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.

The Great Hunt

I know I said I wouldn’t write book recommendations for each of the Wheel of Time books since there is 14 of them and, let’s be honest, you only need the first book recommended in a series to get started and determine for yourself if you will finish it. That said, this post is not technically a recommendation. I thought it would be fun to track my journey through this enormous series. So, here comes my thoughts on The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan. I will keep this post spoiler free (which proved harder than I thought) for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but I am absolutely open to having a discussion in the comments with any spoilers. I would greatly appreciate it if you do not include spoilers from later books so nothing is ruined for me before I get to it.

I finished this book about two weeks ago (and about two weeks after I finished the first book). I flew through it. I found myself absorbed in the story and wanting to read it with any free time I had, which is a sign of a good book. I have to say I am greatly enjoying this series. Right now I’m about 2/3 through the third book and will probably finish it before this time next week. Of course, there were things I liked and didn’t like as there are for nearly every story. So let’s begin.

One thing I didn’t like that is completely excusable is the lack of resolution for some story arcs. Obviously there is plenty of story left to resolve some of the arcs that begin in this book (or began at the end of the first book), so I can live with a few unknowns at the end of this one. Though unless there is going to be a long play, there was one specific character that I was expecting to see a resolution with, and I have no idea where Mr. Merchant Darkfriend is currently (hopefully that doesn’t give anything away). Honestly, I would have been okay with just a short description but I’m sure he will pop up later on.

This book begins the trend (I’m assuming it will continue to be one from where I am currently) of using prophecies. These prophecies, some to be potentially accurate and others probably not, are used to heighten expectations and let the entire population of this imaginary land be somewhat in-the-know of what we as readers are experiencing. Prophecies are a great literary tool and I think Jordan uses them well.

One thing that is only slightly excusable is the Seanchan. I was intrigued by them and they obviously created some questions, which so far many are unanswered but still interesting (I hope I get the answers thought it may be awhile). They of course created conflict and allowed for some great character development. They also were an interesting commentary on slavery and psychology. I’m not going to write a literary analysis of this, but I’m sure I could if I was so inclined. Human history is littered with societies that included slavery, but this is a different take on it since many things apply to only Jordan’s world.

I’ve become a big fan of Loial. Maybe because I also love books, but also because he is odd man out. He is too hasty for an Ogier and is considered young at the age of 90, yet he now travels with those who he considers hasty and naive in many ways. The Ogier as a people often remind me of the Ents in Lord of the Rings with their relationship with nature and their view concerning the actions of those who live shorter lives.

Also, what is up with Selene? I felt like every time she is mentioned I was reminded that men go simple-minded in front of gorgeous women (which is not entirely true) and that good-looking people are highly influential (which pop culture today proves to be true unfortunately). I know she is dangerous and I found myself at times shaking my head at how some characters interact with her.

Let’s not even talk about Ingtar. I like that guy and choose to continue doing so.

The introduction to fast-travel in the first book via the Ways was interesting, plausible, and enjoyable. Then we get another means of fast-travel that opens up an infinite world of possibilities and I’m unsure of how it will impact the remainder of the story. Especially since the theme of dreams is further explored. Either way, I got a Skyrim vibe from this form of travel. I hope it doesn’t get overused as I continue through the story because it could easily become an overly convenient way of getting characters around.

Well, that’s all I have for this book. I’m afraid things are already starting to merge in regards to what happens in each book. I’ll post about The Dragon Reborn shortly after I finish it so the events are little more fresh. I may very well include spoilers moving forward so I can discuss things freely, but I’ll give a heads up either way. The last thing I want to do is ruin anything for anyone.

As always, I’m happy to discuss this book with you so leave a comment.

Happy Reading.

The Eye of the World

Today I am recommending The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. This book is the first of 14 in the Wheel of Time series and was originally released in January of 1990 (preceding Game of Thrones by about six years). This epic fantasy series was and continues to be extremely popular. I’ve met several people who raved about it and even one person who has a tattoo covering the middle of his back. My grandmother bought me this first book of the series and it has sat on my shelf, on my “to-read” list, for over ten years. She has always encouraged my love of reading. Then a friend of mine started the series recently and loved it and convinced me to bump this book up to the top of my list so he would have someone to talk to about the series as we both progressed through it. So here I am, beginning possibly the largest series I’ll ever read.

Jordan began writing the first book in 1984 and the series was planned to span six books. It ended up being 14 books with a prequel novel and two companion books. The Wheel of Time series is an impressive 4.4 million words with this first book running just over 300,000, which is the average length for each book in the series (an average novel is roughly 85,000). Below is a breakdown of the series by length.

Image borrowed from Barnes & Noble Statistical Analysis of the Wheel of Time

This is a massive series which, if I’m honest, was the reason it has stayed in my “to-read” pile for so long. I knew I would eventually get around to reading it, but I’m glad I started it now because books are always better enjoyed with friends. In this case, we are both reading through it for the first time so it isn’t a “you should read this because I already have and it’s great and you need to think it’s great too” kind of deal.

I do want to note that I do no plan to write a recommendation for each book in this series (though it would increase the number of book recommendations I post this year). I plan to write this initial recommendation and one final post when I finish the series. I am recommending this series now because I have finished the first book and enjoyed it.

I thought there was a slow area about 2/3 of the way in, but that isn’t bad considering the length of this book, and the ending made up for it and then some. This book is well-written and I never found myself bored (even during the part I thought slow). There is much description but not enough I think to turn many people away. Jordan does name a few of the horses (I have a friend who draws the line at the naming of horses in books of fantasy, weird I know) but nearly everything has a purpose and isn’t simply superfluous world-building. The characters are well-rounded and easily discernible. There is plenty of mystery as you ease your way into this world Jordan has created but he provides everything you need at a good pace and doesn’t leave you hanging unnecessarily. This is a rich world and I am excited to continue my journey into it as I progress through the series.

I will not be providing a summary here because I wish to keep this recommendation spoiler free and I would prefer not to provide a summary of the overarching story versus what is contained in the first book alone. All I will say is that if you like epic fantasy, such as The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, The Name of the Wind, The Riftwar Saga, etc., then you will enjoy this book and series. If you can convince a friend to join you in this journey, then you may find it even more enjoyable and I recommend doing so. If you can’t, then you will have fun all the same. Just know that you are jumping into a story that will surely make an impression. If you don’t like the first book, then I recommend not completing the series. If you do like the first book, then be prepared to consider this series an essential collection in your library (just as many of us consider Harry Potter).

I understand any hesitation in starting a series this large but know that millions of people have already made this pilgrimage and returned enriched. I look forward to finishing my own read-through as I reach the last novel. I hope you may one day make the journey yourself. If you do, let’s talk about it.

Happy Reading.

The Unexpected

Have you ever experienced a story that left you utterly lost? As in, you don’t remember what your perception of life was before experiencing it. Where you can’t stop thinking about the characters and what happened to them. Have you experienced a story that meant more to you than you thought originally possible?

I think some of the stories that hit us the hardest are the ones we never saw coming. By this, I mean the stories we knew little to nothing about but gave it a shot because something drew us to it, and before the end we realize too late that it wove itself through our muscles and bones and became as important to us as the air we breathed. At least, for a little while. The obsession fades usually after a few days but we will always recommend the story to our friends and maybe re-read, re-watch, re-listen to the story so we can experience it all over again. But it won’t be quite the same as that first time. Every re-experience is just a reminder of how it left us both empty yet fulfilled. We are just a story junkie chasing that first high.

Not the best analogy, but I think you get the point, and I hope you know what it is I’m talking about. Stories have power. They can make us question things and help us grow. They can teach us new things or make us question old things. They can do all of this across one page or an entire series, within one episode or even within five minutes of a movie (think of that scene from UP, you know which one I’m talking about). We are drawn to stories because we want to experience something. The type of story I’m focusing on is the one that comes out of left field to completely knock you off your feet. The type of story that is the reason I write. Even if I write 100 books and only 3 pages perform the magic I am talking about, then it will all be worth it.

There are several stories I can think of that left me catatonic. Simply sitting there, somewhat withdrawn into myself, wondering. Just wondering. Sometimes about the characters or what happened to them or sometimes about what my life is and what more I can do with it. I would love to hear what stories have affected you in this way. Please, leave a comment or send it to me from the contact page.

Stories like this don’t come around often enough for my liking. Maybe once or twice a year if I’m lucky, but I recently experienced one that I wanted to talk about before my obsession with it faded. There are many reasons I enjoyed this show (yes, it’s not a book this time). The show is a Netflix original called Violet Evergarden.

One thing I absolutely enjoyed and will enjoy for probably a long time is the soundtrack. I think I first heard of this show because it popped up as a suggested soundtrack to listen to online. I listen to a lot of orchestral soundtracks. I didn’t listen to this one until after I watched the show and now I own the soundtrack and am listening to it right now as I type this post. The second thing I found drawing me in was the character and the world she inhabits. The setting is a post-war era similar to maybe the 1920’s. The show takes place in a fictional world but it has a feeling similar to what I imagine life may have been after World War I. Our main, title character was a war orphan who was trained and treated as a weapon through the end of the war. The story picks up after the war has ended and Violet sets off to learn what happened to her commanding officer and what his last words to her meant. In her journey, she becomes an Auto-memory Doll, which is someone employed to write letters for other people and help them say what they cannot seem to put into words. Many of the people cannot write themselves. All the letters are written on a typewriter (which has me dusting off my old typewriter that was given as a gift many years ago). Her character development is enthralling even though most episodes are independent stories that build her experiences. Again, the soundtrack is amazing and music adds so much to shows and movies. The animation (did I mention it is animated?) is gorgeous. The entire show is well paced and I found myself watching several episodes at time and finishing the short 13 episodes within one week. The show gave me a feeling of nostalgia. Of a time simpler to the world we live in and the busy hustle and bustle of our technological world. That alone was worth the watch for me to be honest.

Nothing is better than finding a story this way. Unexpectedly and leaving you hopeful. Giving you an experience you will never forget. One you cherish and want to shout about so everyone else can feel how you feel. But of course we don’t because that is rude and you know that builds expectations which then hinders the story for others. You have to let others find it on their own. I know I gave away a lot about the show I just wrote about and I’ll apologize to you now if that gave you expectations for it, but I won’t really mean it because you may not watch it regardless or you may watch it now because I wrote about it and it caught your interest and you may not have heard about it otherwise.

The unexpected story is what we hope for when we give a book, show, or movie a chance without knowing anything else about it. I encourage you to go out and find something you have never heard of that sounds interesting and give it this chance. It may become a treasure to you. Yes, there are plenty of other stories your friends are recommending, but go out there and give the unknown a shot. You may find yourself recommending it to your friends, and fervently.

With that, I dedicate this post to the unexpected. May we all find such stories when we need them. To remind us that there is something out there we may have forgotten, or to remind us of what we dream to be.

Rashomon & Other Stories

Today I am recommending Rashomon & Other Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. This collection holds six short stories by Akutagawa. The title story “Rashomon” has become widely recognized because of the movie of the same name first released in 1950. However, the movie follows the storyline of a different short story titled “In a Grove,” which is also found in this collection. Akutagawa was considered the “Father of the Japanese short story.” Many of his works have inspired movies and he wrote well over 100 stories before his untimely death in 1927 at the age of 35.

The six stories in this collection are: “In a Grove” “Rashomon” “Yam Gruel” “The Martyr” “Kesa and Morito” and “The Dragon.” I first encountered Akutagawa’s work during my MFA program. We read “In a Grove,” which I think is the stronger story in this collection. It is a great example of Akutagawa’s work and sets the tone for many of the other stories. It is also a great example of what fiction can do and I recommend it to all writers who may be unfamiliar with his work. After all, it is used in many educational settings and has inspired several movies with it’s simple yet complicated storytelling.

These stories are not traditional stories that follow a structured plot and have happy endings. The main characters tend to be the forgotten or downtrodden who are overlooked or mocked despite holding high positions. Though I wasn’t alive at the end of the 19th century (though I did get to see the end of the 20th), I can see through these stories the strife Akutagawa felt during his own time. I believe a great short story keeps you thinking long after it ends. Most of these do just that. Despite their often strong critique of humanity and status quo, some of them end with a tinge of hope.

Some of these stories may not sit well with you. Others may make you wonder what times were like 100 years ago, and yet others may make you see that certain societal problems have existed for a long time. These six stories span roughly 100 pages and can be read all at once or picked up here and there. This may be outside of your usual reading bubble, but that’s a good thing. Give it a try. You may love it or you may hate it. You will probably learn something nonetheless.

Happy Reading.