Daily Reads: 5 May 2015

BM bag

Sjoe, I haven’t done one of these for a while! Time to get back into the swing of things. The past month was a bit slow in terms of reading, but I do have a review of Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes in the works and I got my sister Ruth to take a few shots of the book, as you can see above and on the cover of my Facebook page.

I’ve been slacking on my online reading, so yesterday I took some time out to see what had been posted recently. One of the most notable things to pop up on my feed was Cat Hellisen’s new novel Charm, which is available for FREE on her blog in serial form. Here’s the synopsis:

Irene Kerry thinks she’s dealing with her mother’s suicide just fine until the day her best friend Rain falls in love with a much older man. A man who knew her mother, and believes Irene is a magician like her. In order to protect her friend and family, Irene must hunt an ancient magician who steals and eats magic, and discover the truth behind her mother’s life and death.

The first chapter of twenty-two went up on Friday, and subsequent chapters will be posted every Wednesday. If you don’t want to wait, you can buy the whole book on Smashwords.

If you enjoy read-alongs, you’re a Jacqueline Carey fan, or you’ve always wanted to read Kushiel’s Dart, there’s a great read-along starting this week with some of the awesome bloggers who I’ve joined for previous read-alongs. You can find the schedule here. Leave a comment if you want to be added to the mailing list. If you’re interested in this and other read-alongs, you can also join our new Goodreads group – SF/F Read Alongs – to keep in touch.

Then I went trawling for interesting articles on sff. I loved Jennie Goloboy’s article “Never Enough Farmers! Class and Writing Fantasy Novels” in this month’s issue of Apex Magazine. She writes about the way fantasy authors tend to project their modern, middle-class values onto pre-industrial societies where those values or assumptions would never fit. For example, there’s too much focus on towns and cities, given that most people would have been farmers. Too many characters focus on time even though people in that sort of period wouldn’t have had the technology to keep track of time – “none of that ‘I have fourteen summers’ please – that’s still too precise!” she says.

Goloboy proposes a fantasy about a farmer who never leaves the farm. It probably wouldn’t be epic fantasy, but there are lots of place-bound genres – horror, mystery, Gothic, romance. And I think that sounds like a great idea. I think an author like Tom Holt, who also happens to be a historian, could do something amazing with that.

Finally, Foz Meadows has an article about The Importance of Writing Sex Scenes, and things to consider when writing them. I particularly like her comments about the way scenes of positive consensual sex are typically considered gratuitous or taboo while scenes of bad sex, sexual assault or rape are not:

it’s often assumed that positive, consensual sex scenes serve a strictly pornographic function, such that, unless you’re actively trying to titillate your audience, the only sex that ought to appear in other genres is bad sex, or sexual assault, or rape. The logic here is maddening: that only violent, unpleasant or non-consensual sexual encounters can have such a transformative, narratively relevant effect on the characters that you’re justified in showing them in detail, rather than simply fading to black or leaving it up to the reader’s imagination.

[…] if you feel comfortable including rape, sexual assault, bad sex or sex that only one party enjoys in your stories, but aren’t similarly willing to write positive, consensual sex scenes, too, because you think they’re too porny or irrelevant, then you’re a hypocrite.

[…] to the extent that you’re willing to include sexual content at all, it makes no sense – and is, I’d argue, actively problematic – to restrict yourself to purely negative depictions across the board. Sex in all its forms can serve a narrative purpose, and if it also happens to be titillating sometimes, then so what? Literature is meant to make us feel things, and I see no reason bar a culturally ingrained sense of puritan shame that arousal should be considered a less valid, worthy response to evoke than fear, or grief, or horror.

And that’s it from me today guys. I hope I’ve given you some good reads and interesting ideas to chew on. It looks like it’s about pour with rain on this grey day in Cape Town, so I’m going to brew another cup of coffee and get into the grim details of Broken Monsters.

Happy reading!

Daily Reads helps me organise my online reading and share my favourite posts with you. If you know of any good SF/F and other literary articles, link to it in the comments.

Photography for this post is courtesy of Ruth Smith. You can view or buy her work here, follow her on Facebook or contact her at photobunny24@gmail.com.

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Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone: Read-along Schedule

Two Serpents RiseHey everyone 🙂 I recently joined a couple of bloggers for a read-along of Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone, the first in his Craft Sequence series. We all loved it, so we’re diving into book two, Two Serpents Rise

Here’s the Goodreads synopsis:

Shadow demons plague the city reservoir, and Red King Consolidated has sent in Caleb Altemoc — casual gambler and professional risk manager — to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex. At the scene of the crime, Caleb finds an alluring and clever cliff runner, crazy Mal, who easily outpaces him.

But Caleb has more than the demon infestation, Mal, or job security to worry about when he discovers that his father — the last priest of the old gods and leader of the True Quechal terrorists — has broken into his home and is wanted in connection to the attacks on the water supply.

From the beginning, Caleb and Mal are bound by lust, Craft, and chance, as both play a dangerous game where gods and people are pawns. They sleep on water, they dance in fire… and all the while the Twin Serpents slumbering beneath the earth are stirring, and they are hungry.

The book is divided into four parts, so we’ve scheduled the read-along accordingly:
13 April Book 1: Chapter 1 – Interlude: Fire, hosted by Dab of Darkness
 – 20 April Book 2: Chapter 16 – Interlude: Dreams, hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow
 – 27 April Book 3: Chapter 29 – Interlude: Tea, hosted by Violin in a Void
 – May Book 4: Chapter 36 – Epilogue, hosted by Little Lion Lynnet’s

And these are the participants:
Lynn – Lynn’s Book Blog
Lisa – Over the Effing Rainbow
Lauren (me) – Violin in a Void
Anya – On Starships & Dragonwings
Heather – The Bastard Title
Lynn E. – Little Lion Lynnet’s
Susan – Dab of Darkness
Ria – Bibliotropic Reviews

If you’d like to join in, just let me or any of the other bloggers know via email or in the comments, and we’ll add you to the email list. We’ll send out the discussion questions every weekend so you can post on Monday, but you’re welcome to just comment if you don’t feel like blogging. You can also join our SF/F Read-Alongs group on Goodreads, where there’ll be updates for this and other read-alongs, as well as discussions and suggestions for new ones.

Happy reading!

Three Parts Dead read-along part 3 (final)

Three Parts DeadAnd so we come to the final part of the Three Parts Dead read-along. It’s been a relatively short one, compared with the longer books and more intensive discussions I’ve had with previous readalongs, but I’m so glad that I finally got started with this series. Clearly, I’ve been missing out.

Our host for this part is Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow, so be sure to head over to her blog for links to everyone else’s.

SPOILERS for the whole book, of course.

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So we finally got all the facts behind whodunit – and how, and why… What did you think of the epic(sized) reveal scene? 

Pretty awesome for the most part! Things got really exciting from the moment Cat called in the Blacksuits to take down Tara and the Stonemen; I could just imagine the doom-laden thumps of them landing on the building before they broke in. Of course the fight that followed was rather one-sided, but eventually Tara steps up and starts saving the day with her incredible lawyering 🙂

I was wondering what the hell was up with that flying Cardinal. Admittedly, I thought that was a bit ridiculous until he burst in and starting battling Denovo. No surprise to find out that Denovo was behind the whole thing, although I feel a bit daft for not guessing at the possibility of stealing a god’s power to become a god. We’ve been told from the beginning that soulstuff gets passed around on a daily basis and that gods just have a lot more of it, with more skill at manipulating it. The God Wars involved humans wresting power from the gods, and of course Denovo has his own godlike scheme of attaining power by stealing it from his underlings. How did I not see this coming?

I also made a couple of bad guesses as to how things would turn out. For a little while, it looked to me like Tara was going to be transformed into Seril and Abelard would become Kos. There was never any time for a romance to develop between them, but it had seemed ike a possibility, so it seemed fitting that they would turn into this divine power couple. In retrospect though, that would have been a terrible ending – the book addresses issues of consent and using other people for your own gain (more on that later), and if Tara and Abelard became gods it meant they would lose at least a part of themselves.

Anyway, good ending. I absolutely loved the way everybody turns to attack Denovo.

My only criticism is that it’s a tad clunky in the way mystery novels often are – the villain and the investigator step up to explain the entire plot to us. It’s an explanation I badly wanted and needed, but it means there’s rather a lot of exposition in this scene

Oh, and David was a boring plot device.

 

Surprise! We found Kos. You’ll never believe where he was… Or did you?

Nope, didn’t see that coming at all! Which I guess is one of the reasons it was such a good hiding spot, but I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. What if Abelard had dropped his cigarette and was forced to light a new one (instead of passing Kos’s flame on by chain smoking)? He’s possibly the most addicted smoker I’ve ever come across, but there were several occasions in the book where I was sceptical about the fact that he still had his cigarette. I guess he hung onto it because of Kos’s influence?

 

Elayne Kevarian proved to be even more devious than we suspected. What do you think of this Craftswoman now that the dust is settling? Sympathy for Denovo, or victorious fist-pump?

Fist-pump, definitely a fist-pump. And a high-five. With a “Whoop!” for good measure. That guy was an ASSHOLE. I was disappointed by the possibility that Denovo would just rot in jail, and thoroughly pleased when Ms Kevarian killed him instead. Initially I was hoping Tara would be the one to take him down, but what Denovo did to Kevarian was much worse.

And I still like Elayne. I never thought that she was squeaky-clean. Same goes for Tara. I mean, they are lawyers.

 

I did a little checking and the second book in this series seems to feature a whole new cast, though it’s still set in the same world. Do you think this one wrapped things up for Tara, Abelard and company well enough, or are you wishing for more? For that matter, will you read on? 

I’d love to read about these characters again, but I’m satisfied with the way things were resolved. However, I would have liked to know a bit more about Abelard and Cat’s history.

And yes, I’d keep reading. I liked Gladstone’s characters, especially his female characters. He’s also got a really fascinating magical system here, and some wonderful worldbuilding. It’s clear that this world isn’t monolithic either – it’s much more realistic in that different places have developed in their own ways, with their own belief systems and politics. I’d love to see what else he’s come up with.

There were a few things that bugged me – minor issues with the writing that I would have liked to tweak, and details or conflicts that I wanted Gladstone to develop a little further. However, none of this was bad enough to really bother me, and it’s a fantastic debut.

 

Consent and Power

I liked the way the book raised issues of consent and power. There are multiple examples – Cat’s connection to Justice; Tara’s connection to Ms Kevarian; Ms Kevarian’s manipulation of Abelard; Tara’s manipulation of Shale and Cat; Denovo’s connection to his students; Denovo’s use of the Cardinal and Shale; and Denovo’s first experiment with Ms Kevarian, using their sexual relationship to gain power from her devotion. The whole plot is based on the giving and taking of power from others, often without their consent or beyond their control.

One of my favourite scenes was when Raz woke up to find Cat feeding him and criticised her for not getting his consent. What does she know about his feeding preferences? Maybe it’s been years since he drank a human’s blood and now she’s essentially forced it on him. Granted, Cat’s not in total control of herself in this scene, but I don’t think the issue of consent would occur to her even if she had been. She’s operating on the assumption that he’s a vampire, therefore he must want her blood. I think it’s also important to consider that this is not simply about food. In Cat’s first scene, her vampire addiction is strongly associated with sex and drugs, suggesting that giving her blood to Raz is akin to sexual assault or forcing him to take drugs. And lets not forget that she’s doing all of this purely for her own pleasure.

The issue becomes even more tangled when we take into account the fact that Cat only went to Raz because Tara manipulated her. How culpable is Tara? And what if it had been a more serious issue, such as actual sexual assault? I’m also reminded of the scene when Ms Kevarian pulled Tara into a dream without her consent; when Tara questioned it, Ms Kevarian replies bluntly, “You are my employee and my apprentice, Ms. Abernathy. You’ll find there is little I cannot do to you, your notions of the possible notwithstanding.” Tara lets the issue drop, but I was actually hoping she’d wrestle with it a bit more, because WHAT THE HELL?

I think it’s apt, then, that at the end Tara decides that her own actions during the case were too unethical for her to continue working for Kelethras, Albrecht, and Ao. Although I really wanted her to be a kick-ass lawyer for a powerful firm, I admired the way she’d reflected on her actions and chose different path despite the fact that she enjoyed the work. I wouldn’t say that she’s as bad as Denovo, but in her field of work, manipulation does pose quite an ethical conundrum, and I think Tara is wise to think about it carefully before working for the firm full time.

 

Three Parts Dead read-along part 2

Three Parts Dead

Hey everyone! It’s week 2 of the Three Parts Dead read-along, and this part covers everything from Chapter 8 to the end of chapter 14.

Our host is Susan from Dab of Darknessso you can head over to her place for links to the blog hop (although I will also add them to the bottom of my post, once I have them all).

Exciting things are happening in Alt Coulumb, so let me get into these questions:

SPOILERS BELOW!

1) Throughout this section, we learn little tidbits about our main characters: Tara and her time at the Secret Universities, Kevarian and her past works, Abelard and his childhood. What fascinated you the most? 

Tough one… I certainly want to know more about Raz’s relationship with Ms Kevarian, and her role in turning Seril into Justice. It’s ironic how the Blacksuits and the Guardians/gargoyles worship the same entity, and are mortal enemies for the same reason.

I liked the depiction of Abelard’s childhood; I find the mixture of engineering, faith and religion very interesting.

However, I’m glad we finally have Tara’s backstory. I had it a bit wrong, assuming she was the one doing something ingenious but unethical, when in fact she was a victim of Denovo’s brain-drain scheme. Which of course explains her aversion to mind-control techniques and the way Justice can bend people like Cat to its will and insert info in her mind whenever it feels the need. I can’t believe Denovo’s tactics are allowed in Court though; surely that’s against the rules somehow?

 

2) So many conspiracies! Someone tried to burn out some of Raz’s memories, there were super secret contracts between the dead Cabot and Kos and some unknown third party, and Abelard found a hidden altar in the heart of Kos’s church! Do you think they are connected? 

I assume so! Unless Gladstone is throwing out red herrings. I’ve read a few stories where major plotlines turned out to be unconnected, playing on the characters’ and readers’ expectations that they would be connected. Which is interesting in a way, but I do love to see everything come together.

 

3) This question is just for fun & came about from discussion over at Violin in a Void last week. Abelard is a chain smoker and his worship of Kos keeps him safe from any ill effects of said smoking. If there were multiple deities who could protect you from ill effects of different vices (alcohol, illicit drugs, gluttony, etc.), which vice, if any, would you pick? 

My first instinct was GLUTTONY! I will eat ALL THE CHEESE! But being able to indulge myself all the time might actually spoil the pleasure of eating, which, as far as I’m concerned, is one of life greatest pleasures.

Alcohol… no. Where’s the fun in not being able to get tipsy or drunk sometimes? Not interested in drugs or smoking. I enjoy being active, so not sloth.

Ah well, I guess it’ll just have to be lust then. Assuming that “drama” is one of the ill effects I’d be protected from 😀

 

4) Stonemen! Will Tara be able to win over Shale and gain his assistance? Will Justice’s Black Suits face off against them, potentially destroying the city? Discuss!

Stupid Shale! Can’t he see that Tara could help him? I think Tara can handle him, but she’s been fairly successful in her endeavours so far, despite ending up in hospital, so I worry that this time she’s not going to get through the fight without getting hurt.

A Blacksuit-Guardian throwdown certainly seems likely, but at this stage I have no idea how this will all play out. I’m more curious about the THING that Abelard released at the hidden altar, whether Kos will be resurrected, and what Kos will be like if he’s resurrected. Seril became the Stone Men’s mortal enemy when she was resurrected/remade, and that doesn’t bode well for Abelard and his religion.

 

5) The Courthouse of Crafts is a strange place. Feel free to comment on it. Ms. Kevarian tells Tara, last minute, that she will be the one to face Denovo. Calculated way to boost Tara’s confidence? Or a cruel way to test her?

A test, I think, but not necessarily a cruel one. Ms Kevarian is demanding, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call her cruel (yet) and I think she’s too much of a professional to torment Tara for the sake of it. Rather, I think she understands how much of an issue Tara’s history with Denovo is, and she wanted her to face him head on, not giving her a chance to overthink it and maybe cower later. If Ms Kevarian had gone up against Denovo, it may have also have set a precedent of her taking on the bigger battles, and Tara needs to prove that she can handle this sort of thing on her own, not rely on her boss to protect her. And it’s possible that Ms Kevarian simply had more faith in Tara’s skills than her own; Tara nearly took down Denovo before, and she understands how he works.

The Courthouse of Craft – well, as someone who is terrible with direction, I quite like the idea of a building that takes you straight where you need to go!

 

Randoms
 – I love the way Tara keeps psyching herself up for the job at hand, controlling her fear and insecurities. She knows what she needs to do, and she knows how she could fail, so she’s preparing herself for battle. Which, apparently, means reading a lot 🙂 Who said lawyers can’t be cool?

– I’ve wondered a bit about the gender dynamics of this society. It seems pretty egalitarian, but I find it a wee bit odd that they use the terms “Craftsmen” and “Craftswomen” instead of a gender-neutral term like “Craftspeople” or “Crafters”. And there’s a moment when Denovo says “Put not your trust in things, but in men,” then adds “And women” (p.167). So perhaps an egalitarian world that’s only recently evolved from a more sexist society? Enough that we don’t see any discrimination, but the language hasn’t quite caught up yet. Which I find a bit incongruent, but it’s nice to be able to read a fantasy world where it isn’t assumed that women must somehow be considered inferior.

Three Parts Dead read-along part 1

Three Parts DeadApologies to fellow read-along bloggers! I’m a bit late with the first post after having to work on an unexpectedly long assignment for the course I’m doing. But hey, I managed to finish this post before going to sleep, so I call that a win 😀

For those who don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, this is my first post for the read-along of Three Parts Dead (Craft Sequence #1) by Max Gladstone. Like my previous urban fantasy read-alongs (the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch and The Inheritance Cycle by N.K. Jemisin), this one looks like it’s going to be a great read with fascinating, quirky worldbuilding and complex characters.

If you’d like to follow the read-along or participate, you’ll find the schedule here. Part one only covers the first 100 words or so (the Prologue to the end of Chapter 8 [Edit: that should be the end of Chapter 7]), so you can catch up easily. However, this post will contain spoilers for those chapters; you’ve been warned!

Our host for this part is Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog, and I’m going to tackle her questions without further ado:

[Edit: So I stupidly misread the schedule and read all the way to the end of Chapter 8 when I should have stopped at Chapter 7. As a result, this post also includes comments about Chapter 8. Apologies if I’ve spoilt anything for you!]

1. Max Gladstone isn’t holding any hands here, we’re dropped straight into the world (which is a bit ironic given the start – but I’ll get to that) and expected to pick up and run with it.  Are you enjoying the style and, more to the point,  what ‘reveals’ have been the most surprising for you so far?

This kind of style might mean I have to work a bit harder as a reader, but I like it. Getting all the necessary worldbuilidng in a nice, clear infodump can be great when that infodump happens to be an awesome story in itself, but most of the time it’s more like pausing to read a Wikipedia article. So yeah, I like the way Gladstone is building his world as the story develops. I also find it very intriguing – the world is unfolding much like the mystery in the plot, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Surprises? Quite a few!

  • technician monks (interesting combo of engineering and religion)
  • Vampires. Nothing new, obviously, but I didn’t expect to encounter them here. I admit I was a wee bit annoyed when I realised there were vampires, since they’ve become such a cliché, but so far Gladstone has proven himself with great worldbuilding, so I trust him.
  • A yellow smiley face on a coffee mug. Yeah, ok, I don’t know what to do about this one. It really throws me off
  • Smoking as an act of spiritual devotion to a fire god. Which actually makes a lot of sense. I also loved the contrast in the first scene of Abelard doing all his holy monk duties and then lighting a cigarette.
  • Tara’s skills in forensic pathology – very impressive!
  • Abelard being unable to understand the concept of a newspaper. This really says a lot about Alt Coulumb and how it relates to the rest of the world. Some excellent worldbuilding there.
  • Cat being Justice and using her power to awesome effect at the end of chapter eight. Not only does it lend an interesting dynamic to her character (who I’d sort of dismissed as a useful but hopeless junkie), it also makes the Justice more of a grey area (after I’d mostly dismissed them as being authoritarian and therefore probably evil).

2. At the start of the book Tara graduates and is cast out of school (literally from a great height) simultaneously – any ideas about why that might be?

Well, her successful attempt to examine Cabot’s body shows that she’s got a strong sense of curiosity and is not afraid to take initiative. That’s also demonstrated by the way she seems to have left home to study at the Hidden Schools, despite the fact that the people around her were a lot more parochial. So my first guess is that she studied and/or experimented with something that the Schools did not approve of. Presumably she was successful, or Ms Kevarian would not have hired her. However, there’s clearly something very dodgy or at least unethical about what Tara did, based on the circumstances of her graduation and the firm’s reluctance to hire her without a probation period.

It might have something to do with controlling other people. She’s skilled at bringing people back from the dead. Then there’s a moment when she considers taking control of the bouncer, but decides not to when she thinks back on her graduation. Soon after, she’s quick to figure out that someone is controlling Raz. Skills like that would be both highly desirable and extremely controversial.

3. I’m always interested in the magical systems and how they work and the one here seems to almost be a ‘payback’ type of affair.  What are your thoughts about the magical system so far, we do have a dead deity after all, not to mention it appears that regular everyday people can access magic as well as deities. Discuss please (if only to enlighten my tiny brain!)

Gah, it’s after midnight and I’m not sure my brain has the power to enlighten anyone else’s! Also, magic systems aren’t my strong point, although this one certainly does intrigue me more than most. It’s very “lawyerish” 🙂 I don’t mean that in a bad way; if anything it makes the whole profession seem really cool in a way that is somehow more realistic than the flashy lawyer tactics you see in legal dramas. Craftswomen and men can negotiate with the fabric of the universe – or at least that’s my understanding. This allows them to do all sorts of mundane legal magic, but also gives them the power to kill and resurrect gods. In fact, it’s a way for humans to become god-like, with gods and humans separated by the level of their skills. I’m fascinated by the possibilities here.

What also intrigued me is that people use soulstuff for currency, and metal coins are the means of passing soulstuff around, but have little value in themselves. So if you made an excessive purchase or bargain, would you literally be selling your soul?

4. We’re only a third in but how are you feeling towards the characters so far. are you developing any favourites already, any sneaky suspicions of any of the characters or are you loving them all?

The only ones I’m suspicious of are Shale the gargoyle and Cardinal Gustave. Otherwise, I like all the characters so far, and I particularly like the fact that none of them feel like cliches. Abelard seemed to be a typically naïve young monk, until he grinned at the prospect of trawling through vampire bars in the Pleasure Quarter and hooked Tara up with Cat (how on earth do they know each other?). And as I mentioned in the first answer, I’m curious about Cat now that I know she’s also a Justice.

I like the way Tara seems to have risen above the circumstances of her birth, sometimes literally, like when Ms Kevarian is flying them over farms and village and Tara is thinking about how the people down there never saw much beyond their little homes. I think it’s also telling that after she falls from the Hidden Schools, she goes back to her backwater home, making her fall both literal and figurative. And then she is almost chased out with torches and pitchforks… She doesn’t seem to have too much to worry about though; she seems extremely competent and professional; I wish I was that skilled.

She reminds me a bit of Shara from City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett – like Shara, Tara’s skill lies in her ability to think and study, and that makes her powerful and dangerous, rather than any physical prowess or traditional martial art. In fact, Shara might have been inspired by Tara.

And now let me get some sleep while I still can. I’ll go blog hopping and round up the links tomorrow. Or rather, later tomorrow 🙂

Blog Hop! Go see what everyone else had to say:

Heather – The Bastard Title
Susan  – Dab of Darkness

 

The Kingdom of Gods read-along: END

The Kingdom of GodsWe have finally come to the end of The Inheritance Trilogy read-along, and as the host for the section, it felt quite nice to do the last set of questions. To everyone who took part, I have to say I’ve really enjoyed reading and discussing these books with you. I’m also glad I finally discovered N.K. Jemisin, and I will definitely be checking out her other novels.

But right now, I have lots of things to discuss for this last section, so on with the Q&A!

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1. How do you feel about they way the relationship between Sieh, Deka and Shahar developed? How might this affect them as the Three of a new realm?
I was really glad that Sieh’s sexual relationship with Deka went so much better than the one he had with Shahar, but I also felt they treated Shahar rather poorly. Yes, she betrayed Sieh, but it was a mistake she made at 16. Lets not forget that Sieh once considered killing the twins for his own amusement, and massacred a room full of people in response to Shahar’s betrayal. So is Shahar who gets alienated as the person who can’t be trusted?

I felt quite sad for Shahar during the sex scene in the Temple, even though she later puts a positive spin on it by saying they showed her how to love. I couldn’t believe how conflictual the scene in the Throne Room became. Sieh really showed how poor his personal skills were by snubbing Shahar and then immediately showing his love for Deka.

When she dies and becomes a god along with Sieh and Deka, her arrival parallels Enefa’s – joining two other gods who have previously been lovers alone in the universe. Sieh and Deka would only have been alone for a few decades, unlike the millennia Nahadoth and Itempas had, but what makes this worrying for Shahar is that they already have an awkward history. On the other hand, I think they are also mature enough to make a better start, and to learn from the mistakes of the other Three. The idea of being able to create an entire universe is also very exciting, so overall I’m really happy for the new Three.

2. The series as a whole and this novel in particular is full of parents, and child-parent relationships often play major roles in the plot and characterisation. Is there anything that stood out for you? Any other thoughts on the theme?
Before I came up with this question, I hadn’t really thought about how many parents there were in this series, but then it hit me – Nahadoth, Itempas, Enefa, Shahar Arameri, Dekarta, Kinneth, Yeine, Oree, Sieh, Remath, Ahad. Often their relationships with their children are quite disturbing or dysfunctional, although they can be loving at the same time.

One thing I liked about the parenting theme is that it shows how fallible the gods are, and how terrifyingly epic their mistakes can be. Enefa made some particularly poor choices – conceiving a child with Sieh and then almost immediately forcing that child into indefinite solitude. If Enefa hadn’t died Kahl might still be trapped alone. Instead he gets free, tries to destroy the world, and gets killed by his father, who dies in the process. That’s like the worst family drama ever.

Paradoxically, expressions of great love from parents came from unlikely sources. The Dekarta in book 1 loved Kinneth a great deal, even though she left the family. Remath reveals how much she loves both her children, even though she could be incredibly cold. And Itempas, for all his crimes, is shown to be an amazingly loving father, more so than the fickle Nahadoth.

3. Can you sympathise at all with Kahl’s desire for revenge or was it just too insane?
I can sympathise to an extent – left alone for thousands of years, loneliness clearly drove him mad, and he has good reason to be very, very angry.

But, what I would have liked was an opportunity to sympathise with Kahl’s insanity a bit more, if that makes sense. We hear very little of his own perspective, and I wanted to know a bit more about his experiences, feelings, and how he could settle on such a devastating plan of vengeance. We know the gist of it, but I wanted a bit more nuance. As it stands, Kahl doesn’t inspire any strong feelings in me, which is disappointing when compared with Itempas, one the major antagonists from book 1. Even though Itempas only made a short appearance at the end, I had very strong opinions on him.

I liked Kahl’s plan to destroy the Tree and harvest enough bodies to power the mask though. Horrific, but smart.

4. “Nature is cycles, patterns, repetition.” What do you think of the way this idea plays into the plot and worldbuilding?
This series has often blurred the lines between gods and mortals, particularly in the way they all get so tangled up in the same kinds of personal problems. It makes sense then, that the lines are further blurred by the possibility of transformation for god, godlings, demons and humans. It means the mythology of this world is still being written. Even the gods don’t understand how everything works and it may be thousands of years before they learn more.

Given that Sieh, Deka and Shahar have a troubled history, their relationships as a new Three will no doubt be just as tumultuous as the relationships between Nahadoth, Itempas and Enefa/Yeine. I doubt anyone will get enslaved, but I think there will still be lots of drama.

5. Are you satisfied with the way everything turned out?
Not entirely. I’m glad there’s a happy ending for most, but there are lots of little things that bother me. How could it not occur to Sieh or anyone else that Kahl would use the mask to become a god? The Three could have reunited for the day to hunt him down. Instead they reunite only to address Sieh’s problem, completely ignoring a major cosmic threat. As I mentioned, I would have preferred to know more about Kahl, and if he’d been captured there would have been an opportunity for that. The sky-battle was cool, but not as satisfying as I’d hoped.

Why didn’t Sieh, Deka and Shahar try using their newly discovered powers to do something about Kahl? Especially after Remath’s revelations.

Glee seems so badass when she goes to battle Kahl with Itempas’s sword. Sieh suggests she’s deadly because this battle will be about more than just strength, and Kahl himself wavers at the sight of her. But then shortly after Sieh says Glee won’t last long and sure enough she tumbles to the earth without having achieved anything. I’m very glad she survived and lived happily ever after with Ahad though.

Sieh’s sacrifice makes sense in that it’s the first properly mature decision he makes, so it suits his transition to godhood. On the other hand, his plan is also based on deceiving Kahl (still the trickster) and instead of facing up to fatherhood he kills his son, obliterating the problem rather than dealing with it. I know that, at this point, there’s no other hope of stopping Kahl, but the whole thing could have been written differently.

I’m glad the world’s power structures change, and Kahl’s actions actually turn out to be useful in this regard – the world was easily united by the tragedy he caused rather than going to war.

I think it’s good that the Three were reconciled early, even though Itempas managed to avoid many centuries of punishment. However, it seems he got off because he fulfilled the clause about learning to love “truly”, and this makes no sense to me. Based on Shahar’s understanding, Itempas was freed because of the love he showed for Sieh after his death. However, this doesn’t mean he learned to love truly – as Glee explains, Itempas already loved Sieh very much. He loved all his children, and his love was powerful and constant, unlike Nahadoth’s. He loved Oree too. So he didn’t learn anything. In fact, I don’t think he needed to learn anything about love, but needed to develop his other personal skills. The sorrow he expressed was a result of his love for Sieh, not the first instance of love, so why should that save him? It would have made more sense if they had simply chosen the benefits of reconciliation over the satisfaction of punishment.

6. Now that we’ve finished the series, what do you think of it as a whole? How does The Kingdom of Gods compare to the first two books?
There are many things I love about this series – the mythology, the psychologies of the gods, the worldbuilding, the relationships between gods and mortals, the spirited narrators, the moral ambiguity, the plot and character development across the three books, the inclusion of so many major POC characters, the fluid sexuality, a blind protagonist in book 2, the way politics is entwined with personal stories… And that’s just the major things. Throughout my reading there will little details that impressed or simply amused me.

I particularly enjoyed the way the story of the Gods’ War got more and more layered as the series progressed. It was a great piece of mythology at the start, and it got fleshed out as we heard different perspectives on the story. We learn that it was never a simple case of good vs. evil as it seemed at the start.

However, The Kingdom of Gods is my least favourite of the series. It’s a good book, but there are too many different things going on, and too many details that bother me, most of which I’ve already discussed in the previous questions. I was really enjoying it at the start, and then it got a bit chaotic.

Other
– Echo Palace sounds amazing! I want to live in a place that cleans itself and makes whatever food or clothing I want.

See what everyone else had to say:
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The Kingdom of Gods read-along part 4

The Kingdom of GodsHi everyone, it’s week four of The Kingdom of Gods read-along, covering chapters 14-17. Our host for this section is Gabriella from Book Bound, so be sure to head over to her place. Here’s what I had to say for this week’s questions:

 

1. Nahadoth said “You cannot remain in mortal flesh much longer. It’s changing you” to Sieh. Do you think Nahadoth knows what is happening to Sieh? And what could happen to Sieh?
If Sieh’s problems are caused by Kahl being his son and coming out of hiding, and of Sieh regaining his memories of creating Kahl with Enefa, then no, I don’t think Nahadoth knows about it. If he did, he’d probably have murdered Kahl to keep Sieh safe. He might also try to preserve the secret of Kahl’s creation.

His words suggest that he wants Sieh to stay the same, whereas characters like Nsana think Sieh needs to change.

 

2. Sieh half-dies and suddenly comes back with some other magic (something about the universe or other). What do you make of it & why is it only Shahar, Dekarta and Sieh that remember?
That was certainly surprising. I thought Deka would have the power to heal Sieh with his magic alone. But hey, this is much cooler and now we have an explanation for what happened on the Nowhere Stair all those years ago.

I wonder why the three of them have this ability. Sieh says it’s possible for a demon to be more powerful than a godling, so is that the case with Dekarta? What about Shahar? She hasn’t displayed any magical abilities. And why does it still work with Sieh as a mortal? Would it be possible with other combinations of godlings and demons?

I assume only the three of them remember the event because it was their magic that caused it. They altered reality so for everyone else there’s no other version to remember. When Yeine spoke to Sieh in his room though, she seemed to suggest that she knew what had happened.

 

3. What do you think of Yeine’s offer to Remath?
It worried me a little. My first thought was dictatorial power changing hands, rather than the world changing for the better. Why does Yeine want to be worshipped? What will this do for her?

However, it might be that Yeine simply wants the Arameri to worship her because of what it means for the family – a fundamental change in their behaviour. She is all about balance and growth, while Nahadoth is chaotic and Itempas is too resistant to change. By taking her as their patron goddess, they will adopt completely different ideas about power, hierarchy, childcare, religion, race, etc. And I’m reassured by the fact that Nahadoth and Itempas seem to be content with this plan.

 

4. Thoughout the whole book, but more in the last couple of chapters, we’ve seen the Arameri have become more human-like, and especially Remath has been more emotional. Do you think they’ve always been like this or that there is some trigger that is making them behave differently?
I don’t believe that they were genetically predisposed to be assholes, but I do think that their power and culture had an extremely powerful influence on their behaviour and ensured that the most ruthless people came out on top. Based on Sieh’s appraisal, I’d say it’s only since they lost the Enefadeh and T’vril made changes that they started acting differently. Their vulnerability meant they had to change or fall.

I think a lot of their previous behaviour stemmed from hiding their true feelings, so in some cases they changed simply by allowing themselves to show those feelings. Remath’s love for her children reminds me of Dekarta’s love for Kinneth. Shahar’s softness reminds me of Relad.

 

5. The Echo Palace has been built! And Shahar and Dekarta are “safe”. Why do you think Remath is abandoning the normal source of Arameri power?\
As Remath said, the masks that sent “nigh-unstoppable creatures” to kill them, are everywhere. Without realising it, the Arameri have been surrounded by enemies and they are all in danger. Moving immediately to a secret location is a very practical solution and thanks to Yeine, it’s a very simple solution too.

 

6. Sieh has just left with Itempas, Nahadoth and Yeine… How will they save him?
Well, if the Three come together they become omnipotent, so presumably that will give them the power or knowledge to save Sieh. I don’t have any guesses as to exactly what they will have to do, but I believe in Spider’s prophecy, that Itempas is the key. Maybe she just means that Sieh has to accept his help, agree to the plan of Itempas becoming one of the Three for a day so they will have the power to save him. And maybe, if saving Sieh means getting him to accept his son and grow up, then maybe he can learn something from Itempas who, according to Glee, is a good father and loves his children no matter what. Perhaps Sieh has been like Nahadoth for too long – impulsive and chaotic. If he is to grow up, he needs some of Itempas’s stability.

My only concern is that it might ruin Sieh’s friendship with the twins, but now that they know a bit more about their powers, perhaps they can work around that.

 

Other
– Ah, at last, an explanation for what happened in the Nowhere Stair. And I really like the idea that Sieh, Deka and Shahar (unwittingly) altered reality to make the oath possible.

– I thought Glee’s depiction of Itempas was quite touching – he loves his children, and mourned his demon son because he’s a good father and does not love any less if his children are mortal or hate him. She’s also did a nice job of summing up our knowledge of the God’s War so far. Now we just need to know the details of Sieh’s role in deceiving Nahadoth and Itempas.