Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Before we start, I would like to let you know that this is not a review per se, but more like a breakdown of my thoughts that formed as my reaction to finishing that book. It will be more about my experience of finishing the book and be a self-analysis as to order my thoughts. It will most definitely be biased, probably inconsistent, at times irrational, but above all, it will be my sincere thoughts. I don’t need that whole idea of being critical, unbiased, and unemotional when talking about this book, for the reason I read it was – the reason I read the whole series was – to feel emotions, to laugh and cry and give a half-smile every time there is a witty remark. I don’t need to be a critic every time; sometimes I just wish to be the reader who does not care about all of that, and only cares about the way the book makes you feel. Well folks, this is the time I do that.

I am, undeniably and irreversibly, a sucker for high fantasy, and the Inheritance Cycle is pretty much as archetypal as high fantasy goes. It has all the obvious key elements, and you have to accept that the setting will be similar to most of high fantasy novels. That is the great curse of high fantasy: while the workings of your setting besides the usual fantasy build-up may be rich beyond what most minds can conjure, may be so intricate and vast at the same time, once the reader thinks that “it’s the same with any other fantasy book”, there is no turning back for him. You have no power, none at all, to convince him otherwise once he starts with that assumption. The whole series is very easy to like, and just as easy to dislike. Take this as not a rant, but a simple statement of facts.

So, coming to emotions. The first reaction I could ever give to this series ending was a bitter smile. I had not been overly excited about Inheritance before I started reading it, nor was I particularly in a hurry to read it. In fact, it has been over two months since I have bought it, and during the time it was a low priority due to university and the other waiting books in my shelves. But, amidst going between Murakami and Oğuz Atay, I found myself unable to continue reading anything. For one reason or another, reading them became impossible. I have no answer as to why this has happened, but it was Inheritance that got me out of it. After just a single chapter, I was hooked again to the adventures of Eragon.

Bear with me while I do this rather obvious observation, for I wish to record this here, where I can read again if there comes a time where I forget why I like these in the first place. It is the combination of high fantasy and young adult genres that made this work for me. I don’t remember the exact year I have read the first book of the series, Eragon, but since the film came out in 2006 and I had read the book beforehand, so it has been about 6-7 years since I have read it. And back then, it was easy to identify myself with Eragon, as one might expect. That is kind of the point of the whole young adult genre. It still is the main reason that I enjoy the series; the fact that characters are absolutely human. Even those who are hard to grasp fully (and were intended to be that way) give us enough reason to believe they are real, and for me that seems to be the driving point of this series. It is a delicate balance you have to capture in high fantasy setting, when you are creating races that in a way transcend over mankind. You cannot voice an elf or a dragon the same way you do a human, lest it destroy the aura that they are a race that are powerful beyond men’s reach and lose all credibility. But you also have to give a foothold to the workings of their minds, so that they are not completely unrelated to the reader. You have to create a relation, an understanding between any worthwhile race you have created and mankind. By design, the reader wants the dragons to be mystique and nobler than men, yet if their reactions are not understandable, their power undermines themselves. And Christopher Paolini seems to have enough a grasp on the issue to make the world of Alagaesia more than satisfactory. The characters and the POVs we experience throughout the series are also top-notch in keeping to their personalities, and the changes in their personalities are consistent with the experiences they undergo.

Ahem, I had not wanted to go in that analytical direction. My aim was to show that Inheritance Cycle is very character dependant. The characters are not the instrument to the storyline, but rather, storyline is the experience in which the characters live and grow. There is some distinction between the two.

Another thing that I would like to touch is what I want to call Big Bad syndrome. Too often do we see the main antagonist, said to be all-powerful and capable of destroying the hero if he actually wanted, opt in to ignore the hero as the hero grows in power and becomes powerful enough to challenge the antagonist. Luckily, the antagonist in Inheritance continues to amaze us with his power and knowledge throughout the book, and that kind of counters the Big Bad syndrome. Of course, things would have been different had the King been gracious enough to move his royal backside before the whole story transpired, but he did continue to give us the aura that his reign was absolute, even throughout the final battle.

There is also the fall-off for this character based approach, for the actual character development may not be parallel to the one you imagined in your mind. There are two unanswered romances that were pretty much unsatisfactory for me in Inheritance. While one has been cultivated throughout the books, and had a respectable end to it, I feel it was a misplay by Paolini, for it could have been solved through other means. *Spoilers* I am talking about the relationship between Arya and Eragon of course. After Arya’s dragon hatched, she had all the means to escape being the queen and join Eragon in raising the other dragons. But, she was conveniently “convinced” that she was better off being a queen and a rider, a situation which has been called throughout the series a taboo. There needed not to be immediate romance between the two, but it would have made more sense for Arya to join Eragon. *Spoilers End* The other was hinted at, built on throughout the last book, and was simply forgotten in the end. *Spoilers* Paolini, you throw Murtagh and Nasuada to us, and simply forget it at the end? Not nice. *Spoilers End* Overall, these two smell incomplete, and you do not want to have things unpurposefully incomplete. Paolini himself said that he will be touching the world of Alagaesia, so we will see what he might bring to the table.

As with all things, I cannot say that my view of how those relationships should have developed is the hands-down best option. But I feel that I know these characters enough so that I could have shaped a better development for them. Only after I finished Inheritance did I realize that the characters had already become irreplaceable for me. That is actually the easiest way to judge whether or not the characters were well done, since if you feel sad that you won’t be seeing them again, they are probably likeable enough. Of course it is harder to feel that way if you read the series in a short period of time, so it is not exactly reliable, but I know these characters will be dearly missed.

There is no way around it; the reason I gave off that bitter smile was the knowledge that I probably won’t be seeing any of them again in the way I have experienced in the series, but also the fact that (as a proud parent would say) they have done well.

There are probably much more to be talked about, but I just wanted to end this post with that sentence.

They have done well.

Summing up my last few days

Posted: December 12, 2012 in books, music, real life

This.

I’ll try to make this as spoiler-free as I can, but there is so much awesomeness in this book that I want to share that may unfortunately be spoilers for some. Nevertheless, I have to put these emotions on to paper, or else I’ll never be fully satisfied.

The penultimate installment on the Wheel of Time series bestows a huge amount of responsibility on Brandon Sanderson’s shoulders. We don’t know how much of the book had been written before Robert Jordan passed away, but it’s likely Jordan was more interested in getting the beginning and the ending done than trying to pull off the middle part. As it stands, the novel tries to tie in many of the plot threads that have been plagueing the series since book 6 due to the need of getting too many things done, slowing down the series considerably. Sanderson manages to minimize the damage, though not without some shortcomings.

After passing through an intro that introduces yet another bunch of plot lines to cover before the series is over, we are faced with the post-12th-book Rand, who is, when tried to put into words, bloody awesometastic. Yes, that’s the closest I could come to describe the new Rand. That is the guy we have been waiting for the past 20 something years. And he’s barely in the book.

OK, I assume we can cut some slack on Sanderson, since after 12th book there isn’t any need for character growth for Rand until the end. It’s just a showcase of his personality now that he is ready to rock the Dark One out of the world. Every time he appears, he is there to show his awesome and solve the backlog of problems he has unleashed unto the world. I like that in a book, where his actions do lead to some worse consequences. Could’ve been handled better, but with the amount of screentime he’ll probably be getting in the last book, it can be excused. Practical solutions work best when you have only a month to re-unite the world. There’s much more character development to be had on Perrin’s and other characters’ side.

Speaking of character development, there is a lot to be had in Perrin’s side in this book. He should’ve been out of his wimpy “I’m no lord” self long time ago, but hey, at least he accepts it in the end. The whole Two Rivers bit with Elayne was solved rather easily for Wheel of Time standards, but at least gave me satisfaction in the way it was solved. I simply wish there wasn’t this much Perrin in the book. Going straight into his transformation to a more confident guy would’ve been enough. And it would save us from reading all those things again. It was good to see Elayne getting her ass handed to her, while Mat finally (hopefully?) got rid of that gholam, in a rather anticlimactic way. Egwene also gets her ass handed to her by Perrin and Rand, though she does get rid of a Forsaken.

What differs most from the previous installment of the series is the lighter tone of this book. After Rand’s emotional turmoil in the last book, there are many relaxing moments in this book, reminiscing for the last time before the Last Battle comes. Reunion of Mat, Perrin and Thom manages to be a pleasant change of pace. And also, badger.

Overall, the book does what it aims to do: tie off enough plot threads to keep the last book from becoming a 2500-pager. The execution is a bit iffy at times, but I still love Sanderson’s writing style, and he does justice to Robert Jordan’s legacy. Finally, after years of build up, the end is within sight. Despite its shortcomings, it is easily one of the best fantasy titles of 2010. A must read continuation to a must read series.

And again, badger.

I’m currently in the middle of Wheel of Time book 13, Towers of Midnight. The book is simply legen-wait for it-dary. I’ll definitely be sad when this is over. Still one more to go, I guess.

Review coming when I’m done.