Can I read over 3,000,000 words in six months (and keep my job and friends)?

Friday, 21 October 2011

Propher-see Propher-2

Book; 3: The Dragon Reborn
Chapter; 55: What is written in Prophecy
Character Groups;
Everyone, everyone currently important anyway.

Hallo world. Technical difficulties have forced to remain in analogue mode for the past week. Still, never mind eh? Where were we? 

Right, these Prophecies then.

First, there is the Karaethon cycle, more commonly known as the Prophecies of the Dragon. These are the prophecies of Randland, told by precogniescent Aes Sedai in the years after the Breaking of the World (as the madness of the male channelers became known). These are the ones best known to our heroes and the ones that Rand is actively trying to fulfil. They include a cheery little rhyme about herons and dragons, lots of talk about blood and rocks and of course, the sword in the stone bit that I discussed last time.  

The Seanchan have their own version of the Karaethon Cycle with a number of omissions and additions that just makes it all the more annoying that they really don't get on with the locals. If everyone just sat down around a table and talked it over, everyone would have a much clearer idea of what was going on.

Next there are the Shadow Prophecies. The only part of these that we have heard seemed to refer to the events on Toman Head at the end of book 2 and have apparently been completed. Presumably, there are more to these prophecies but whether we will ever see any more of them, who can say? (I'm not being coy, I genuinely can't remember. They probably aren't very good then.)

One that we have only heard tiny snippets of so far is the Rhuidean Prophecy. Technically, we do not even know its name yet but I'm going to use it anyway, so sue me (please don't). Rhuidean is the only 'city' in the Aiel waste (another thing we don't technically know yet) and the Aiel have crossed the mountain range known as the Spine of the World for the first time in 20 years in search of their prophecied one, He Who Comes With The Dawn. "One born of the Blood but not raised but the Blood. Raised by an ancient Blood not ours". That's Rand by the way, He of the Many Capital Letters.

The mysterious Sea-folk have the Jendai Prophecy. All we know of them so far is that they are traders and prodigious sailors. Lately they have been ditching trade however, and searching for someone called the Coramoor. Guess who that might be.

Then there are the new prophecies. Veritable Cassandras are popping up left right and centre. Min, of course, sees all kinds of cryptic things around anyone around her, the latest being a hawk and a falcon sitting on Perrin's shoulders, the hawk holding a leash. Perrin himself, in gaining more control over his wolfbrother powers is having intense dreams that eerily mirror events in the waking world. Egwene has now been revealed as a Dreamer we can expect plenty from her. Dreaming (with a capital D, obviously) seems to be second only to Foretelling in the prophecy manufacturing business and of course dreams are satisfyingly vague and keep the theory mills running. 

So there we go, the future 101. It isn't called the Age of Prophecy for nothing you know!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Prophe-see, Propher-do

Book; 3: The Dragon Reborn
Chapter; 39: Threads in the Pattern
Character Groups;
Murandy    R. Manetherendrelle   R. Erinin    R. Erinin too  
Rand          Perrin                          Egwene      Mat  
                   Loial                           Elayne        Thom
                   Moiraine                     Nynaeve  
So, last time I made mention of the complexities of Seanchan society (pronounced SHAWN-chan, frustratingly) but I‘m not going to elaborate on that one until they rear their shaved heads again in a few book’s time.
Today, I want to talk about prophecy. And first I think I need to bend my first rule and fill in a little background.
Three and a half thousand years ago, the world was a peaceful and prosperous place. Channelers used their power (men using saidin and women using saidar) to perform great works and create an incredible quality of life for every level of society. Technologies were cheap and non-polluting, medicines were quick and effective and life expectancy, particularly for the channelers, was measured in centuries. Then, a researcher thought she had found the impossible, a brand new source of power, seemingly from outside the universe, which could be used by men and women equally without the divide between saidin and saidar. Of course it went horribly wrong and the Dark One was let loose on the world causing the collapse of society.
In the ensuing world war, one man rose to lead the forces of Light against the twisted mutant constructs of the Shadow. This man was Lews Therin Telamon, AKA the Dragon. The war culminated in the Dragon leading 100 of his most loyal men, all channelers, to seal the Dark One back outside the universe and save the world. They succeeded, sort of. On the plus side, along with the Dark One, they also trapped thirteen of his strongest followers in the seal. On the negative side, all 100 of the Dragon’s men went completely and violently mad, soon followed by every man who could channel in the whole world. Since then, any man who can touch saidin eventually succumbs to insanity and will destroy anything and everyone around him before he dies. Understandably, such men are feared and hated and an entire branch of the Aes Sedai spends their time seeking them out and ‘gentling’ them before they can do too much harm.
 To rub salt in the wound, in the years after the madness it was prophesied that the Dragon would be born again to both save and destroy the world again. The Dragon Reborn is Rand al’Thor and he is not overjoyed at the prospect.
There are lots of Dragon prophecies, and he has different names in different lands so no one has the full set. One of the best known ones in Randland is that the Stone of Tear (a fortress widely believed to be impenetrable) will never fall until the sword, Callandor, is in the Dragon’s hand. Just to complicate things, Callandor is kept inside the stone. (Yes, yes, I know, the chosen one is revealed by pulling the sword from the stone, it’s even a magic sword.) Anyway, in order to prove to himself that he really is the Dragon, Rand has gone AWOL and is heading for Tear with Perrin, Loial, Lan and a fuming Moiraine hot on his heels.
Hmm... I think I will turn this into a twofer. More prophecies next time folks!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

ID please...

Book: 2; The Great Hunt

Chapter: 50; After. THE END!

Character Groups:
Mountains of Mist            Almoth Plain
Rand                                 Mat
Perrin                                Egwene
Loial                                 Nynaeve
Moiraine                           Elayne
Lan                                   Verin
Min                                   Hurin

Well, Mr. Jordan certainly crammed a lot into the last third of that book, like, a whole four months. But, as I have to keep reminding myself, I am not trying to summarise the plot here. 

While the ever expanding ensemble cast are taking a well deserved winter break, I would like to take a moment to go off on a bit of a tangent. You see, The Great Hunt took the scooby gang out into the wider world and one of the themes of the book was the apparent decline of humanity. As can be seen on the map of Randland (as the main continent has become lovingly known) huge swathes of land are unclaimed by any nation and most of the action in book 2 takes place in the spaces once occupied by the extinct nations of Hardon and Almoth. 
I should point out that this map was coloured in by my own fair hand after the analogue fashion because I don't own any picture type programmes more complex (or indeed other than) MS Paint. Anyway, it was quite fun, I should to more colouring in.

Sorry, back to the point. 

What I was struck by is that while the people of this continent (and, it is revealed, others) share a common language and religion (in the loosest sense of the word) each country has its own distinct appearance, mode of dress and cultural norms. Here are some that we have come across.

Cairhien (KEYE-ree-EHN): The nation of Moiraine's birth. Technically she is a noblewoman from the former royal house of Damodred but prefers to be known just as an Aes Sedai (House Damodred lost the throne in embarrassing and bloody circumstances). Cairhienin are described as short, fair skinned and dark haired. their soldiers shave and powder the front halves of their heads and the nobles wear dark clothes with slashes of bright colours across the front of their dresses or coats. the women wear huge skirts and tall powdered wigs. they speak in clipped tones with an almost musical accent. So Cairhienin look Chinese, dress like pre-revolutionary French nobility and sound Welsh.

Andor: Most of the Hobbits, sorry, Emond's Fielders were born in Andor as were Min and Elayne. I have always thought of Andor as Elizabethan England, especially since Queen Morgase is described as a beautiful and fierce woman with a mass of curling red-gold hair and a habit of sending people who upset her to the headsman.

Shienar: Shienar is the newest of the Borderlands, the chain of northern countries sworn to protect the world from the Dark One's Blight encroaching from the north. They are a warrior people who favour fighting from horseback and topknots. Shienar has only been a true borderland for about 50 years, since the still more northern kingdom of Malkier (which Lan happens to be technically king of) was swallowed by the Blight. 

Aside from that, we know that Taraboner women wear their hair in hundreds of braids with beads on the ends that clack whenever they move their heads, Domani women wear scandalous dresses and Aiel are tall, red-haired and deadly.

Of course all of this pales in comparison with the complexity of the Seanchan... 

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Moon River

Book; 2, The Great Hunt

Chapter; 30, Daes Dae'mar

Character Groups:
Cairhien                     Kinslayers Dagger     Tifan's Well       Tar Valon
Rand                           Mat                           Moiraine            Egwene
Loial                           Perrin                        Lan                   Nynaeve
Hurin                          Ingtar                                                  Min
Selene (sometimes)    Verin                                                   Elayne
                                  Various soilders

See what I mean about the characters? Bear in mind that I am only including characters in the list that are important to the overall plot arc, since chapter 16 that number has gone from 10 to 14, not counting the soldiers, and I have actually left out a few because they aren't that important just yet. I have decided to include locations for each group, just to stop me getting lost! To keep to rule 2, I will not be describing new characters any more unless I have something interesting to say about them.

For example, Verin. Verin (or Verin Sedai to give her her full title) is another channeler. She belongs to the ancient, female only, order of channelers called Aes Sedai, which I believe I have mentioned before but not explained. Aes Sedai are subject to three oaths. 1) To speak no word that is not true, 2) to make no weapon for one man to kill another and 3) not to use the One Power as a weapon except in last defence of you life, that of your Warder...yadda yadda, the list goes on. The point is that Aes Sedai are bound to these oaths in such a way that makes them as much a part of a woman as her own skin, once sworn they are unbreakable. 

Or are they? A few chapters ago, Verin uttered a harmless little sentence that, it seems, broke the first rule. This is one of the great mysteries in the series. 'Did Verin Lie?' has been discussed on forums and blogs as long as there have been forums and blogs and the answer was a long time coming. This is in fact the 'longest delay' between event and explanation that I mentioned in a previous post. When I finally read the resolution, I curled up in a ball and giggled manically, earning some very strange looks from my sister.

Now for Selene. When I first read tGH in...oh... 2001, I found Selene absolutely fascinating. she pops up seemingly out of nowhere spouting cryptic phrases and giving off an air of knowing so much more than everybody else. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and on this read through I just found her a bit annoying. This could be because now I know what she is up to, (much as I would like to, I can't erase my knowledge of the future books and start again) but I think it is just that in ten years my tastes have changed.

I was wracking my brain trying to find a succinct way of explaining this and it came to me quite suddenly. Selene is River Song (I'll assume that you have seen the most recent series of Doctor Who). She turns up out of the blue being all enigmatic and twirls out hero around her middle finger. She refuses to tell us anything while hinting at everything and when the big reveal comes, its a bit of a let down (if not a bit nonsensical). At least Selene vanishes as easily as she appears whereas River seems to have become a fixture.