The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan

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The Dragon Reborn is book three of the Wheel of Time series. In book three, Rand appears only briefly as the book follows Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve’s storyline as Aes Sedai, interspersed with chapters from Perrin’s and Mat’s point of views. As a reader it was disappointing not only to know what would happen at the end of the book before reading it (Rand goes another round vs. B’alzamon. Who knew?) but also to find out the epic battle you’ve been waiting 600 pages for is short, perfunctory, and unsatisfying. It’s almost as if Robert Jordan became bored while writing the book. There’s almost no denouĂ©ment whatsoever.

I’m currently reading book four, The Shadow Rising though not sure if I’ll continue reading the series beyond that.

July, 2014

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

WoT02_TheGreatHunt The first half of The Great Hunt (book two of the Wheel of Time) series, suffers from the same tedium as The Eye of the World. The last third of the book is action-packed and nearly impossible to put down. Getting there is a bit of a slog, at times.

What intrigued me most were some very cool scenes that mirror the superposition principle of quantum physics. As Rand moves through the Portal Stone to Toman Head, he experiences the many variations of the path his life could have taken: with Egwene, without Egwene, honouring his position as the Dragon Reborn or rejecting it.

The sul’dam and the damane were compelling, yet revolting and bizarre at the same time. This idea of magical slavery was so brutal and cruel that as a reader, you want to see the Seanchan come back somewhere in the series so that you can see their empire destroyed.

The visit to Stedding Tsofu late in the book reveals more about Ogier life and culture — some of the most interesting scenes in the book.

Character development has improved in The Great Hunt, though the fact that some characters can survive battles and slavery and remain so innocent is baffling and annoying at the same time.

May and June, 2014

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

WoT01_TheEyeOfTheWorldThe Eye of the World is book one of the thirteen-book Wheel of Time series. I bought this book over a year ago and it took me a long time to start reading it. I began the book, telling myself that I could stop at any time and abandon not only book one, but the idea of reading the whole series.

The story starts slowly, focusing on Rand Al’Thor and a few friends from Emond’s Field: Mat, Perrin, and Egwene, and two strangers (Moraine Sedai and her Warder Lan Mandragoran) who come to town around the feast day, Bel Tine. Implausibly, these strangers convince Rand and his gang to leave the Two Rivers area in a bid to end the recent and unprecedented Trolloc attacks on their village. (This is a place they’ve barely left their entire lives. It’s all they know, and these intriguing strangers convince them to leave on a moment’s notice. Hmm…)

The middle of the book is repetitive to the point of tedious, where (of course) the fleeing group gets separated into smaller groups. The story mainly follows Rand and Mat, who get attacked by Darkfriends in various guises in every stop they make.

This long middle section reminded me of Scooby Doo where meddling kids are repeatedly attacked only to foil the evil forces. The book is over 800 pages and it covers this one lengthy and perilous journey. I was almost ready to abandon the book when the action began in the last couple hundred pages. Additionally, Loial the Ogier‘s appearance added a much needed element of intrigue. (Who doesn’t love a thinking being who adores books?)

My other major qualm with the writing is the golly-shucks-hayseed innocence to the interior monologue of some of the characters, notably, Rand, Perrin, and Egwene. Greater character development would make them feel less wooden. They’re young adults, though they think like children. Sometimes this book felt like a YA novel.

The action in this book hooked me enough to read to the end. I enjoyed learning about the world and about the various inhabitants, dark forces, and magical beings enough to start book two: The Great Hunt. Two hundred pages in, it’s moving slowly as well. Will I read book three? The jury is out.

May and June, 2014

Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter

ministerwithoutportfolio Henry Hayward is the Minister Without Portfolio — a man free of the entanglements of a significant relationship and children, after having been left by his girlfriend Nora, because she wants to live a dangerous life.

What Nora doesn’t know or fails to notice is that living a dangerous life doesn’t mean putting your life in physical danger. It means being vulnerable — truly being in love with and loving someone — no matter what, overlooking and absolving the messy awkwardness inherent in relationships to build something worthy — a happy life together.

Together, Henry and Martha live the most dangerous of lives — trying to make a life together despite the looming ghost of Tender Morris — trying to build a family with Tender’s unborn child on the way, rebuilding a ramshackle home, literally from the ground up.

This book is a great read. Winter’s spare style reminds me of Lisa Moore — who also writes of Newfoundland. Worth your time.

February and March, 2014

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

the-wise-mans-fear-large-patrick-rothfuss The Wise Man’s Fear is book two in Patrick Rothfuss’ epic fantasy trilogy, The Kingkiller Chronicles. I enjoyed this book very much. As I approached the end — as 1285 pages in the story of Kvothe began to draw to a close — I lamented the dwindling number of pages remaining.

As in the first novel, The Name of the Wind, I struggled with Denna as a character. I find her motives vague and her constant disappearances frustrating.

After 2000+ pages of The Kingkiller Chronicles, I still only have a superficial understanding of her. I want to like her; I really do. As a reader, you learn very little about her in this book. She remains an enigma wrapped in a mystery.

Rothfuss starts to reveal more about her character during a passage in which Kvothe follows Denna into an unsavoury part of town at night. In the end, the mystery and frustration around her deepens because that night ends, and we never find out anything further about that scene. Without knowing anything about Denna’s backstory (a chapter or two in the book told from her perspective might have been helpful) you question Kvothe’s judgement as he continues to flail at a relationship with her, only to be repeatedly rebuffed with Denna’s familiar and frustrating refrain, “you’re just like all the other nasty men in my life.” Sometimes you wish that she’d disappear for good.

Despite Denna, I’m looking forward to book three, which is due out sometime in 2015.

February and March, 2014

Truth, like liquid leaking out

Then he saw the truth pass out of her face. Sometimes truth is like a physical liquid that can leak out, or when it turns into liquid there is no container for it. His dog had been fine. His parents had argued. His parents were splitting up, he knew that, but what he did not know until this moment was that no one had a practical answer for the dog. The pure truth of the event leapt off the orb of her eyeball, it was a visual story that bounced off his eyes.

Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter

February by Lisa Moore

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February is a novel set after the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank in a violent storm 300 km off the coast of Newfoundland on February 15th, 1982.

Cal O’Mara is a fictional victim of the rig sinking. February follows his widow Helen as she raises their four children and as the shape of her grief evolves from the sharp, stabbing pain and shock of sudden loss into the ache of long-term absence over the ensuing 25 years.

Moore’s is a distinct voice. Devoid of dialogue, she uses ordinary yet evocative language that’s spare, yet rich in description. I read Caught last fall, and fell immediately into Moore’s cadence, reminiscent of the gentle lilt of of a Newfoundland accent.

This book does an amazing job of exploring grief through Helen’s eyes without ever devolving into the maudlin. Cal appears in the book only through Helen’s memories of their wedding night and their first ten years of marriage, so many of which are the ordinary stuff of a simple, loving, domestic existence — the struggles to raise three children born in quick succession, pleasures like found kites and paperback books read in companionable silence.

Even though you never meet him first-hand, Moore’s brilliance is that Cal isn’t a tragic figure — he’s fully formed and as a reader you can’t help but empathize with the magnitude of Helen’s loss.

Highly recommended and worth your time.

February, 2014

You need a strong memory to love the dead

We have grown apart, she thought. She’d gone on without him. She would have sat next to him and peeled the apple and she would have felt like his mother. The dead are not individuals, she thought. They are all the same. That’s what made it so very hard to stay in love with them. Like men who enter prison and are stripped of their worldly possessions, clothes, jewellery, the dead were stripped of who they were. Nothing ever happened to them, they did not change or grow, but they didn’t stay the same either. They are not the same as they were when they were alive, Helen thought.
The act of being dead, if you could call it an act, made them very hard to love. They’d lost the capacity to surprise. You needed a strong memory to love the dead, and it was not her fault that she was failing. She was trying. But no memory was that strong. This was what she knew now: no memory was that strong.

February by Lisa Moore