February 23rd, 2013


Recent Reads: Enchanters’ End Game

Turns out ENCHANTERS’ END GAME has all kinds of POVs in it, mostly, in fact, of women. Well, no, not mostly: mostly it’s Garion. But every other POV is a female, because Eddings dips in around the West and visits the queens who are holding the thrones while their husbands are off fighting the big war.

Re-reading as an adult, I found that interesting for two reasons: one, it means every POV in the Belgariad that is not Garion’s is female, which–from the adult perspective–is fairly awesome. One wonders if that was his wife Leigh’s (whose name went on the much later Eddings books) doing, or if–well, honestly, it does simply make the most sense. Ce’Nedra’s a fairly obvious viewpoint character, since she’s the most important of them whose storyline doesn’t follow the same physical path as Garion’s, and the kings’ activities can be related through her gaze, since she’s with them. The queens, however, are entirely out of either Garion or Ce’Nedra’s line of sight, and they’re doing important things, so bringing them in as viewpoint characters makes sense.

Two, it means that Eddings presented a totally different series of points of view in the final book, which is, like, Not Allowed. Readers have certain expectations, dammit! You can’t go around messing with them! …except apparently you can. So that’s kind of cool from a writer’s POV, ’cause hey, look, perhaps one can get away with that kind of thing.

I also realized on this re-read that although my youthful perception was that this story was done, upon reflection it’s clear Eddings never intended The Belgariad to be the whole story. He always intended The Malloreon to follow it. All the threads are in place, and while I, like many others, might object to the fact that he wrote the same story again (and again, and again; Eddings is an excellent demonstration of Robin McKinley’s theory that perhaps at the heart of it we all only have one story to tell), there is the fact that he wrote that same story many times to huge success. His books, and that story, with its faintly different trappings, were and are immensely popular. There may be a lesson there, for those of us who do this for a living.

Lastly, my reaction to the whole series is: my goodness, those are straight-forward books. I’d forgotten how much of them is about Collecting Each Token (a character from each race), Visiting Each King, etc. There’s nothing really devious about any of it, though this is not meant as a slight: I spent a little while imagining these books as written today, GRRM-style, and while you could *do* it…

…well, you wouldn’t have the Belgariad when you were done, and that would be a shame, because despite their flaws, these are still entertaining, delightful reads that I would not hesitate to recommend to any fantasy reader.

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)


Recent Reads: The Hero & the Crown

The first several times I read THE HERO AND THE CROWN, I really had barely any idea what happened in the whole post-Luthe tower fight (I said deliberately vaguely, on the off chance somebody hasn’t read the book and doesn’t want to be spoiled).

The truth is, I find that a dozen re-reads later, and with full adulthood under my belt, I *still* think that whole section is like a bad acid trip. And I think it’s supposed to be, but honestly I’m *still* not *absolutely* sure what (or perhaps more accurately, *when* it) happens. I feel like I understand it a little better every time I read it, but the last couple times I’ve read it (admittedly years apart) I’ve been trying really hard to pay attention and understand, and still…yah, no, I don’t totally get it. I’m not sure if that’s a failing in me or the book.

(Also, my God, Robin McKinley has an unholy love of semi-colons. I noticed it reading CHALICE, and upon re-reading HERO, it’s clear it’s not a new affliction. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love me some semi-colons, but wow, it’s like she was one of our group of online roleplayers from the early 90s and she never got over the impulse to punctuate with semi-colons. Wow.)

Those things aside, though…well, I still love this book. Not as much as THE BLUE SWORD, which doesn’t have the bad acid trip problem, but Aerin is…well, she’s a broken hero from the start, in a much more significant way, I think, than Harry. Aerin seems more fragile, and her journey that much greater. I rather think that this book plays up the lie of McKinley’s theory that we all have only one story to tell, as there’s certainly no Beast for Beauty to tame in this story (even Aerin’s own demons can’t be argued as the Beast, and she tames nothing save Talat, who does not play the role of Beast :)).

Does anybody know, BTW, if the Tommy and Leo or the black-haired girl who are referenced in HERO are explained further anywhere? I have the vague idea there’s a book of Damarian short stories, but I don’t know which collection it is, if I’m even right about it existing. I know she doesn’t as a rule write sequels, but man, I could do with a lot more stories of Damar. Of Aerin, in particular, of course–about her life after (I said cryptically, but you who’ve read it know what I mean)–but Damar in general, because it really does remain one of my favorite fantasy settings ever.

I noticed with CHALICE and now with re-reading HERO, that McKinley’s storytelling style has an emphasis on telling, but she does it beautifully, and in a way that still brings the emotional impact of the telling to life. She writes, I think, in the way that stories would be presented by an actual storyteller, as if sitting in the darkened cave listening to the tale by flickering firelight. There’s a rhythm to it that seems to me like the cadence of out-loud storytelling, and I think that’s one of the things I particularly love about her books.

Plus this time I noticed the ANNE OF GREEN GABLES homage in HERO, which is awesome. (Oh. Except Ms McKinley, via Twitter, says it was unintentional. Oh well. :))

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)