Getting Lost Is Exactly What I Needed

Last week was a struggle for me. With being sick, and still being weak during recovery, I quickly developed cabin fever and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. By the time Saturday hit I was climbing the walls, but still too tired to actually accomplish anything or go anywhere (not that I could go anywhere anyway, because apparently you’re still contagious for up to a week after symptoms go away). I told my husband while fixing some dinner that if I had to find something else to watch on Netflix again then I would feel like killing myself (in jest; I’m not suicidal and all true suicidal feelings should be taken seriously). He suggested I read instead.

Kasey thought I should read the fantasy series I bought a few months ago with my birthday money (see: A Barnes & Noble Pilgrimage). I told him I couldn’t, because I had a plan. A plan to read the books I already owned, like my neglected classics. Then it occurred to me: my plan was stupid. I definitely wasn’t in the mood to read my classics, and I’ve really been wanting to read the new books, and why was I keeping myself from reading something I really wanted to read?

I started on the first book that night, Furies of Calderon of The Codex Alera by Jim Butcher. I’ve written several posts about Jim Butcher, all centered around a series I loved called The Dresden Files. I loved them so much, when I learned Jim Butcher wrote a true fantasy series, I bought the whole thing without so much as knowing what the story was about. And when I finally started reading them Saturday night, I was hooked. I’ve finished 2 books so far, Furies of Calderon and Academ’s Fury, and the only reason I haven’t started book 3 is because I need to actually do things with my life other than sit on the couch and read for 12 hours straight (which I did on Monday).

I’ll admit, the series isn’t as good as I expected it to be. I love it, and I’ve been completely drawn in by the story, but the numerous mistakes I’ve noticed are distracting and disappointing. Almost immediately, the book like it hadn’t been edited for punctuation. Some of the sentences don’t feel like real sentences, and there are commas everywhere, way too many commas, and in places that it doesn’t make sense to have a comma. It makes me wonder if he was in such a rush to publish that he didn’t take the time or use the right people to iron things like this out. The next big one is continuity errors. Nothing major, but they’re still there. For instance, when describing a street in the capital city, on one page the street is named Craft Lane and on the next page the street is named Crafter Lane. And, the main character is tasked with stopping a thief, who he later refers to in passing as the Black Cat, although that name hasn’t been previously introduced.

As I said, these mistakes have no bearing on the overall story, they simply lessen my experience and highlight the flaws all authors have. A lot of them were probably changes the author made during writing and editing, and they didn’t get caught before the book went into publication.

Nevertheless, I’m completely engrossed in the story. I feel like I built it up too much in my head, expected too much from one of my favorite writers, and that’s nobody’s fault but mine. It’s a beautiful story, and I can’t wait to finish it (over the course of the next 2 weeks, because each one is 600-700 pages, and that’s a lot). And, drowning myself in a new series is exactly what the doctor ordered to lift my mood and pull me through the remainder of my quarantine.

Alice in Wonderland

I wrote a post a few months ago now, and even though I looked, I can’t for the life of me find it to link to it. But, in it I described my plans to stop reading whatever I feel like and take some time going through the unread things I already own on my bookshelf.

I started with Tolkien, and The Children of HúrinI’m working through The Silmarillion, but it’s slow going. Not that it isn’t interesting, but, like its predecessor, it reads more like a history book than a story, and it’s difficult for me to spend long in it at a time.

So, I changed tactics and started on my classics. Tuesday I read Alice in Wonderland. Yup, straight through, and it only took me a couple of hours. And, I have to say, I wasn’t impressed. I may have read it when I was younger, I truly don’t remember, but some of the story was familiar and a lot of it wasn’t. But there wasn’t much I liked about it this time around.

I know there have been many commentaries and interpretations done for Alice in Wonderland, but I haven’t read any of them and I don’t intend to. I’m really not interested in double meanings or literary examinations. I’m interested in the story. And there was a lot in this story I found completely unbelievable.

Namely, Alice’s attitude. Here she is, wandering through an unknown land, and being incredibly rude. She walks right into people’s houses. She interrupts people. She argues with them. She demands answers and explanations to questions that are none of her business and have nothing to do with her.

Alice also takes everything completely in stride. I understand that it’s all happening inside her head, but while she’s experiencing it she believes it to be real. Yet, she shows no true fear, which isn’t normal in a 7-year-old. Alice walks right up to strange creatures, loud noises, people she’s already been warned are insane. She eats and drinks strange things just to see what will happen to her, over and over again.

I understand this is a children’s story, and meant to be fun and entertaining and light, so a lot of the strange ways Alice acts can be partially excused. But her arrogance and rudeness I think are completely out of line, and I don’t think she’s written very well as a character. I really don’t understand why Alice in Wonderland is considered a classic.

The Children Of Húrin

I’m finally back into a mostly-regular routine, and that includes getting started on my self-imposed book list. Top of the list are three J.R.R. Tolkien titles that I bought almost a year and a half ago for my birthday, and haven’t gotten around to. Last weekend I began The Children of Húrin

First, a little history. It took Tolkien more than a decade to create the world of Middle-Earth and write what we know today as The Lord of the Rings. In the course of this massive project, he created many races of people and wrote complex histories for them. He wrote their languages. Elvish may look and sound like gibberish, but it has rules and vocabulary and grammar just like any language spoken today. The majority of these tales didn’t make it into the trilogy, but they’re vitally important in influencing those events. Some are referenced in the appendices, but not every detail is included.

The events in The Lord of the Rings occur in the Third Age of Middle-Earth.  The Children of Húrin predates these events by thousands of years, occurring in the First Age. The book reads more like a history than a story, at least, stories like I’m used to reading. But the history itself is fascinating, and has helped to expand my understand of the later stories.

Probably the most shocking for me is that Sauron is not the ultimate evil in the world. Sauron began merely as a servant of Morgoth. Morgoth is the central “villain” in The Children of Húrin, as his evil spreads and he attempts to conquer the Men of the North. Morgoth himself is one of the Valar, the beings who created the world, making him essentially a god. His evil grows too large, and the remaining Valar step in to overthrow him and bind him in chains. 

I’ve also always wondered about the elves fleeing Middle-Earth. Why are they leaving? Why now? Where are they going? Why will they be safe there? Most of those questions are answered in this book. Turns out, the elves didn’t originate in Middle-Earth. They appeared there in the far east, and were summoned by the Valar to come west to the land of the gods. Here, the elves branch into several categories, which I won’t go into detail on. Basically, some went, some went and later came back, and some refused the summons and decided to stay. I’m unclear as to why all of the elves eventually leave, unless their continued absence from the Valar causes their powers to weaken.

Much of this information I learned from the preface and introduction to the book, written by Tolkien’s son, Christopher. It seems when he died he left several incomplete manuscripts behind. Christopher Tolkien is working to fulfill his father’s wishes that these stories by published in their entirety, and is attempting to publish them with little editorial work, preserving his father’s words and voice.

Talk to me in the comments. Are you familiar Tolkien’s more obscure works?

Divine By Blood

I finished P.C. Cast’s Divine By Blood this weekend, and I can honestly say I have no intention of ever reading these books again. It wasn’t terrible, truly, I know a lot of people who would probably enjoy it. They’re casual readers, who enjoy light reads and don’t have the same high standards for their books that I do.

If you’ve read my other posts on Divine By Mistake and  Divine By Choice, then you’ll know that I’ve had my reservations throughout this entire trilogy (and, even though it is a trilogy, I’ve had a hard time finding an exact name for it). Even though I was hesitant, I was still a little excited about the third book because it was the only one I hadn’t read before. Once I started, though, I had a bit of a hard time getting into it. I made it halfway through and had to stop for the night, and it took about a day for me to convince myself to pick it back up again.

Overall, my concerns with this one mirror my concerns with the others. The main character, Morrigan (grown-up daughter of Rhiannon), experiences extreme changes in a matter of days and has reactions that I don’t think are believable. She was raised in Oklahoma, and found out about Partholon only hours before she gets drug through a cave and into the other world. Despite this, she is perfectly content to stay in Partholon and take up a new role as priestess to a goddess she didn’t even know existed.

She meets Kegan (a centaur High Shaman who is the mirror of her crush, Kyle, from Oklahoma), and in less than 2 days they’re pledging their love for each other and deciding to get married. Seriously. Nobody falls in love in less than 2 days. Lust, yes. Love, no.

These faults aside, my main issue is with the overall structure of the book. It doesn’t simply tell Morrigan’s story. As the last book in the trilogy, it spends time wrapping up Rhiannon’s story, Shannon’s story, introduces and tells part of Shannon’s daughter, Myrna’s, story, in addition to telling a complete story about Morrigan. It’s a lot to juggle, and it’s a bit messy. I feel like these pieces were simply thrown in to wrap everything up in a neat little bow without giving the stories due diligence or attention.

Morrigan’s story also mirrors Shannon’s, almost exactly. Little details are different, but the basic arc is the same. As I already mentioned, Morrigan is pulled through to Partholon to find herself priestess to a goddess she didn’t know existed. She decides to stay and take up this role with no desire or attempt to find her way back home. There’s one character who knows the truth about where she came from (Alanna for Shannon, Birkita for Morrigan), and coaches her through her responsibilities so she can “fake it till she makes it”. She falls almost instantly in love with a centaur High Shaman, seamlessly adjusting to the fact that centaurs exist.

During her whirlwind relationship with Kegan, they share conversations that are nearly identical to conversations had by Shannon and ClanFintan in Divine By Mistake: Centaurs are real. As a High Shaman, they can shape shift into human form, so they’re perfectly capable of mating with human females. Centaurs run hotter and have more stamina than either a man or a regular horse. Shannon/Morrigan is hesitant about touching the centaur, but is won over by their boundless lust. The act of riding the centaur (like a horse) is an act of extreme intimacy, and is used to draw Shannon/Morrigan in close. It makes sense that new characters would need to learn these things, but it’s painful for the reader, who already knows them, to have to reread everything again.

It’s obvious that I’m not impressed with these books, and my opinion of them has steadily gone downhill with each subsequent one. I will still carry fond memories of Divine By Mistake, since it is quite a unique story and I have good memories of my first time reading it. I’m glad to have read all of them, if only to broaden my reading experiences and have books in this category that I actually have negative opinions of. It was a good learning experience.