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Last Thursday Review: Silence Fallen and Etched in Bone

So this month is a little special, in that I will be tackling two novels for review. Am I feeling a bit guilty for only reviewing a 40 page graphic novel last month, and trying to make up for that? Nope. I just happened to be lucky enough to have two novels  was waiting for come out on exactly the same day. It was like finding that health vile hidden in the corner of the room when you were just 1 HP away from “Game Over” when you saved the file for hours. So this month I will be presenting Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs, and Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop. Two sides of a similar coin when it comes to alternate modern world fiction.

As always, I will preface the review with a mild spoiler warning; I will do my very best to keep the juicy bits of the story under wraps, and I will try to avoid speaking too much about plot. If you are like me and enjoy jumping blindly into the rad and letting the twists and turns take you where they will, hopefully this will give you a sense of what you are in for without giving away anything much. If you want to be cautious and save absolutely everything but what you read on the book jacket for your own discovery, I won’t be hurt if you stop reading right this instant, just keep me in mind and come back after you’ve read the book (We could have a tete-a-tete about the finer points, I am absolutely certain.)

SILENCE FALLEN by PATRICIA BRIGGS (4.5 out of 5)

Silence Fallen is the 10th instalment in the Mercedes Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs, an epic bard of the urban fantasy genre. We have followed Mercedes, our Mercy, through thick and thin. From the military abductions and experimentation, to the vest uncertainty that is Underhill, she has led us on quite a journey. This time, we see Mercy further from home than we’ve ever seen her. Patricia’s delving into the actual past in this story, into the Old World of Europe and the even older things that inhabit it, reminds me a bit of the whimsy created by Kevin Hearne in The Iron Druid Chronicles, when Atticus ventures through Europe (thinking specifically the sort of romantic atmosphere he created when he spoke of the Polish Witch Coven).

Briggs’ approach to this novel is quite interesting; as always we read Mercy in her own voice, experience everything through her eyes. However, in order to tell the diverging stories, this time she also had to split her party. While we do not experience the story as Adam in the “I” voice, we still decidedly see what he experiences through his eyes, though somewhat less reliably than Mercy. This has to do with the of first person for Mercy, while staying with third person when speaking of Adam and his entourage.

Briggs had taken us through the gamut of the creatures in her world; we’ve been inside the wolf pack, as well as outside of it, with and against the Fae and the Grey Lords, and surrounded by Vampires (Who honestly play the longest game ever, no one ever really seems to be able to determine which side they will fall on, just that it had best benefit them). This time, after the events in Fire Touched, we finally see  a larger united front, a true ‘adventuring party’, where a little bit of everything comes together. The Fae are relegated to a less central role in this story. This could have either been a conscious choice, as the last novel focused so strongly on them, or a side effect of moving the story to Europe, which Briggs has established, since the beginning of the story, as a place that is virtually void of Fae, since the creation of Cold iron and the need to hide the magic.

As far as Silence Fallen goes, I feel that it delivers exactly what I have come to expect from a Mercy novel, with the same sort of addictive quality that makes Briggs’ books so difficult to put down once you start reading. She does this all while introducing us to a new host of characters. We meet some of Europe’s movers and shakers, people that Bran left behind when he came to the new world. Libor  and the Vltava Pack in Prague, Bonarata and the Vampires of Italy, and some very interesting ghosts, just to name a few. As always, Mercy manages to stumble into more trouble than initially would have come her way, all while mostly being able to take care of herself . We also see the return of one of my favourite small characters, Elizaveta, the Russian Witch. Honestly, I would absolutely love it if Briggs gave us a book just about the live and experiences of Elizaveta. She is a little bit grandmother like, but also steel and unforgiving power. If Briggs had not already brought us the Baba Yaga before, I would almost be strongly inclined to think Elizaveta was hiding something else.

There were a few points of minor confusion, either because I missed some tiny clue or a switch occurred that wasn’t entirely explained. After it happened it did make me look back over the previous passages to see if I could spot what it was, but I was still unable to put my finger on the reality of it. I won’t speak to much more on that point though, because I don’t want to venture too far into speaking of plot points.

So, overall, Silence Fallen earns a very strong 4.5 Stars from me. Maybe I am biased, in that I have read this series since the initial release, and wait on the edge of my seat for a new addition to the series (Sometimes with barely contained glee and excitement when the preview chapter goes up online). It’s release also came at a hard time, as the author unexpectedly lost her husband just weeks before the release. So it may be some time before we return to Mercy, the werewolves, and our other ‘friends who may or may not like to eat us’, but I will wait patiently for that day.

ETCHED IN BONE by ANNE BISHOP (3.5 out of 5)

Coming off the excitement that was Visions in Silver, Etched in Bone left me a little wanting for content. Where Visions in Silver felt like a massive leaping point for change, Etched in Bone felt  a bit lacking, a lull in an otherwise usually very exciting world. As the 5th book in the series, it may just be that the author is trying to tie up some ends, to give the reader bits and pieces more on things she had hinted at before.

As far as the story goes, it seems to drag a little bit in this book. There is some stagnation, and some contrived “thriller” elements that are somewhat predictable. I have really enjoyed this world before, and was excited to see where it was going, especially after the world remembered what threat was right outside their doors, that didn’t really need them to survive. Our larger world had shrunk down to basically just the courtyard and a few other areas. For a novel series that held a strong, wanting to be independent character at its centre, we actually spend fairly little time with Meg this time around, and even less time in the Liaison office. Was this sacrificed in order to create the tension between members of the human pack, so that the Others and the Elders could see small-scale power struggles instead of just large-scale events? Either way, there is a decided lack of threat and colour in this one. The baddie is exactly who you expect, and he does exactly what you expect. Bishop may even go slightly too far in order to paint him like a stereotypical baddie, lacking the subtlety that would have worked to help emphasise the ease with which a human can compromise the herd for the benefit of the self.

Meg and Simon are exactly as you would expect, and Bishop does not elevate the level of sexual tension between them, though there is a decided focus on their relationship (As there has been from the beginning); all in all, the characters are just as they have been, perhaps with a little bit more struggle on Meg’s part, and a little bit more confusion on Simon’s. Perhaps we even spent more time with the fully human element than ever before, as they try to deal with the lack of a face for the Humans First Movement, while still suffering and dealing with the consequences wrought back those actions. It is like they are walking a line, somewhere between cohabitation and beneficial relationships, and everything just falling apart, back to how it was before. We do see a decided return to the “Other” portion of the others, as they try to deal with things in ways that even they are unaccustomed to (Focused on a single target threat, rather than a whole score of adversaries).

In my opinion, the real moment of true build up also fell a little flat, or maybe, just a little too ‘human’? The anticipation and build up did not lead the expected impact, and it felt perhaps just a little rushed for what it was.

Possibly the greatest piece of growth in the whole story comes from Skippy, as he pushes to be part of the group despite his difficulties. In this, we also get a closer look at Ms Twyla, Crispin Montgomery’s mother, who turns out to seem much more wolf mother anything else, as she somehow seems to hold the fort and make the stands where others are unable to (At times, it even seems like she outranks Simon). Personally, I was moved by Skippy’s advancement as a character, maybe because his innocence reminds me of that innocence that was so integral in Sam, when Meg first worked him out of his shell.

As much as it pains me to say it, this may be the logical point to end the series, as I cannot see another crescendo to large action, and what follows might just be too close a resemblance to wish fulfilment and fan fiction, unless this was just a piece that was necessary to bridge one larger event to another, in which case it may have served just to tie some ends together for the readers before launching them towards something new in the world. The biggest threats within the human world have largely been dealt with (though Bishop keeps hinting at another larger threat coming to the Blood Prophets, there was only a very small build toward it in this instalment).

Over all, I would give Anne Bishop’s Etched in Bone a 3.5 out of 5. I can’t say that I enjoyed it as much as the first 4 novels in this series, and most certainly not as much as Silence Fallen, but I can’t deny the fact that I still had trouble putting it down, as I read it in hopes that something grand would happen. If this was not the end of the series, I hope that the next novel is a massively moving piece of fiction, willed with the tension and excitement that the series started out with. 

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Read it; Watch it; Listen to it: Recommendations from the Darkness

So, I’m in the final leg of thesis work on my MA, working on last revisions and all that rigmarole. However, I do have some recommendations for those out there looking for something to watch, read, or listen to that they might had missed the first time around. Nothing ground breaking, but these are some of the series and songs that I have been really taken in by lately. Now, some of these are available on Netflix or iTunes, others require a bit of creativity to get, and yet others you will have to purchase, because that’s what the artistic teams and artists deserve. Check it out, and if there is something that had really caught your attention or imagination in the past while that you think needs more attention, leave a comment.

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Little Revenge for the Devil: Review of Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger

Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns

2013 Lauren Weisberger

2013 Lauren Weisberger

Authour: Lauren Weisberger

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Release Date: June 4th 2013

Pages: 381

Rating: 3 out of 5

Review

As a fantasy, horror and murder mystery fan, I will admit that Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada was a guilty indulgence for me when I first picked it up years ago. At the time there was something I dearly loved about the ruthless and cold Miranda Priestly that I simply could not put into words; she was a woman who you loved to hate, and yet I respected her, not for her manners or sense, but because she was unapologetic in her self-interest. When I saw Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns sitting on the new release shelf at my local book retailer, I didn’t even have to think twice about the financial setback that a hardcover book would present to me (Word to the wise, if you shop Indigo or Amazon and want to check this out after my review, it’s on a nice sale right now until midnight Sunday). I purchased it and happily picked up my hazelnut macchiato with soy before settling in to begin my read.

So, admitting that I loved reading The Devil Wears Prada a few years ago, and that I even enjoyed the film (Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway made an excellent on-screen pair, and despite the changes to make Miranda seem more sympathetic to the audience I still found myself enjoying it as an indulgence), I found that Revenge Wears Prada left me feeling a bit let down. It has remnants of the amazing flare that Weisberger used in The Devil Wears Prada, but did not quite return to the power of the original, it was skeletal at best, and familiar names did not carry the same verge and sparkle as they did before, and new characters did not carry the loving, or hating, flare that Weisberger gave us previously. For a book with the word “Revenge” so prominently in the title there is very little actual revenge which takes place, and even our love-to-hate Miranda as the Devil is only smattered briefly in a few chapters, more of a peripheral character then an actual source of antagonistic grief that one would hope for when picking up a sequel. I felt that the story was a pale attempt to return to something that was marvellous, and simply could not recreate the same feelings or connections that the first book did.

We catch up with Andrea Sachs, Andy, 10 years after her infamous blow-up with Runway Magazine and her storming departure from Paris Fashion Week, and amazingly powerful “Fuck you” to the sociopathic tyrant that is Miranda Priestly. Things has been both good and bad for our protagonist; while she suffered some set backs out of the gate, including some rather spectacular job related PTSD, she has found a man she loves, Max Harrison, mended the fence with her old Runway nemesis, Emily, and made a wonderfully successful business venture into the realm of bridal coverage.  Despite the title of the book, the plot is rather predictable, and events can be seen pages in advance if the reader is paying attention. In addition, there is very little “devil” featured from chapter to chapter, and even then it vacillates to such an extent that Miranda Priestly’s cold-hearted and egotistical self-interest driven life almost seems to be suffering from a personality disorder, or perhaps a rather selective and well-coordinated type of Manic Depression; one interaction our devil seems completely human, and the next second she is a cold bitch who could freeze hell over with so much as a well placed dismissal.  I will say it again, for a book with the word Revenge featured so prominently, there is very little, if any, sense of vengeance throughout the novel.

It follows a highly predictable plot arc, has its moments of cleverness, but ultimately falls short of my expectations. As much as I enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada, I only felt middling attachment as I continued to read Revenge Wears Prada (Fashion actually features almost not at all in the entire book, and our visits with it are hardly as magnificent as they were in the previous encounter.) While it’s excellent for well liked, and hated, character to return to us in familiar forms, they seems hollow and little changed over the 10 years that Weisberger has given them to mature and change. Inevitably, I think perhaps a better title may have been “Predictable Betrayal Wears Prada.” If you are looking for an easy read to occupy some time, I wouldn’t turn you completely away from picking up Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, but I would warn you to not expect the same level of emotional attachment or engagement as you experienced with The Devil Wears Prada. At only 381 pages, (or 8 hours to read if one has little else to do but procrastinate from writing an important thesis), it is not a huge investment for time, and it does have its moments of satisfaction, albeit that you will neither loathe nor adore anyone on any level of deep connection. I personally plan to revisit my copy of The Devil Wears Prada to see if my first experience of guilty pleasure with Miranda Priestly still holds true, despite the fact that Revenge provides so little of that juicy haute couture, cutting edge, ruthless business of fashion and editorial assistantships which had us all falling in love with New York, and in hatred with the Devil.

Unlike my first meeting with Miranda Priestly, this novel did not make me immediately regard my own way of dealing with success and people, nor did it make me regret the contents of my own closet in a jealous fit.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger

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Of Monsters and Beasts: Review of Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs (Spoiler Free)

Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7)

Author: Patricia Briggs

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs, 2013 Ace Fantasy

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs, 2013 Ace Fantasy

Publisher: Ace Fantasy

Year: 2013

Pages: 340

Rating: 5 out of 5

Forward: This is the 7th entry is a series. If you have not read the others and don’t wish to have any sort of up-to-this-point spoilers, I am going to lay this out for you right now: If you like Urban fantasy, want to read an engaging and well written series, start with Moon Called, the first entry under the Mercy Thompson books. You will enjoy it, I guarantee.

Book Cover Summary: Mercy’s life has undergone a seismic change. Becoming the mate of Adam Hauptman – the charismatic Alpha of the local werewolf pack – has made her a stepmother to his daughter, Jesse, a relationship that brings moments of blissful normalcy to Mercy’s life. But on the edges of humanity, what passes for a minor mishap on an ordinary day can turn into so much more . . .

After a car accident in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Mercy and Jesse can’t reach Adam – or anyone else in the pack, for that matter. They’ve all been abducted.

Through their mating bond, all Mercy knows is that Adam is angry and in pain. But she fears Adam’s disappearance may be related to the political battle the werewolves have been fighting to gain acceptance from the public – and that he and the pack are in serious danger. Outmatched and on her own Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from any ally she can get, no matter how unlikely.

REVIEW

Mercy Thompson, our wise cracking bad-lucked heroine, comes through in yet another instalment of Briggs’ widely liked series. The reader is re-acquainted with old friends, and enemies, and exposed to a whole new set of problems which further complicate her usually bumpy life. The daughter of Coyote is always finding herself in one sticky situation or another, and yet each time it seems fresh and beckons the reader to keep turning the pages, even into the wee hours of the morning.

Briggs’ provides equal measure between all four worlds she includes, meaning that the Fae, werewolves, vampires, and even the odd human fall into the tangled web. Brigg’s masterful way of working together first person insight and external characters is brought to the forefront, and she does not skip a beat of action, emotion, or darkness. As with the latest entry in the Alpha and Omega series, Fair Game, Briggs’ has added a darker twist to the story she presents her readers, looking not only at the preternatural dangers, but placing more weight on the danger posed by the ordinary mortal humans. Could this be a new spin, a new direction, that she is going to pursue? A solidarity between those things which go bump in the night, which enabled them to combat the humans, who are less able than the supernatural beasts when it comes to hiding their monstrous nature? Where do the real monsters dwell , among those who have no choice and do what they can to keep their animal natures under control, readily admitting to their faults, or in those who hide it behind a thin mask of civility and grotesque mockeries of humanity, unwilling to accept the mantel of responsibility for their actions?

This story picks up shortly after the events which unfolded in Fair Game, and I think it is a marvellous addition to the existing Mercy tales. It serves as a return to the concerns raised in the first Mercy novel, Moon Called, while still carrying the momentum which has built through the series, driving it to pursue a deeper development on the tenuous line between what it means to be a monster and what it means to be part of society.  Her attention to political and social upheaval, and the alienation of others based solely on the concept of ‘other’, sheds a poignant comment on the way in which modern society divides itself.

Once again, I simply could not seem to put this one down until I had completely finished reading it. I have come to expect a great deal from Patricia Briggs when it comes to style and quality of writing, and she once again delivers what she promises. The connection to the characters we have come to know is deepened with each encounter, and new understandings begin to emerge when old friends and enemies are re-examined. I have had some people tell me that they have problems with the repetitive ‘kidnapping’, yet each time it has come up (which I will admit is a few) it has not hindered the progress, but rather displayed that the affected characters have grown, and how their past experiences have shaped them. Writers would not return to tropes if it did not serve a purpose, and readers would not continue to follow if they felt that nothing was gained by the return. This is by no means a series wherein the reader is constantly forced to read the tried-and-true ‘damsel in distress’ tale; Briggs does not present the reader with any damsels, her characters are all strong in their own ways, which makes it highly pleasing to read. If anything, the return to the kidnapping theme reflects how the non-preternatual (perhaps a better term would be ‘mundane’) community has grown to become set in its ways for handling all things which it does not understand, or actively refuses to understand.

Without a doubt I can say that I will continue to read the Mercy Thompson series as long as Briggs is able to publish them, provided that her ability to craft characters, relationships, and interesting fantastical elements remains as elevated as it has. In all honest, I always find something new which intrigues me; a small detail about the Fae, the attention to the hierarchy among the vampires and the werewolves, and I am wound right back into a state of wonder at her ability to convey so much in such a short span of pages. Of all the names in urban fantasy, I know that if I am looking to truly enjoy a book filled with interesting character and well written story I will look to Briggs.

Patricia Briggs Official Website

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1)

Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson #2)

Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson #3)

Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson #4)

Silver Borne (Mercy Thompson #5)

River Marked (Mercy Thompson #6)

Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7)

Home Coming (Mercy Thompson Graphic novel)

Moon Called #1 (Trade Paperback graphic novel edition)

Moon Called #2 (Trade Paperback graphic novel edition)

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Silencing the Ghosts: Review of Fair Game by Patricia Briggs (Spoiler free)

Fair Game (Alpha and Omega #3)

Author: Patricia Briggs

Fair Game by Patricia Briggs, 2012 Ace Fantasy

Fair Game by Patricia Briggs, 2012 Ace Fantasy

Publisher: Ace Fantasy

Year: 2012 (hardcover) 2013 (paperback)

Pages: 280

Rating: 5 our of 5

Book Cover Summary:  It is said that opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anne Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son – and enforcer – of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant Alpha. While Anna, an Omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.

When the FBI requests the pack’s help on a local serial-killer case, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston to join the investigation. It soon becomes clear that someone is targeting preternatural. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer’s sights . . .

Review

I have to admit that I have been a fan of Briggs since I first picked up Moon Called, the first entry of her Mercy Thompson series, quite a few years ago on a random bookstore excursion. This return to the Alpha and Omega side of her writing is fabulous, and her strengths really shine through. I cannot gush enough about how much I enjoy reading Patricia Briggs’ urban fantasy, it is always a treat when one is released, and once I start reading I simply cannot put it down until I have turned the last page.

I have always felt that Charles was a bit of an odd duck in a pond of geese, but Anna really balances him out. However, Briggs is very attentive to the way in which she has constructed her werewolves, weaving them with equal parts ferocity, vigilance, and depth (well, for those who have survived this long). This story begins in a very difficult place, and asks the most vital question: What is more important, duty or love?

It is interesting to see the mundane twist Briggs has put on the antagonistic force in this particular entry in the series, but it is very refreshing and keeps me convinced that her skill is much more than just being able to write amazing characters who you either love to love, hate to love, or love to hate. By casting an unknown force of evil as being one which preys on the predators and prey species alike, there is a much darker cast about this book. The internal struggle which Charles faces with his own ghosts adds another dimension of tension to this book, and is spectacularly highlighted. With a man/animal as old as Charles and Brother Wolf, there is always the question of stability, especially when it comes to such a complex mate like Anna, the only one who is able to quiet the roaring beast within all who she is around.

Briggs is masterful in crafting the minutia of personal relationships, and this book steps it up another notch to a place that Briggs very rarely has gone before with her current urban fantasy series. Within the desolation and disquiet of the manhunt, the moments when individuals truly connect and understand each other, such as Agent Leslie Fisher and Beauclaire, Bran and Asil, and of course Charles and Anna, are so well crafted and the emotion so palpable that it gives the reader very little choice but to connect to the characters in a very human way. I mark this as the sign of a superb writer.

The Alpha and Omega series itself has been an interesting bit to navigate; while it is set in the same world as Marcy Thompson, our favourite shape-shifting mechanic-by-day cum coyote, and events from both series have an over arching impact, there is something decided special about the moments that readers get to share with figures like Anna and Charles. Both are spearheads in the realm of the werewolf, neither completely traditional nor completely new.

As with her inclusion of the Fae and vampires, Briggs has carved out a niche for her characters they sets them apart from the mass-produced and overhyped genre of urban fantasy. While they are highly recognizable as the tropic werewolves (called by the moon, massive, deadly, tempered), Anna lends a voice to the madness which serves to prove The Marrocks’ spin-doctoring of the reality of werewolves is not all false. Briggs creates a clear difference between what is animal and what is evil; the monster hidden by the human skin is something unnatural and evil when it is completely hidden behind the eyes of a man. The beast that looks out from the eyes of a werewolf, on the other hand, plays by a set of rules which has governed the Earth since time immemorial. While it is not a puppy to be played with, neither is it a beast to be put down when it is acting in accordance with nature, when it is only surviving. The same cannot be said about the beasts and monsters that are human, through and through.

If you like well written fiction, want to be enthralled to the point of being unable to put the book down for even a second, or have been sitting on the fence about picking this one up, I suggest you pick it up in whatever form best suits your reading preference. It falls just between River Marked and Frost Burned on the Mercy side of things, and some of the events echo over. If you are just looking to get in to a new series, this one starts with a short novella in an anthology, and the links to the Amazon page for all are listed below. If this type of stuff peaks your interest, I also suggest you pick up the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, starting with Moon Called. A review of the latest entry in that series, Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7) will be following in the next few days.

If you are more of a graphic novel fan, there is also a one already release and another forthcoming hardcover edition coming of Alpha and Omega, which looks to be spectacular.

Patricia Briggs Official Website

Alpha and Omega (Novella)

Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega #1)

Hunting Ground (Alpha and Omega #2)

Fair Game (Alpha and Omega #3)

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Time and Fantasy: Musing on a Conference

On the 9th of February I not only had the pleasure of attending a conference that I had been excited about for month, but  the opportunity to present a paper of which I was quite proud.  To my joy this was A Conference of Ice and Fire, the first, and hopefully not last, conference organized by the English Student Society on my campus focused on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.

The previous term the University had offered the first, and to my knowledge only, A Song of Ice and Fire focused class in Canada. Being a graduate student in History I was not allowed to take the course for academic credit, but that did not dissuade me. Despite the trepidation from my own department that I would be far too busy to handle my work load, excel in my courses, and audit another course, let alone do the assignments required, I forged ahead. To put it mildly, I had an absolute blast every Tuesday and Thursday from September to December getting ‘geek out’ with others like me.  To the amazement of a few unnamed individuals, it did not make any negative impact on the progress I was making with my own thesis.

As with most conferences ours had a guest of honour, a speaker of repute; this was Dr. Janice Bogstad from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Editor of sci-fi, Tolkien/LoTR collections,  she is a fascinating woman, and her experience within the sci-fi and fantasy, and comparative fields in literary studies is astounding. After a rousing morning of excellent papers, amazing conversation, and thought-provoking questions, Dr. Bogstad present us with a series of rather remarkable ideas regarding the concept of time in fantasy and in particular in Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, and the notions of sibling-hood.

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When she spoke of time in fantasy writing she brought up the works of David Eddings, one of the authors whose work I devoured as a teenager. I could not help but begin to think about how time works in his novels, especially pertaining to the Belgariad sage, and the joining books Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress.

In The Belgariad it would seem that time very rarely comes into focus from a flowing river of eternity. It is punctuated and measured only in prophecy and tragedy. This is especially true for Polgara, Belgarath, and the Gods.

The Gods very rarely seem to keep track of time in any nature, unless they are directly affected by tragedy or prophecy. Issa, the god of the Nyissans, does not note the passage of time, and is only brought reeling back into the flow when he comes to find out that the name of his beloved high priestess, Salmissra, had passed from one woman to another more times than a snake can shed its skin. For Mara, god of the Marags, time is a perpetual march of sadness, loneliness and misery after his ‘children’ were murdered by the Tolnedrans. The driving force behind the concept of in The Belgariad time is also rooted in the suffering of Torak  who sleeps endlessly, as if caught in a single long night until the prophecy wakes him.

For gods the idea of ceaseless and undocumented time is common place. For the continual existence of such figures time cannot flow as it does for mortals. But this way of measuring time can be juxtaposed onto Belgarath and his daughter Polgara. This notion is put forward in their respective off-shoots stories, where the two most timeless mortals within the mortal world condense their exceedingly long lives into manageable collections. Once again, time begins to slip away from the measurements that we have become accustomed to in our own world and in literature.

bigbelgBelgarath has refrained from writing out his history because it goes back beyond knowns records of the world. Belgarath is the first mortal to enter into the Vale of Aldur, and as a Disciple of Aldur and a user of the Will, the longest living one. He is, as his daughter Polgara calls him, the Old Wolf. When he enters the Vale seems time stop for him, held in a vacuum and unable to touch him. He spends years working at menial tasks without knowing that time has passed, isolated from the march of time. This is long before the War with Torak over the Orb of Aldur, the establishment of the Rivan king, and the splitting of Arendia. Belgarath only notes that time begins to move again in moments of tragedy; finding that the village of elderly people who helped him on his initial journey to the Vale has vanished, the death of his wife Poledra, and the death of his daughter Beldaran. Does Belgarath avoid time as much as possible outside of prophecy because it simply hurts too much to exist within it? As the Eternal Man, how does time make sense to him outside of prophecy and tragedy?

Polgara_595

The same if true for Polgara. However, as a woman who thrives on order and control, she does record the dates of major events, such as the death of her sister Beldaran, and the extinction of the Wacite Arend line. She, unlike Belgarath, has a direct connection to the flow of time, thought she does not always exist within those constrants. She too must watch those she grows to love, age and die, while not losing sight of her own will and passion. She must form those close connections within the span of the prophecy, or be the knife on which the world impales itself when the prophecy comes to fruition.

Prophecy, that tricky master or mistress, always has seems to have a plan waiting in the wings, and surfaces when a major split in time is on the verge of occurring. It surfaces and draws all of these figures back into the flow of mortal time; Mara learns that he is not alone, and that he does still has a child; Issa changes Salmissra into a snake, elongating her life and ensuring that he will be able to tell one high priestess from the next should he be called upon. Belgarath and Polgara journey with Barak, Silk, and Garion, all guided and measured by prophecy, who could only exist in the proper span of mortal time (arguably), with the right set of predetermined events unfolding.

The insight that we get from Belgarath and Polgara’s accounts help to explain some of the elements which Eddings incorporated in The Belgariad; we discover why Polgara is met with such awe and reverence whenever she presents herself, and why she must always appear in a certain fashion. They also explains why Belgarath has the need to run free and escape from the world; it has become difficult to form attachments when one knows they are eternal while others are merely ephemeral. However, Garion is their link to the mortal world, and he gives new meaning and flow to time.

Sibling relationships within these books are also interesting. The gods are brothers, raised and watched by father Ul and mother Universe, and yet they have their differences; the rifts and tragedies they experience give them a sense of time and yet do not bind them to exist within the constraints of the concept. Belgarath forges brotherhoods with those who come to the Vale of Aldur and become, like him, initiates of the Will and disciples of Aldur. Polgara must sacrifice her sister in order to set the prophecy of the orb in motion, and to ensure that Garion will one day meet his destiny, despite the fact that it will be centuries before he is born.

In contrast, Martin ensures that we have a grasp on the flow of time within his world, even if it is biased when it comes to key events. We know exactly when the War of the Ninepenny Kings occurred, the successions of knights who held the title of  Commander of the Kings Guards, and that Dunk the Tall rode as a hedge knight 89 years prior to the events in A Game of Thrones. Martin firmly cements his readers in a carefully constructed time-line with defined dates and orders, and yet those events that he leaves out are the more important.

These fantasy novels present one of the key problems that occurs in the study of history. What occurred directly before and directly after the most important events which we have recorded? What has been left out, and why? Is it absent because no one survived to speak of it, because no one had the heart to record it, or because it did not seem to be that important when it occurred? It is always a difficult question to navigate when looking into cause and effect in history, as often the small aspects are disregarded in favour of the larger picture.

Interested in the Books?

Belgariad Vol. 1

Belgariad Vol. 2

Polgara the Sorceress

Belgarath the Sorcerer

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Game of Thrones S. 3 Trailer

Here it is, our first full look at the upcoming season of Game of Thrones on HBO. George R.R. Martin’s epic dark fantasy tale of intrigue returns on March 31st. So set you clocks for the 9 PM (your local time zone) premiere, and get ready for blood and fire.

At this point, I would like to encourage discussion as to the promises of this season. Please, keep spoilers to a minimum, if you can (not for my sake of course, I know all that the public can possibly know at this point, and I have a good number of my own theories spinning about in my head.)

Are you looking forward to the Dragons? Are you giddy over the prospect of hearing High Valyrian?  Do you also wonder why Howland Reed seems perfectly fine with his children wandering around with supposed dead lordlings?

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February 22, 2013 · 11:17 pm