. It often goes unnoticed how easy it is to have something in common with a complete stranger. This is just one of the things stories can do, and LotR was an extremely popular story that had an enormous fandom well before I experienced it or even knew it existed. It had shaped the lives of so many people before reaching me and it will continue to do so.

I mentioned earlier that I had cheated Tolkien regarding recognition on this blog. In my book recommendations, I never really recommended The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Instead I wrote a recommendation for a biography of the Tolkien and referenced the other titles in it because I felt like it was cheating to recommend one of my favorite books, especially a series that has been popular for over 80 years. I can’t tell you why I felt that way but I know it was stupid of me to feel that way. I should never hold back like that. (Neither should you for that matter. If you like something, don’t be afraid to let others know about it. Say “hi” to that person wearing the shirt or who has a tattoo of your favorite show or movie or book.) Let this post be a remedy for my mistake. J.R.R. Tolkien had no idea his work would take the world by storm. He never liked the attention it brought him either. I’ve read much of his work and have an entire shelf filled with volumes containing only his name. I know I can always go back and re-read LotR and enjoy it. I intend to. I’ve only read it two or three times in the last 15 years. But there are many other books I still need to read. Other worlds to discover. Other author’s works to fall in love with and expand my opportunity of having more interests that align with a greater number of people. Perhaps one day I will be able to walk outside and talk to anyone about a book we have both read.

Perhaps one day I will finish a few of my own books and have people talk about my work. Maybe they will find new friends because I created something they enjoyed enough to discuss with others. This is a dream that developed long before I knew what it was. Before I discovered Tolkien. He helped me figure out exactly what it was and helped me give shape to it. As have many other writers and creators I grew up with. I’m still learning about it today with every book I read and every story I write. It just so happened that Tolkien’s work came into my life a very important time and has remained with me since. I will never be able to tell him this like so many others who tried to when he was alive. I’m not sure if he read much of the fan mail that bombarded his living spaces. I will, however, be able to talk about him or his work with others and share in the fellowship he sparked. For this I am extremely grateful.

The Beginning of the End

Rowan stepped onto the spongy earth floor and a small ache flitted through his chest. This was his favorite place. He had a hammock and a small stock of canned beverages a mile or so to the south. There were few predators in this forest that could cause him any harm. He couldn’t say as much for the smaller species that inhabited the branches above though. The ache wasn’t regret or guilt or envy, it was from a sadness that he could not stay and an even greater sadness that the forest may not be here next time. If there was a next time. It wasn’t very often he happened upon the forest at the end of the world. With a sigh, he turned back to the heavy wooden door just as it closed with a thud. The door looked out of place here, set in the middle of a boulder that sat nearly thirty feet wide and half again as tall. Rowan suspected it was a perfect sphere half buried in the soft earth. He would never know and he never felt the need to know. He didn’t have to think about anything while he was here. That’s why he liked it so much. He could just be.

He opened the thick wooden door with little effort and tried to peer inside at his next destination. It was pitch black. It always was until you stepped through, but he liked to prepare himself nonetheless. He took a deep breath and went inside. The damp heat of the forest vanished as he was assaulted by the crushing weight of freezing water. His buoyant body began floating above the door. He had entered the the door at the bottom of the ocean. His least favorite place. He began swimming, propelling himself toward the stone door that remained open as the current coursed through its frame. His arms pushed and his legs kicked but he continued to float upward. His woolen trousers and leather boots offered little assistance in his attempt to sink toward the door. His thin, cotton shirt enveloped him like smoke. Before the panic welling inside him could surface, he remembered, and slowly let the air out of his lungs. The stream of bubbles shot upward until he became suspended. He moved neither upward nor downward. He let more air out and he began, slowly, to sink until his heavy boots touched the ocean floor. He leaned, walked, and floated his way to the door and pushed it shut against the current. Then he opened it and stepped through as quickly as he could.

He fell onto the cobblestone of Harehall Lane. Several people bustled by giving his sprawled-out form a wide birth. He gulped in lungfuls of air as water pooled around him. The iron gate clicked shut behind him as he gathered himself on his feet. His limbs burned from lack of oxygen and he continued breathing heavily as he turned and made his way up the street toward Doctor Nesbitt’s place.

Rowan didn’t bother with entering the back door, as was Nesbitt’s strict request to maintain his secrecy regarding his function as a member of The Foundation. He didn’t bother because his news was urgent and he was certain Nesbitt would scold him for seconds lost, so he burst through the front door, through the foyer, and into the study. Nesbitt was not in the study so he wandered through a hallway until her heard shouting behind him.

“I don’t care how it got here. Clean it up immediately. I don’t want to see a single drop when I return.” He recognized the voice as Mistress Beatrice. Despite his instinctive nature to avoid the bitter old woman, he forced himself to intercept her.

“Mistress Beatrice. Ma’am, I-”

“You!” her eyes blazed as she watched his saturated clothes continue to drip onto the hardwood. “I should have known it was you. No matter. Perhaps this will finally convince the doctor to be rid of you for good. Come.”

He did not argue. He knew full-well what any retort would earn him, and silence would get him to the doctor faster, so he followed obediently as she navigated the halls. They ended up in the observation room where the doctor would meet patients outside of the hospital and those who could not afford house calls. Mistress Beatrice rapped on the door and entered.

“Doctor Nesbitt, sir, I found this rascal running through the foyer sopping wet. I am unsure where all he has trespassed, but I have set Wilkins to cleaning up before the floor is damaged.”

Dr. Nesbitt held a hand up to stop her. She hesitated, obviously prepared with a rant to destroy any reputation Rowan had, but remained silent at the doctor’s order. Nesbitt glanced at Rowan briefly but managed to take all of him in nonetheless. He returned to the little girl sitting in a chair against the wall and finished wrapping her arm in a cotton sling.

“Make sure you are gentle with the arm for at least two weeks. That means no fetching water. If your mum has issues with this, have her come speak to me. Come back if it still hurts next month.” He ushered the girl out of the chair and stood. “Beatrice,” he stared her straight in the eyes, “please see little Alana to the door.”

“But doctor-”

“Beatrice.” His inflection froze her. Her temper from moments ago seemingly vanished. “I will have words with the boy.” The answer offered little satisfaction but she accepted it as if they were a promise of punishment. She guided the girl from the room and disappeared. Nesbitt shut the door behind her.

“This better be urgent. We agreed only the back door, and only after the streetlamps were lit. If this is simply a lapse…”

“The Anvil has broken,” Rowan nearly shouted.

Nesbitt’s eyes bulged and he stumbled. Rowan helped him to a chair. “Who has confirmed it?” he asked.

“Aedmon himself. I heard it from Maltair and was sent to notify everyone.”

“Are any other messengers active with this knowledge?”

“None that I know, but I have not seen any since given the order.”

“I will tell any who arrive here. Now go. Tell as many as you can. I fear there is little this world can do in its current state, but I will do what I can to prepare and assist. Spread word of my intentions. They will know what little I can offer.” Nesbitt  got up and ushered him to the door. “Run. Do not stop until they have all been told. We will not last without everyone present. We may not last even if everyone is.” The last sentence he said as if to himself. Rowan did not wait long enough to hear what followed. He ran through the halls, his clothes still dripping a trail behind him, and out the front door. He sped across the cobblestones to the iron gate and opened it. His breathing was heavy but he took a breath and stepped through.

The heat hit his face. The world was on fire and the arid earth absorbed the few drops that still fell before the air ate away the remaining moisture. He hated this place, but it was the location of another member, perhaps the strongest, so he continued through the blazing air toward the mountain across the barren land in front of him. He ran despite the heat. He ran as if the world were ending. For all he knew, it may have already started.

Day of Empire

Day of Empire by Amy Chua was a book I picked up simply to learn more about how societies and empires were formed, how they maintained their power, and what led to their destruction. This was all research for a potential story where an empire would be prominent and I felt the need to learn more so as to have realistic elements in the fictional society I want to create. I learned a lot from this book and it made me think about many things as well. The book covers a large history, starting from the Persian empire and ending with the current United States (as of 2007 at least, when the book was published). Many of the chapters do not go in-depth into each of the empires discussed or the book would be a million pages, but it does provide a lot of information about how the empires were formed and how they came to end in fairly general terms.

However, what I thought most interesting was Chua’s thesis that these empires grew and thrived on tolerance. Relative tolerance in some fashion. A trend I noticed was that religious tolerance is what caused some of these empires to become as large as they did. When other parts of the world were persecuting people due to religion, those people would flee to an area where they could practice their beliefs without fear. Many of the empires were also formed from violence and military strength. Some from economic and trade power. Chua claims that tolerance is what helped create each of the world powers, and intolerance led to their decline. I am non-religious so I do not know much about the histories of religions, but I thought it insane how much of history has been dictated by religious disparities. So much hate and war. So much persecution and destruction. It has been an issue through seemingly all of human history and unfortunately it continues even today. I could go further on this topic with my own opinions, but let’s get back to the book.

I knew a little about Rome and almost nothing about the Mongol empire. I never knew how the Ottoman empire was founded or even how the English empire grew out of the Dutch empire. Needless to say, this book has a ton of great information and it made me want to delve deeper into some of the empires it discusses. History can be fascinating and it has been a long time since I’ve read a history book (especially one that was not assigned reading). It was refreshing since I read many fictional books of mainly the science fiction or fantasy variety. I like to learn and history is the best area to learn from. I think I’ll start incorporating more history books in my reading line-up from now on.

After covering several empires and several thousand years of humanity, Chua spends the final few chapters in the 1900’s and ends with present day (as of 2007) America where she predicts what other nations may come to rival the hyper-power that is the United States. This book in already 12 years old and many of the things she states are somewhat dated, but one thing I can’t help but think about is her claim that powerful nations begin to fail when they become intolerant. Today’s political climate has become quite intolerant. I know there have always been issues in this area, and that many different peoples have been persecuted throughout the history of the United States. From the Irish to the Japanese to African Americans to Muslims just to name a few. I fear this trend will only continue.

As individuals it is easy to be nice to others and get along without violence or even arguments. It is harder to manage or govern large groups of people in towns or cities or countries. But aren’t populations made from individuals? My personal history has been quite different than anyone else’s I’m sure. I was taught what hatred is but I was not taught to hate. I honestly believe people can live in peace even if they disagree on many issues or big topics. I hope that one day we, humanity, can find a way to stop killing each other and simply live and grow together. To build a world where the lowest standard of living means access to clean water and no empty stomachs. But again I digress from the book.

There is much to learn from history and I learned many things from this book. About governments and governing practices that work and don’t work. About many different areas of the world and different times. Looking at the history of the world from a distance, or over a great amount of time, makes it seem a little more simple, but it also gives a world-view of humanity where you can see trends that persist even today. If you’re up to learning some history, I’m sure this book will have something you did not know previously.

Happy Reading.

The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood popped on my radar a few years ago when it was being adapted for television. I didn’t know much about it at the time and only learned a few tidbits before I decided to read the book. All I really knew was that the main character was a woman who was considered special because she could bear children in a world where that was supposedly rare, and that it took place in a dystopian future. I do like dystopian novels, but what really made we decide to read this book was Margaret Atwood herself. She didn’t personally recommend it to me (though I wish I could meet her). I took her Masterclass on writing a few months ago. She did use this book as a case study for a few instances, but I came to find her as a person simply charming. I’d never read anything by her and didn’t now much about her before this class, so I thought I’d read The Handmaid’s Tale to see if I would like her writing. I almost chose Oryx and Crake but it was book one of a trilogy so I decided to save that series for later. It has joined my extensive to-read list.

I do not include spoilers about the story itself, but I do describe aspects of the dystopian society, which could be considered spoilers. So…*Spoiler Warning*

The Handmaid’s Tale was first published in 1985 and tells of a world where the United States is changed into the nation of Gilead via a military coup with a deeply religious foundation. The issue of declining birth rates had already been taking place and various other issues are alluded to such as mass nuclear contamination in many areas and the reduction of sea life to near non-existent levels. So basically the world was declining drastically before this takeover. Many peoples were persecuted and exiled. Many tried escaping when things got really bad, but this book focuses on a Handmaid.

Women are all segregated into classes and men have dominant roles in the new society. A Handmaid is a woman who has the potential to give birth and they are, as Atwood describes, essentially just a walking womb. They have a special role in this society but are also held to the highest standard. They are surrogate mothers in a society that opposes in-vitro fertilization.

Needless to say, this book can be disturbing. The little information we get about the gradual change of the society is what, I think, was one of the most frightening aspects. The Constitution gets suspended early on and life goes on as usual, but small changes start to occur. Then larger ones. Some people try to resist but are suppressed quickly and often lethally. What I think is so disturbing is that this drastic change of society by a large, violent group is very realistic. I like to think something like this could not happen, but Atwood dispels that doubt with her descriptions. The society itself and the way women are used is also quite disturbing. Women are reduced to nothing but their biological abilities. They are used as cooks and to run households if they cannot bear children, but outside of that they have no liberties. They are practically sentenced to death if they are deemed non-compliant. Men also have to watch their backs, but they can still live somewhat normal lives with a certain level of freedom.

One thing that did take some getting used to was the first-person character who also acts as narrator. There are very few quotation marks used in this book. I think many people have a hard time with this since there are instances where they are used but most of the time they are not used though a conversation is taking place. As I said, it took a little bit to get used to it. Once I was, it didn’t bother me much. I think the lack of the quotation marks makes the descriptions and scenes actually stronger or more disturbing. It’s a style choice. Some like it, some don’t. I personally did not think it was a big deal.

Atwood shows her mastery of the craft in the book with her pacing. She builds her dystopian world and makes it intriguing despite its horrors, but she also provides information about the characters and changes to the society in small bursts throughout the story. Therefore, you are always learning more and getting questions answered as you read.

Great dystopian stories often read as timeless (and also allude to a war going on somewhere in the background of the story). This one can be ‘dated’ to the 1900’s or after fairly easily, but it reads timelessly as if the story could take place not far into our future. Dystopian stories are, I think, supposed to show us of a possible future that we should absolutely try to avoid. They are often extreme futures. But more importantly they comment on the world we live in (or the issues of the time they were written). This book is definitely a commentary on gender in society. It comments on many other things as well, such as sex, but the core is gender disparities. I guess you could almost compare this book to Brave New World. At least, to say that the societies are opposites. You could say the society in this book took great steps to prevent what would possibly become the society we see in Brave New World. Instead of rampant drug use and orgies and ‘everyone must be happy,’ we get an authoritarian Big Brother where sex is only an act that should be used to create life and love or any other abstract feelings should be suppressed. So…yes, it’s more like 1984. 

I recommend this book because, as most dystopian books do, it makes you think about society in various ways. This book is a bit more disturbing than others, but for a purpose, and I think it is disturbing because it is hitting close to home on many issues we see today. Issues that were probably more prominent in the 1980’s. It is meant to make you think. Not about some fictional future but of our current issues and our past. To make us look closely and see what we may have been previously ignorant of. Hopefully, it will expand your mind and see the world you live in a little more clearly. Hopefully, it will encourage you to help make the world a little better off than it currently is.

Happy Reading.

The Dragon Reborn

The Dragon Reborn is book three in the Wheel of Time series. There are many things I liked in this book and several things I didn’t. I’m sure many things I discuss below will come to fruition or find resolution at a later point in the series, but today I am just giving my reaction/opinion of the story so far. Be forewarned, this post will contain spoilers. If you are currently reading the series for the first time, tread lightly. If you have already read the series, feel free to have a few laughs at the comments I’m sure will be amusing as you are privy to the information I have yet to read.

Before we begin, I am loving this series. There are several things I may critique/comment on here but don’t think any of them are jabs at the story or Robert Jordan, because I am having a great time.

Now, let’s begin with the beginning, or shall we say the prologue. This book opens up with the Children of the Light. I think these guys are dumb. Most readers probably agree with me. They have been riding around causing trouble in the name of the Light like some fanatical cult and it just irks me. The opening leads us to believe their leader, Pedron Niall, is planning some interesting maneuvers that will allow this group to gain a ton of power. Then we never really see these guys again the rest of the book except when the girls humiliate Dain Bornhald by abusing their power and pissing off Verin. Which, to be honest, I couldn’t care less about Dain having lost his dad in the previous book. I hate these guys. Especially Byar, but I think Byar and Perrin will have to face off later on and Perrin will totally wreck this guy, and I look forward to that confrontation. As for the rest of the Children, they are pretty much Darkfriends as far as I’m concerned.

Speaking of Perrin, let’s go ahead and move on to him. Perrin is one of my favorite characters so far. He is my kind of guy. Physically powerful but a thinker who tries to read a situation before acting and he doesn’t like to hurt others (except the Whitecloaks he destroys while saving the Aiel from the cage). He tries to do what is right. But I wish he would stop trying to hide from what he is and accept his abilities to communicate with wolves. I’m not sure why he fights it so hard. He knows Elyas can control it without turning feral, but he did see the villager who did lose himself to this ability so I understand his concern. He doesn’t even try to learn any amount of control except how to shut it off. I know he will come to terms eventually, but I’m impatient. Maybe Faile will help this arc progress.

This book introduces Zadine/Faile who becomes (rather quickly) important to Perrin. They become a little too close a little too easily for my opinion. I don’t care if Min (who also disappears completely after the early chapters) predicted the caged Aiel, the falcon, the hawk, a Tuatha’an with a sword, and an encounter with Lanfear at some point. In this book we only get the caged Aiel and the falcon in the form of Faile. We do not get the Tuatha’an with a sword, the hawk (which I assume may be another woman, interesting), and the encounter with Lanfear unless we count the dream encounter. I do like how Hopper is his dream guide though. Anyway, as for Faile and Perrin, I feel like we didn’t get much of an introduction to her as a character and I’m a bit underwhelmed with her at the moment. She is a hunter for the horn but she becomes privy to the fact that the horn has been found and that Mat has blown the horn, thus securing her tie to the group and effectively ridding her of her initial goals. I guess I’ll just have to wait until we get to know her more. I have started book four and it seems like she and Perrin are already married though. I feel like I missed something.

Moving on. This book is different from the first two in that it doesn’t follow Rand at all. It is all about Perrin, Matt, and Egwene with Nynaeve and Elayne. Out of the nearly 800 pages I think Rand was in like 15 of them. This is fine and it’s great to get more of these other characters, but I hoped to get a little more from what I consider our main character especially after what happened at the end of book two.

I did like how Mat gets his own storyline. I mean, he practically becomes a sideline object after he takes the dagger in book one. Even when he blows the Horn of Valere he doesn’t really contribute much. The heroes he calls didn’t even talk to him (did they?). After he is healed, we get a reintroduction to him as a character which I thought was fun and engaging even though his luck seems to be way too convenient and he is a little bit of a dick. I’m sure his luck will play out interestingly moving forward. Egwene does see him playing dice with Ba’alzamon in her dreamworld intuition thing.

I’ll save Shai’tan for later and move on with Egwene. She and Elayne become Accepted pretty quickly despite their transgressions. I do think the ritual to become Accepted is great. We get to see so many things that can reveal potential plots/glimpses into the alternate realities. That is if they are actually real. We also get an intimate insight into each character we see go through it as they must face their fears. It just seems they are raised to Accepted without them having been trained properly. Is the Aes Sedai simply merit based? I thought it was a highly disciplined organization. There is so much that goes on within the Aes Sedai network too. Liandran (this bitch) and the Black Ajah make all relations tense in the tower and we can’t trust anyone. I never liked Elaida, but we are led to believe she might be Black Ajah, but then toward the end it seems like she isn’t and really just cares about Elayne. I don’t know about this story arc, but I’m ready to find out more. I hope Liandran gets the collar if you know what I mean.

Oh, and how the hell does Lanfear just walk around the White Tower with nobody noticing? Seriously. She practically yells to everyone she runs into that she hates Aes Sedai and for sure isn’t one. That doesn’t throw any red flags? Can she just hide her use of the One Power from every single Aes Sedai it the tower and walk around freely? No one questions her being there if she isn’t Aes Sedai? She even turns into Else at some point? I have no idea what to think about her and she is barely in this book after barely being in the last one in which she first appears. I think all we really learn about her in this one is that she can control the dreamworld somehow and she thinks she is better than Ba’alzamon.

Lets talk about the Forsaken real quick since Lanfear is supposedly one of the strongest. Have they all escaped? Are they all already in positions of power across the land? When and how did this happen? We learn of several in this book. One controls Illian. One controlled Tear (did he die?). One, presumably, has turned our strong queen Morgase into a weak little infant. How does she go from threatening the White Tower to the mind slave of some random dude. Also, I’m looking forward to the Morgase and Thom reunion. If it doesn’t happen I’ll be disappointed. I find it strange they are now everywhere and pretty much controlling each city in their own version of the Great Game. I know the Forsaken are supposedly super powerful, but the speed of their ascent in the various regions of the world is striking. Did I miss any Forsaken that showed up in this book? I don’t remember.

Anyway, what’s next? Lets move on to the Dark Lord since we don’t see Padan Fain in this book. I’m sure he will pop up later. We get another showdown between Rand and Ba’alzamon again at the climax of this book. I swear, if I find out that Rand needs to find five more Horcruxes before he can kill the Dark Lord for real, I’ll be pissed. I know this series came out first, but I couldn’t help but notice that he has fought the big baddie twice…..and a half if we count the first book. Each time he believes he actually killed him. I hope this trend ends here.

Rand has Callandor and we for sure know the Aiel are the People of the Dragon and will be showing up a lot more now. I’m okay with it since I like them as characters. They remind me a little of the Fremen from Dune though I know they are much different. I did feel like the confrontation at the end was a little anticlimactic. The Forsaken in the Stone of Tear gets roasted by Moraine fairly easily just prior to Ba’alzamon randomly showing up in the shadows. Then Ba’alzamon runs like a wuss which seems unlike the character he is supposed to be. I think part of the reason it seems anticlimactic is that we see so little of Rand throughout the book and then we go right back to him like the long absence wasn’t even a thing. I also thought it was funny that the name of the book is technically Rand’s title and he isn’t even a major character in this one. 

Okay. I think that is all I have to say about this book. I’ll continue to post about my read-through of this series as I complete each book. It may be awhile before I post about the next few since the next three books are the longest in the series. I have been getting a lot of reading in though so maybe it will only be a few weeks before I post about book four.

I knew this series had a huge fan base and I’m glad to have met several after my post about book two. I hope to meet many more as I read along, but I am also cautious about not having anything spoiled for me. However, if you are a fan, welcome and I’m glad to meet you. I welcome all discussions but try to keep it contained within the first three books for my own sake. At least until I discuss book four. Other than that, comment away. There is nothing more fun than discussing a book with fellow fans.