On Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman. What can I say about Neil? Well, a lot, so hold onto your butts because I’ll likely be zigzagging across topics as I talk about how Neil has influenced my life. First, let’s give a brief description of the man himself, or neilhimself as his Twitter handle is aptly named. Neil Gaiman was a largely successful writer by the time I discovered who he was. He began as a journalist. Then he worked in comics and then in fiction and then television and film and pretty much any creative field you could imagine that involves putting words on paper at any stage. This is a slight exaggeration of course and his career did not simply go in that order or that easily. To put it simply, Neil has never been limited by one genre, subject, or medium. His stories vary greatly from kids books to mythology to religious satire to nonfiction. He has been immensely successful and rightfully so. He can be considered a celebrity author. Someone whose name is larger than their works. Someone whose careers have exploded and grown to a size where a large portion of the human population would recognize them or at least one of their works.

I discovered Neil’s work long before I discovered who he was. I was a fan before I knew where to direct my appreciation. I honestly can’t remember when or where I first discovered who Neil was as a person, but I think the first work of his that I ever came across was the movie adaptation of his book Stardust. I did not see the movie in theaters. I think my family had rented it (which is somewhat an already dated subject since everything is streamed nowadays, but to my credit it was a dvd we rented and not a vhs at least). Anyway, I absolutely enjoyed the film for various reasons. It has a great cast, possibly my favorite role by Robert De Niro, and it is infinitely creative and quirky and just downright fun. I never knew the movie was based on a book.

The first book I read by Neil was, if I remember correctly, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It came in out in 2013 but I think I picked it up around 2015. I picked this book up because I was looking for a shorter book to read it seemed interesting. It was at this time that I first discovered Neil as the person behind the books, and also when I realized that he wrote Stardust. I enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane and was definitely ready to read more of Neil’s work but I did not dive in, as I have done with other authors I like. There was something different about this author. I strange draw that pulled me in but didn’t make me want to dive down the rabbit hole.

I once talked about Neil on this blog about two years ago when I was first getting started and trying to figure out exactly what this blog would become. I’m really happy with how it has turned out with the book recommendations and my own stories that I share and now this section where I discuss those who influence me. Even back then, after I had read his recently published Norse Mythology book, I couldn’t help but maintain that feeling of reserved admiration. I began becoming more interested in the man instead of his works. In my defense, if such a thing is needed, Neil is an extremely interesting person and an absolute joy to listen to. And this is where I veer off on a few tangential stories. Please indulge me.

The first is the most recent. I only just began my journey into audiobooks. I don’t know why I hesitated but I just enjoy having a physical book in my hands and reading the words. The first audiobook I ever tried, which convinced me I could enjoy this medium, was Neil’s The View from the Cheap Seats. Again, it greatly helped that it was read by Neil and he has a lovely British accent that you can just listen to all day. The View from the Cheap Seats is a collection of nonfiction that covers many different topics. Ironically enough, I had bought a physical copy of this book when it was first published in 2016. I remember the day specifically. Early in the week it was to be released, I had seen on Twitter that Neil posted a list of independent bookstores in America that would have signed copies of this book. I checked the list and found that only one store in my state would have such copies. To my very exciting surprise, that particular bookstore was just down the road from the university where I worked. So, when the day came for the book to go on sale, I took an early lunch and went down to hopefully pick up a copy. I remember finding out they were only to receive ten signed copies and I was lucky enough to get one. Ironically again, I did not read the book in its entirety until I listened to the audio version. Life can be funny sometimes.

I’ve heard the story of how Neil met Diana Wynne Jones a few times. I think once was in the audio book and another may have been in an interview I watched online. It was such a chance meeting and one that grew into a great friendship and I often imagine myself becoming friends with Neil, and other authors, in a similar way. He is at a hotel bar sitting alone probably working on something and I find the courage to introduce myself and tell him I enjoy his books and we become great writing friends. A fledgling writer can dream of such influential encounters. Though this may never happen (nothing is impossible), I did get a chance to go see him in person. I never got to speak to him directly or even get within 100 feet, but I was able to sit in the same room as the man and listen to him talk about a great many things and read a few things from his published works.

There is a story about this encounter too because it was not easy getting into that room to see him. The event was first publicly announced perhaps six months to a year before it was to happen. I discovered it on Twitter (a really handy platform). It was to take place at Kansas University. I kept checking every few months to see if tickets were available and wasn’t entirely sure it was going to take place because it wasn’t officially posted on the site. Eventually it was and they announced the event was going to be free. Even better, right? It was free and anyone could pick up free tickets, limit of two per person, if they picked them up from the Lied Center of Kansas. The problem was, though this was the closest he was to come to my home town, at least to my knowledge, it was still nearly 4 hours away. Tickets were to be released on a weekday. I thought of taking off work to drive up there and grabbing a few tickets then driving all the way back to make it to work for the next day. Eight hours of driving for a few tickets. I almost did it. But first I talked to every one of my friends who lived in Kansas City, which was about 45 minutes to an hour away from the center. None of them could get the tickets due to work obligations and that they couldn’t make it up there in time even after they got off work because the center would be closed or the tickets would be gone. I think the tickets did “sell out” that morning. Well, to my luck again, I also have family who live in that area and my aunt knew some people who lived near the center. Her friends were able to snag a few tickets for myself and even a few extra so I could bring some friends. So I had the tickets. But of course the event itself was an evening event. On a weekday.

An Evening with Neil Gaiman to call it exactly as it was publicized. I took a half day off work, hopped on the highway with my mom accompanying me and letting me get some sleep for the long day ahead, picked up my father-in-law halfway there, stopped at my aunts to pick up the tickets and drop my mom off to hang out with her brothers, then drove the rest of the way to the center where I would meet my other friends before going in (they ended up arriving a bit late but I got them their tickets and all was well). Anyway, the event starts at 7pm, or 7:30pm, I can’t remember exactly, and we sit and listen and have fun until around 9pm or 9:30pm. Again I can’t remember because it was some time ago. Afterwards, I had intended on hitting the road to get back home so I could work the next day. I found my friends after the event and we hung out and caught up since we hadn’t seen each other in awhile. While we chatted, the line to buy books dwindled and we hopped in line to make a few purchases. I hadn’t planned on buying anything since I had brought a large bag of his books I already owned in the small chance he would have done any signing. But there were pre-signed copies for sale. I really hoped to snag his new book Art Matters, illustrated by Chris Riddell, which was set to release the very next day. This was November 2018. A signed copy would have been great, but I had pre-ordered the book so I was already getting a copy. When we arrived at the register, only a few copies remained and I picked up signed copies of a few books I already owned. These were Norse Mythology (I did like the paperback version anyway, my first copy was hardback) and American Gods in paperback which I also had originally in hardback. This copy had the television cover on it though. My friends and I paid for our books and my ever patient father-in-law was hanging about having discussions with strangers and waiting on me. I said goodbye to my friends and set out on the ride home. First to pick up my mom, then to drop off my father-in-law, then finish the drive that ended with me getting into bed close to 4am and having to be at work the next day at 8am. Needless to say, I was very tired that next day, but it was worth the experience to see someone you admire.

I bought my father-in-law a copy of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I had not read the book yet at the time but knew the premise. He had bought me The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, which I had recently read and therefore thought he would enjoy Good Omens. I was right. I went on to read the book as well not long afterwards. The weekend the television adaptation of that book came out, he was in town visiting and we binge-watched all six episodes and loved it. I might even like the adaptation better than the original book, but they are each great and compliment each other in ways that make the experience of each version collectively greater.

When it was announced that Neil was doing a Masterclass, a program I had never heard of previously, I of course found out about it (probably from Twitter) and my amazing wife bought me an all-access pass for my birthday. I of course took his course first and liked it and I have started taking other writing courses on the platform and am learning great things and discovering other authors and areas to learn more. I’ve learned about and discovered many different authors and books from Neil. Many simply from him talking about them. Many books I have gone on to read while several remain in my to-read pile.

Neil Gaiman has been a large influence in my creative life. Especially for only being a part of it for a handful of years. I imagine he will remain an influence throughout my life. I have yet to get through his collective works. I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface. Regardless, I am extremely grateful to him. He is a phenomenally nice, genuine person. Though I have never known him personally (I still hold onto the hopes of meeting him one day), I know enough about him from stories by other people, and through interviews and his Masterclass and stories of his interactions with fans, to know that I would probably admire him even more for having met him. It is strange to be influenced more by the man than by his works, especially in this field and when not knowing him personally, but nonetheless this is the case with this particular author. I have deep respect for him and always wish him well. I hope you can discover him and come to enjoy him in your own way if you have not done so already.

The Fires of Heaven

So…Book Five. The Fires of Heaven. Before I jump in I just wanted to give the spoiler warning for those yet to read the series or are earlier on than this book. Below will have spoilers for this book. Read at your own risk. Also a reiteration, for those who have read the series, feel free to comment on what I have to say, but please do not spoil anything, yet, that takes place after this book as I will be starting it shortly. I know it’s a lot to ask since the series has been out for nearly 30 years, but I’m sure if you love the series you’ll not want to spoil it for anyone on their first read-through.

Let’s begin.

As usual, many things to talk about so I’m going to go in order of length of appearances, and I’m starting with a few characters that don’t actually show up in this book. Perrin and Loial are not to been seen and I miss them. They are still some of my favorites. I’m sure I’ll see them soon since they have been absent for this one.

I thought Morgase was going to join Perrin after she (finally) gets out of Gaebril/Rahvin’s grip. It is mentioned that there is a gathering of forces in the Two Rivers which made me think this. I’m not entirely sure where she is headed but it sounded like she is going toward Amadicia. Maybe she will meet up with Galad. We will see. I’m just glad she is no longer a puppet and somewhat back to her queenly self. I expect to see more of her.

Next, Padan Fain. I’ve discussed him since book one when he comes in toward the end as a Darkfriend. Then I talked about how I thought he was with the Seanchan after book two but he was really with the Whitecloaks, as we see in book three where he turns a Myrddraal away from the Dark One to serve him. Crazy. Now we find him in the Tower in Tar Valon after the coup. We get a little more about him but really only one scene (maybe two) but we do a big one when he sneaks into the vault to retrieve the dagger that Mat had taken from Aridhol/Shadar Logoth. We discover that Padan Fain is actually Mordeth. To some extent at least. He gets the dagger, but leaves the Horn of Valere because he is discovered. He kills an Accepted while Alviarin watches because she is actually a Darkfriend/Black Ajah who is slowly taking over the Tower while Elaida is Amyrlin Seat. I’m inclined to believe Elaida is not a Darkfriend at this point but I’m still not absolutely sure because of what she did to Siuan. The Tower does seem to be splitting further though now that there are Aes Sedai not returning and those in Salidar setting up an opposition. More on this later though. As for Padan Fain, I have no idea where this guy is going or what his final form will be, but I have a few predictions. He will have to be taken out at some point before the final showdown (or perhaps during). For some reason, I think Mat might be the one to do it since he has a history with the dagger and is becoming the best tactician ever. History is important and Mat basically has all the knowledge of a famous general who won many battles and lost several from overwhelming forces. Rand might have to be the one to face Padan/Mordeth though if the One Power is needed to kill him. Perhaps balefire? Unless Logain or Mazrim Taim will do it. Logain is supposed to have glory before this is all over according to Min, and Mazrim is possibly getting recruited now that Rand revealed he wants men who can channel to join him in preparation for Tarmon Gai’don. A lot of cool things are coming I’m sure, but I don’t want to stray to far from what I want to discuss from this book.

Siuan, Leanne, and Min are next. Logain is also in this group but he hasn’t had much mention yet. They escape Tar Valon, go on the run, accidentally burn down a barn which puts them at the mercy of Gareth Brynne (who has been exiled from Caemlyn), swear an oath to Gareth but run off causing him to track them down now that he has nothing better to do, then they finally find the gathering of Aes Sedai in Salidar who are opposing the usurpers of the Tower. Siuan and Leanne are stilled but continue to manipulate things. Min is just as she always was really. Able to see things about people but going along with whoever can boss her around or may get her back with Rand. She does confess to Elayne later in this book that she also loves Rand and is one of three women she viewed with Rand. She doesn’t know who Aviendha is so she can’t tell Elayne who the third person is that they have to share him with. Talk about a complicated love tetrahedron. Gareth tracks this group to Salidar and is recruited by the Aes Sedai there to become general of their forces, which I assume will be used to take back the Tower or just aid Rand. I’m not sure what is happening there since Sheriam and five others are basically the interim Amyrlin Seat for this “rogue” group.

We will circle back to Siuan since Nynaeve, Elayne, and company ultimately end up in Salidar at the end of this book. So Nynaeve and Elayne are still with Thom and Juilin at the start. Elayne is flirting with Thom in the beginning and it is a bit weird with the whole age gap and the fact Thom had hooked up with Elayne’s mom aka Morgase the queen. Luckily that doesn’t last too long but it was strange. The group ends up joining a menagerie/circus after running into Galad who has in fact joined the Whitecloaks. They join Luca’s troupe and head to Samara where, surprise, they end up running into Galad. Though they do so after Nynaeve gets an audience with the Prophet aka Masema from Shienar who has become a zealot for Rand and is beyond fanatical. Between the Prophet and the Whitecloaks, two groups who believe only their way of living/service is correct and that all others should either join them or die/be condemned (only a Sith deals in absolutes), a war breaks out Samara after Nynaeve gets both Galad and Masema to find them a ship. Galad can’t go with them but Nynaeve, Elayne, Thom, and Juilin add to their company Uno and the other Shienarans who helped Rand track down the Horn of Valere to Falme.

During their time with the troupe, Nynaeve and Elayne work with Birgitte in Tel’aran’rhiod to track down Moghedien. This particular Forsaken has taken the original Black Ajah as her underlings and, as of this book, has put a permanent shield on Liandrin so she can’t access the One Power. I hope Liandrin doesn’t get a turnaround character arc where she becomes good because she had done too much evil to make the much progress legitimate. With Birgitte’s help, Nynaeve finds Moghedien in the dreamworld but Moghedien actually takes advantage and attacks them both. Nynaeve is proven wrong in her thinking that she can take on Moghedien. Moghedien toys with her but is shot by Birgitte, which lets Nynaeve escape the encounter. However, Moghedien’s attack on Birgitte somehow “knocks” her out of the dreamworld and into the real world(?). Healing doesn’t help her and the only way they are able to keep her alive is because Elayne bonds Birgitte as her Warder. I’m not sure how the whole dreamworld-to-real-world transition works but we get a possible explanation toward the end of the book which I’ll get to shortly. I do like Birgitte though she has some faults. I think she will be a fun character moving forward. Especially since she still has memories of her past lives.

So Nynaeve, Elayne, and company make it to Salidar where they hand over all their items from Tanchico and after, then return to their roles as Accepted. Nynaeve is to start her research into stilling and how to possibly reverse it. I think this is going to come into play big time later on in the series. Nynaeve and Elayne are tasked with training the Aes Sedai in Salidar about Tel’aran’rhiod though since only the Aiel Wise Ones and the Forsaken really know much about it. This brings us back around to Siuan. She convinces Nynaeve to train her about the dreamworld as well since the ring that Verin gave Egwene doesn’t require the One Power to get someone into the dreamworld. While training Siuan, Moghedien finds them and round two ends up a bit different between the Forsaken, Nynaeve, and Birgitte. Nynaeve, who lost her confidence after losing to Moghedien, gets a little back after she gets an a’dem on the Forsaken and uses her within the dreamworld to assist Rand in his showdown at the end of the book.

Before we get there though, let’s backtrack to Rand. This is a big book and he starts in Rhuidean. Couladin has claimed himself Car’a’carn and is making his way across the Dragonwall and Rand gives chase but only catches up to this false dragon in Cairhein (I guess we can call Couladin just another false dragon since it kind of fits despite not being able to channel). Mat tries to get away from Rand before the battle but gets swept up in it and becomes basically a general and a hero after killing Couladin and keeping most of a large force of Cairheinen and Tearan soldiers alive through the battle. Rand, Egwene, and Aviendha use the One Power in this battle and they are all attacked, at a great distance I believe, by Sammael at one point. Rand is slowly learning how to use the One Power successfully and it is awesome. Asmodean is useful it seems though still not trustworthy.

Rand and Aviendha hook up. This was expected in some way with Min’s viewing and all, but the way it happened was crazy. Aviendha opens a portal? To a mountain in Seanchan? What? Rand saves her from the snowstorm and they get hot and heavy in a little igloo as they wait out the blizzard. From what I can tell, this is where Rand loses his virginity. He does feel obligated to get married afterward, which was a bit awkward. Aviendha isn’t shy after their winter retreat but doesn’t even cuddle from then on. She is still all about Elayne “owning” Rand. Her and Elayne will probably have a strange reunion after that. Mat is still with his Aiel lady friend, Melindhra, who is not the Mistress of the Nine Moons, which is who Mat is prophesied to marry. Did Min tell him this? I can’t remember. I’m pretty sure that is the title is of the Seanchan Empress though. That will be an interesting story arc to get from here to there. Good for Mat since he HAD TO KILL MELINDHRA. How crazy was that? She was a darkfriend? I did not see it coming. I thought her attacking him was just her being forceful at first but it was actually her attacking him. Crazy. I can’t help but question how and how many other Aiel could be darkfriends.

Rand is combining his forces from Cairhein and Tear, settling things to get them to cooperate without pulling power moves, but he gets a little distraction in the form of news that Morgase was killed. He goes rage-mode and decides to avenge her by killing Rahvin.

But first…the docks.

Lanfear shows up to get info from Kadere. She literally skins him after he tells her Rand hooked up with Aviendha. Talk about a jealous psycho. She goes nuts and Rand tries to minimize damage but ultimately cannot bring himself to kill a woman. He is just not about the equality thing I guess. I mean, he almost loses the Far Dareis Mai, the female Aiel warriors, because he has been trying to protect them and not letting them fight thus damaging their honor. Lanfear is going crazy and he can’t kill her so we get another shocker in this installment. Moraine tackles Lanfear into the doorway ter’angreal that Moraine had Kadere transport supposedly to go to Tar Valon with the other items from Rhuidean. But no, Moraine had some information from her own trip to Rhuidean that showed her facing Lanfear. They go into the doorway and are both immediately presumed dead, which I thought was strange since we have some idea about this not being immediate death (I mean it’s not like when Sirius Black from Harry Potter goes through that doorway). Mat went through the same doorway and was almost killed in his Norse mythology Odin reference, but is death the certain outcome from that doorway? The snake people exact their price, but is it always death? I don’t think so and I think Moraine will come back at some point. Possibly even Lanfear will come back too since she seems to be a bigger character. But for all other purposes, they are presumed dead. Lan is obligated to go find another Aes Sedai because of Moraine’s planning so he immediately leaves and convinces Rand to spurn Elayne which he decides to do with Nynaeve. Like this would ever work for either of these women. Moraine’s subservience to Rand makes a lot of sense though after we learn she was waiting for her confrontation with Lanfear.

Lastly, we get Rand going after Rahvin. He takes a lot of Aiel with him to Caemlyn to fight and is immediately attacked because of Rahvin’s wards. Rand is not expected though but the wards kill Aviendha, Mat, and Asmodean as soon as they arrive. I wasn’t sure that I read this correctly at first and I thought they were simply hurt pretty bad, but then we get the rewind. I’m not sure what plot importance the balefire rewind will have in the remainder of the series, but if it was simply for this one moment, I think it was a bit wasted/not necessary. Balefire eliminates all recent actions from the person who is killed by it. The length of time the person is effectively erased is determined by the power of balefire used at the moment of death. Rand disintegrates Rahvin instantaneously with a large amount thus reversing Rahvin’s actions from the last several hours at least if not a bit longer. Therefore reversing the deaths of Aviendha, Mat, and Asmodean. Rand is only able to absolutely destroy Rahvin because he had chased the Forsaken into Tel’aran’rhiod. They are both in the dreamworld but in the flesh. Therefore I assume it is possible for the reverse to be true thus half-explaining what happened to Birgitte. I’m sure/hoping more will be explained about this later on. Guess who is in the dreamworld and has Moghedien on a leash? That’s right, we have circled back to Nynaeve. She uses Moghedien to help her assist Rand in his fight against Rahvin. Moghedien is a coward when she doesn’t have the upper-hand and she is a complete B when she does. I think it is a bit funny Nynaeve sees herself as at least a little similar after she gets shaken up after losing to Moghedien earlier. Unfortunately, I think Moghedien’s behavior here is absolutely real. I’ve seen people who act similarly. With any shred of authority, they lord it over others, but then grovel when faced by someone who has authority over them. Some people just aren’t cut out for certain responsibilities. I have two quotes for this. One ties back to my Harry Potter reference.

  • If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals – J.K. Rowling
  • Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. – Abraham Lincoln

Back to The Wheel of Time. This book ends with the mentioned Davram Bashere. The Marshal-General from Saldaea and Faile’s father. I think we will be seeing much more of Davram and hopefully Faile and Perrin and Loial in the next book. Book six, Lord of Chaos, is the longest in the series so it may be a bit before I get around to discussing it. I still hope to finish the series by the end of the year, and I will be tracking my progress and reactions here. I think it will be fun to look back at some of my initial reactions to characters and events once I get through the entire series. I hope you can enjoy the them as well.

On Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss is the author of The Kingkiller Chronicles series, which I would say, in my honest opinion, is the best epic fantasy story written in the past 20 years. I know there is a lot out there and maybe a few can refute that claim, but I have not read or heard about any of them. And I can always go back to the “well-written” aspect of my claim. These books are extremely well-written and I found myself impressed with the wordplay and structure as much as the story itself. Before I start fawning over the work, let me tell you about the man behind them.

I first discovered Pat (as many of his fans call him) about two and half years ago when I happened across a video on Twitter. I had just started a Twitter account and was kind of looking around and learning the ropes and discovering the amazing writing community on there. Ironically, I let those on Twitter pick my next post for my On Authors section and they chose Patrick Rothfuss. The video was actually promoting another book by another author who I hate to say I had forgotten until I began thinking about writing this post about Pat. I actually saw a book by this author on display and it helped me remember. Her name is Sabaa Tahir and her books are now, as they should have been, on my TBR list. Anyway, the video was Sabaa and Pat simply sitting down and having a chat and answering some questions in what is probably the most laid back and fun “interview” that I have seen by a writer (or pair of authors). I remembered hearing the name Patrick Rothfuss coming up here and there, mostly on Twitter. I watched this video and thought: Wow, this guy seems super cool. I’ll look into what he has written and check him out. 

So about six or eight months go by and I get more reminders about these books (I did follow him on Twitter after all), so I pick up the first one. It is not a small volume. I start reading it and am unsure for the first few chapters but it is setting up the world the story inhabits so I stick it out and fall right in. I literally fell hard into this book. I devoured it, and the sequel, in less than a month. All while I was working on my MFA and working full time. The first book, The Name of the Wind, was released in 2007 and clocks in at just over 250,000 words. The second, The Wise Man’s Fear, came out in 2011 and was just under 400,000. A third book is still in the works as of now but there are a few supplemental works that go along with the main story. These include A Slow Regard of Silent Things which is a novella about the beloved, innocent, and mysterious character Auri, and “The Lightning Tree” which is a short story about Bast, a scoundrel character that you like but are a bit wary about. I quickly read these two additions as well. There is nothing quite like A Slow Regard of Silent Things either. It is of course dependent upon the knowledge of at least the first book of the series, but it could possibly be read on its own. It may be a bit confusing that way though. Either way, it is endearing and…well…quite unique.

The Kingkiller Chronicles jumped way up on my list of favorite reads. Pat’s books are the first I’ve bought specifically for the purpose of giving away just to introduce friends to his work. I joined a Facebook group of fans and they all love these books probably more than me. Some have read the series dozens of times. I’ve only read through them once but will be re-reading them when the third book is announced to come out. These people love Pat and some have even seen him at expos and events and they all share their love of the story and it is just a fantastic group to be a part of even though I don’t participate much. I just love seeing all the stuff they talk about and the group keeps everyone informed about related news.

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The first book recommendation I wrote was for The Name of the Wind and it was a grossly underwhelming recommendation. I updated it to slightly amend that negligence, but it will always fall short. It does have a bigger version of this picture (right) which I bought from Litographs. It is made from the entire text of the first book. All 250,000+ words. Yeah, that picture is made from the words of the book (see below). It goes pretty much floor to ceiling but it’s awesome. I had to build the frame specifically for the poster. I think I may have gotten a link to it from the Facebook group. Anyway, it is always great to find fellow fans.20180107_165630.jpg

 

Now, there are some people who have been criticizing Pat for how long it is taking for book three to come out. I wrote a post that will be up soon about “fan etiquette” that discusses the last season of Game of Thrones so I won’t go into my “be a good fan” speech here. Instead I will simply say that I understand their frustration but I also understand Pat’s situation. His first book became a bestseller, and rather quickly. He even talks about writing sequels in the video above with Sabaa. He is a thorough writer and I do not mind waiting for book three or anything he works on for that matter. He is incredibly talented and I have an inkling that book three will be even larger than book two. It will probably destroy its readers emotionally as well. As good stories do. Book three does have a supposed title which is The Doors of Stone. Pat says he will provide us the book when it is ready. I can’t wait but I will, patiently, as should everyone.

Pat does a lot outside of his writing as well. He streams videogames and interacts with fans and talks about the world he built. He has even done a video of pronunciations of words, names, and places in his books. These pronunciations are also included in the 10th anniversary edition of The Name of the Wind. The video is actually hosted on the Youtube page of the charity organization he is a part of called Worldbuilders. They have some awesome things that they sell to raise money for their charity (I think Pat’s streams also are often for this organization; I’m not sure since I’ve only seen tidbits). I bought a few mugs from Worldbuilders that were replicas from an important tavern in the books. It is called the Eolian. The mugs are well made. I encourage you to check this charity out since they have a lot of cool, nerdy stuff from a lot of other series, writers, and talented people. They do a lot of cool things to help make the world a better place too. Speaking of talented people, Lin-Manuel Miranda is actually working on an adaptation of The Kingkiller Chronicles for television. Rumors are that it will actually be a prequel (?) to the first book. I’m not sure about the story, but I’m sure it will be great to see this world created for the screen which is always a hard thing to do.

On to the reason I started this little series, or section, of my blog. What does Patrick Rothfuss mean to me? Well, he means quite a bit as I’m sure he means a lot to others who are fans of his work. He is not just an author who wrote a story I can lose myself in though. I don’t know him personally or know much about his personal life as I do other authors, but unlike several other authors I have been influenced or inspired by, he is alive and well and actively participating in the world. It is easier and less intrusive to learn about the life of someone after they are gone. However, I am okay not knowing personal details. Especially about people still rocking it. For me, Pat is an inspiration for my own aspirations. His mastery of storytelling is something I can aim toward. He does great things outside of his writing as I hope I can or am doing.  I hope one day I have a chance to meet him. Perhaps if I get off my butt and finish a few books I might get that chance. If not, I’ll always have his books.

The Shadow Rising

The Shadow Rising is book four of the Wheel of Time. It is the second longest in the series at roughly one thousand pages. Needless to say, it took me a bit longer to get through this one than the previous three individually. Before I go further, I do want to reiterate that below are my thoughts on this book and there will be spoilers, so if you have yet to get through this installment or have not yet started the series and wish to avoid said spoilers, turn back now. I will be talking about all the things I liked, didn’t like, and the one scene that really caught me by surprise. Seriously, you have been warned.

There is a lot to talk about so please forgive me if I jump around.

This book started off a bit slower than the others as the first several hundred pages take place in the aftermath of book three. We sit around with our characters in the Stone of Tear for awhile before they ultimately split up into groups and the adventures continue. Despite the lull in the beginning, it was still entertaining and once it gets going it gets going. I found myself somewhat eager to follow one story-line despite the switch to another but I was patient and read each page in order. One thing I did notice in the beginning was the characters seemed to have matured greatly since the previous book. I know that sounds weird since the story doesn’t progress outside of the pages and our characters haven’t done much since the last pages of book three, but each of the ta’veren seem to have matured into their roles and become aware of their abilities or obligations to the fate of the world despite still resisting it at times and not fully understanding what these obligations are. I liked this. Even though they have only been away from the Two Rivers for a year. It seems their adventures have been happening quite quickly, but fast-travel does help with that I guess.

Now, where to jump in? Let’s start with those who continue to be my favorite characters. Perrin and Loial. When I wrote about The Dragon Reborn, I had already begun this book and mentioned how Perrin and Faile were already fighting like a married couple despite meeting in the later chapters in book three. Well surprise, surprise, surprise. Going back to the quick-paced adventures, I am curious to know how long they have known each other by the time they literally tie the knot Two Rivers style. I have grown to like Faile despite her temper and her stubbornness. She tricks Loial in order to stay with Perrin (don’t mess with my boy Loial), but I’ve come to like her simply because she is resourceful, strong-willed, stubborn to a fault, knows what she wants, and truly loves our man Perrin who in turn loves her. I was even satisfied with their rushed marriage on the eve of battle. We learn a bit more about Faile which we may have already expected. She is a lady from Saldaea. Cousin to the queen in fact. We’ve had hints all along that she wasn’t merely a merchant’s daughter. I look forward to learning more about her.

Going back to Min’s viewing of Perrin from the beginning of book three, we get another development. The Tuatha’an with a sword. I was not expecting it to be Aram or anyone from the first troop we met in book one. However, I think I am liking the development of this character. I hated Aram at first. I thought he was an ignorant-through-innocence, youthful tool, but now I feel for him. He is no longer innocent, and he has taken up the sword to protect what he cares about. He has forsaken the Way of the Leaf and therefore been abandoned by his remaining family, but he has a purpose now. And that I think is a good thing. We have yet to get the hawk (supposedly a woman) and the encounter with Lanfear (unless the latter was counted in the dream in book three but they don’t interact so I am unsure).

We get some fast-travel with Perrin and company going through the Ways with Loial as the guide. Faile and her two Aiel friends, Chiad and Bain, go with Loial while Perrin and Gaul get the shaft. Not a great start, but things turn out well by the end. Hey, even Gaul and Chiad kind of become an item if I remember correctly. We don’t get a lot of Loial in this book unfortunately except that he sneaks away to block off the Ways in the Mountains of Mist for good after they discover their initial attempt did not stop the Trollocs from getting into the area. That, and how he fights like a boss despite being a pacifist at heart.

I didn’t like Lord Luc at all. I thought he was actually just an arrogant hunter of the horn, but I was surprised to find out that he was actually Slayer. He killed Trollocs and Fades but I guess he killed everything else too. But what was his purpose for being there? Who is he really? What is the Tower of Ghenjei? Is it located only in Tel’aran’rhiod where the heroes of ages exist between reincarnations? So many questions and so much more story to read through.

Perrin’s gathering of the Two Rivers folk and fight to defend the area from Trollocs was probably my favorite events in this installment. Many returning characters and the defense of the newly formed/bolstered town was fantastic. I still hate the Children of the Light and Byar and Bornhald are as hateful as ever toward Perrin. I understand they are misguided/misinformed, but I tire of the zealotry of this tiresome organization. They are just dicks. I mean, they don’t even fight in the battle against the Trollocs. Why? Because they think it is a ruse by Perrin as a darkfriend? Hell no. Get out. They should all be designated darkfriends by their own definition for not fighting Trollocs. For letting the women go fight in their stead. The personal bias that follows this crappy group is really getting on my nerves. Especially when Bornhald covered the fact that Padan Fain, now named Ordeith, killed Perrin’s family. Whitecloaks suck and there will need to be a lot of character arc to make me like any of them, but I have an inkling I may get one.

Speaking of Padan Fain, I had it wrong from the last book. I thought we last saw him with the Seanchan as they sailed back out to sea. I presumed wrong. Or maybe that was where we last saw him but I incorrectly assumed he stayed with the Seanchan when they took off. He is now in the stupid Whitecloaks under a false name that everyone in the Two Rivers sees through but Bornhald chooses to ignore. I have no idea what is happening with this guy. He went from a peddler to a hound of the Dark One to breaking free of the Dark One and committing evil on his own. Now he is claiming to be some ancient being that has lived since before the Trolloc Wars. And now he has the ability to turn Myrddraal to his cause? What is happening?

Okay, moving on before I spend this entire post on just Perrin’s story-line. Let’s go to the shorter story-line of this book: Nynaeve and Elayne. Along with Thom Merrilin and Juilin Sandar. We run into Bayle Domon and meet an old Seanchan foe Egeanin. Nynaeve fights a Forsaken because she is apparently stronger than someone who could weave the power during the Age of Legends despite minimal training, but let’s just chalk that up to Moghedien being rusty from being imprisoned for thousands of years. They get their hands on a seal of the Shayol Ghul and the despair-filled ancient object that could potentially bind/subjugate Rand. They do all this and leave another city in ruins. Okay, technically the Black Ajah led by Liandrin messed up the city that was on the verge, similar to Falme, but it seems destruction follows in Nynaeve’s footsteps. Just an observation.

Before we move onto Rand and company, I want to discuss the chapter(s) that totally took me by surprise. What–The–Hell–happened in Tar Valon? Like holy guacamole, an uprising? I somewhat had suspicions about Elaida potentially being Black Ajah, and we don’t get answers in this book, but this was out of nowhere. I’ll just have to read on to see what is going on here. What took me by surprise the most is not just the mutiny, but the fact that they stilled–stilled!–Siuan Sanche. They kind of have to be Black Ajah to instantly still her, right? And the fighting that took place? Did I read correctly that Gawyn actually helped topple the Amyrlin Seat? He made it onto my “let karma kill this guy soon” list pretty fast. His decisions were made with a little more uncertainty though than the Whitecloaks, who are just pretty much just aiding evil through their own hatred at this point, but he should have known better. Does he really help the mutiny simply because he doesn’t get answers about his sister’s whereabouts? Doesn’t seem likely or logical. I don’t recall Galad being in the aftermath however. I may get a chance to like that kid, but he was hanging out with the Whitecloaks so maybe not. Now we get to follow Siuan and Min as they continue to influence the unfolding of events despite altered positions. The mutiny does throw a lot of things into chaos for our characters since the White Tower is technically no longer a powerful ally or base of operations. I guess Elayne, Nynaeve, and Egwene don’t have to take the Aes Sedai oaths and can absolutely destroy some Shadowspawn/Darkfriends with the One Power later on. I’m looking forward to that.

On to Rand. After setting himself up to become King Arthur by sinking Callandor into the Stone of Tear (despite Artur Hawkwing already embodying that legendary reference), he goes off and fast-travels to the Aiel Waste just outside of Rhuidean. He gets to go inside and we get an awesome discovery that gives us a glimpse at the Age of Legends, explains the history of the Aiel, and shows the creation of the Tuatha’an. A lot of history. A lot of change through the ages as the Aiel gradually become what they are now, which reminds me of a cross between the Freman from Dune and the Gerudo from The Legend of Zelda series if the Gerudo were not all female. Or the Aiel could be considered a more badass version of the Unsullied from Game of Thrones. It doesn’t really matter with the comparisons because they are their own society in their own right. It’s just fun to compare them to other franchises I am familiar with.

Mat also goes into Rhuidean and we get a really cool homage to Norse mythology. Mat Cauthan is becoming Odin, which is only an attempt to make me like Mat. I’m slowly allowing this. Moraine also gets a turn in the forbidden city but we aren’t privy to her experience yet. Hopefully we get more from her moving forward because she has fallen into the backdrop for a bit. Egwene has also. She is learning from the Wise Ones and will probably master how to access and use the dreamworld. We will see.

Rand cuts Asmodean from the Dark One to gain a teacher. Messing up Lanfear’s plans was just a bonus. I’m ready to seen Rand learn to use the One Power. Now he has the two most powerful (probably) sa’angreal. What will he do with them? Will they sit somewhere like Callandor is sitting in the Stone of Tear until a later time? Like the Horn of Valere? I’m going to guess probably. I will see soon enough. Now that I think about it, the Horn is at risk now that the Tower is compromised. A lot is at risk with the Tower being compromised. So many things could happen. I’m getting into the thick of it and I am enjoying every second. I look forward to getting through the entire series so I can speak freely with those who have made the same journey.

That is all I can really care to talk about at the moment, which means it’s a good time to wrap this us. As always, feel free to contact me or comment to discuss this book, but please don’t spoil anything for me or any others who may be at this same point in the series. We can always talk about the other books as I get to them. See you next time for The Fires of Heaven.

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.