Hullo folks. Trying to read a larger section this time, we’ll see how it goes. As before, here’s where we’re at.
We return in this passage to another regular theme, which is, heterosexual relationships are weird and doomed. The interlude tells us again about the same set of events as the other two, and in this one we’re given hints at the presence of the Star of Law and the Star of Secrets. We’re also shown a culture that is rotten to women.
I feel as if at this point the reviewing process of this story is just going to read like a bullet point list of what has transpired in the story. There isn’t a lot of stuff to comment on. Patterns that establish themselves early – characters sitting around talking about things, references to other places we haven’t been yet, doomed promises, doomed relationships – reiterate, in different ways.
I’m not sure if it’s more present now or if I’m just more willing to comment on it, but there are cracks showing in the fable-like interludes. Not just the cracks between narratives – narratives that show us three different cultures’ perspectives on one set of events – but in the way they’re paced. An event will be outlined with Suddenly occurring in a way that doesn’t feel right.
Briefly, though, I will talk about anchoring.
Anchoring is the process whereby an event is made to sit in the memory of the reader. I’m seven chapters into this book, two interludes and I think I can outline what’s happened in four, maybe five sentences? That’s not to say there isn’t stuff going on, information being revealed, but the flow of the book has been such that it’s honestly hard for me to remember much of any of it. I recognise a large part of that is the fragmented way I’m approaching this work, of course. I’m not sunk into it, I’m not surrounded by this world and this culture and its people.
I think one part of this book I have to state very seriously is that if you’re going to read it, you should definitely try to read it all at once, or as close to. Some works benefit from decompressing, and I don’t think this is one of them. I think you’re better off treating this book like a movie, like a sit-down-and-soak-it-in-event full of scenes of dialogue, jumping from character to character, rather than a slow, thoughtful experience where you want to piece together hints and tricks ahead of time. This is because the anchors in this story are not in the events, but rather in the people.
I’ve said it before; if you like these characters, there is a lot in this work to like. It’s almost all character dialogue, with bullet pointing events to jump between fields of dialogue.
I don’t know why Barsamin would, suddenly, grow a spine and speak out so hard. I don’t know why he’d be willing to leap into combat to solve his problems – all I’ve had so far of him has been a shy intelligence. Being dismissed as a sword fighter almost seems like he’d see it as a relief. I don’t have that connection, that anchor to Barsamin. I don’t empathise with him the way that I imagine other readers would, and could.
“But hast thou even held a blade but once?”
“No, never,” he answered with a confidence that even he found inexplicable.
Me too, Bars. Me too.
Still, it is a real surprise to see Barsamin fight like that considering our prior excursion of his physical prowess was stumbling and slipping in the mud. On the other hand, I imagine my perspective on a fight is very different to a young man who’s actually been trained in sword-fighting by someone good at it. Does Barsamin know what a punch is like? Has he been beaten and fought like this before, and it’s all been hidden? Is this in fact meant to be a show of still waters underneath the boy, where we find that Barsamin is so timid and shy and withdrawn and worried about his personal space because, for example, he used to be a bully, and is much stronger than he looks?
But hey, maybe it’s a god thing.
Or maybe Houri’s right.
(Houri’s not right.)
We then move to Houri, Katarosi and Ismyrn having a glib-off, which has at least one properly funny line – ‘What’s the axe for?’ – and –
Hang on, it’s been two weeks? Huh. I… I guess that stands to reason.
Okay, here’s another good line:
“Thou didst act on the impulse of fury today,” Luzcrezo pointed out, “clearly with no plan at all. Perhaps thou might best him with stupidity.”
I also like Houri’s explicit statement about her own identity. We’re given a little show of magic of the ‘I don’t know how it works, it just works’ storybook style approach, and onwards to chapter nine… where BAM we’re back in history again. Just like how last chapter we were treated to Tsovinar explaining Clarion’s backstory to Hayr, we’re going to jump back to deal some more with Rashk’s backstory, which, last we saw it, was about Clarion.
Well, that was a surprise.
I think this is the first time I’ve really felt the way I think the author does about a character central to a scene. In this chapter we’re treated to Rashk speaking with a clear voice, about his own interests, showing his values, contrasting and competing in the conversation with Solornel. I think I’ve said this before, but if this was a Bioware RPG this would be held up as a really properly great scene in it.
Chapter ten will come next, and with it probably some action with, well…
The way the story’s structured I’m going to assume Luzcrezo or Barsamin are the heir Solornel is directed towards, but there is the chance that Elliott’s just going to introduce even more characters. Either way, it seems we might have Hayr – with his odd bursts of independence bursting forth from his otherwise meek life – and Tsovinar, god and person, meeting up again with Barsamin and co.
Guess we’ll see when we get there.