Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Wheel of Time reread: "The Path of Daggers" by Robert Jordan

Since I have had few days of vacation this week, I was able to finish "The Path of Daggers" sooner that I planned. Looks like I will be finish with the whole "The Wheel of Time" series just in time for "Memory of Light". That book is coming out at the beginning of January, but it will arrive at my place around month later.

With less than 650 pages, "The Path of Daggers" is the shortest book in series. "The Shadow Rising", "The Fires of Heaven" and "Lord of Chaos" were all around 1000 pages, so this is quite shorter. "A Crown of Swords" is somewhere in between. PoD, as CoS, also takes short time in book-time, around a month. There are four major plot-lines. After killing Sammael and conquering Illian, Rand believes himself on a roll, so when he finds out that Seanchan has again arrived, he decides to personally deal with them, leading the first Asha'man army. Connected to Seanchan: after finally being able to find the Bowl of Winds, Elayne and Nyneve travel from Ebou Dar, accompanied by Atha'an Miere and Kinswomen, with plans to use it and stop Dark One's meddling with the climate. Egwene is still slowly traveling with rebel Aes Sedai toward Tar Valon. But her biggest problem is not Elaid or myriad other difficulties lurking in world, but the fact that no one considers her the real Amyrlin Seat. Lastly, we have Perrin and his large retinue (including both Faile and Berelain) are slowly traveling Gheldan, trying to reach Queen Alliandre, and to the Prophet of Dragon Masema before he is able to do even more harm. Crisscrossing the book are several other, shorter POVs: Elaida, other Aes Sedai, Forsaken, even Seanchan.

As you can see, there is not Mat in this book. I guess this is fair, since Perrin was missing from "The Fires of Heaven" and Rand (almost) from "The Dragon Reborn". But that doesn't mean that I am happy for it. But there is nothing to do except to read until the middle of next book, "Winter's Hearts".

This is the darkest Rand's section, at least until "The Gathering Storm". This is why I said that Light is slowly losing from Dark after SR, FoH and LoC - whatever their successes are, Rand is getting madder and darker. This book has most quiet ending till now, and also the saddest, at least Rand's part. I always liked Moridin's POVs, especially the one in PoD's prologue.

Here ends one large Nyneve's and Elayne' part. Elayne will get another long plot-line (Andor's Succession), but Nyneve will not have a definite plot-line (even though she will have important parts). I must say that humor when they are escaping Ebou Dar feels a bit forced, especially with Alise and Nyneve.

Egwene has a great part; she really outmaneuvers them all. It is a good section to read, whether you know the outcome or not. Her part in next few books will be the same.

Also, this is a real start of Perrin's POV. There are fans who don't like this part, the Shaido. It is not my favorite either, but I don't really dislike it. Especially this time, at least until now.

I've said it already, but Aes Sedai are really sure that they know everything - so I enjoy when they are turned over their heads. But most of their POVs are very interesting.

Well, a short review for short book. "The Path of Daggers" is a darker book than its predecessors (maybe its successor also), but I enjoyed reading it. If only Mat was in it...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Wheel of Time reread: "A Crown of Swords" by Robert Jordan

I finished "A Crown of Swords" only few days ago, so I hope this post will be fresher than previous, "Lord of Chaos". I still can't believe that I have lost a finished (and good) post so abruptly. But, I should focus more on the book.

"A Crown of Swords" is the first book in series that takes the same time as another book ("Lord of Chaos" in this case). It is also much shorter book that its prequels (less than 750 pages) - but neither of its sequels is longer by much, if not shorter. Another interesting fact, this book takes very short time in plot-time: some nine or ten days, I think. Which doesn't mean that there isn't lot of going on here, only that it is thicker. There are several plots. Rand is trying to deal with problems that arose from his capturing in "Lord of Chaos", and with his trauma from it. After several books of waiting, he finally enters a romantic relationship with Min. Perrin has a lot of coverage, in the first part of the book, but more as a narrator than as active characters - I almost forgot that he even was in this book. Egwene also has few chapters, but they are clustered so that I thought it was only one or two. Both Perrin's and Egwene's plots really take place in further books. There are also some chapters from isolated characters (Elaid, Alvarian, Forsaken...), but almost a central plot-line of this book is in Ebou Dar, including both Mat and Elayne and Nyneve.

This book has one of longer prologues, but not ridiculously long as they will be in some other books (e.g. "Winter's Heart"). Here we are introduced to Alvarian as major bad player - one of few POVs from the evil side. Also, Alvarian is one of only three successful and capable bad characters (other two are Moridin and Shaidar Haran, maybe Padan Fain). On the other hand, we have Elaida's POV- for a supposedly good characters, she does more evil that all other Forsaken together. This series is full of people with lots of misunderstanding of the world about themselves, but Elaida is somewhere at the top of them.

We have a very complex and interesting beginning: Asha'man vs. Wise Ones vs. Aes Sedai. We follow Perrin for some time as the beginning, but as I said, more as narrator. He provides few funny moments; well, him and Faile and Loial.

Egwene's part is starting to get interesting with all that maneuvering and politicking - but it is very short in this book, only few chapters. This will be rectified in future books, so we can look at this like just a treat before the main course.

We get first POV from Aviendha (I think), but more important, we are introduced to Cadsuane. Even in her first appearance, she is absolutely irritating. I don't think I felt sympathy to her once in whole series. Another who makes first appearance here is Moridin - long time no see.

Of course, the best part of the book is Ebou Dar, and mostly because of Mat. Mat's and Elayne's/Nyneve's mutual misunderstandings are hilarious. Elayne's and Nyneve's chapter when they finally overcome their problems is also very good. When you look about it, nobody is really fair to Mat (Nyneve, Elayne, Tylin,...).

Another great chapter is the one with Rand, Padan Fain and rebels, even though it contains Cadsuane.

In conclusion, even though "A Crown is Swords" is a different book from previous three (shorter, several unfinished plot-lines), I really enjoyed rereading it, especially the Mat's parts.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Movie review: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

This weekend I went to watch "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" with my girlfriend. I must say that I missed all the hype about this movie. I was almost unaware of it until it was out, and even then didn't paid more attention to it. On the other hand, in some ways I considered it as given that I will go to watch it. But in this way I was very pleasantly surprised.

For those few who don't know anything about the movie, "The Hobbit" trilogy ("The Unexpected Journey", "The Desolation of Smaug", and "There and Back Again") tells a story before "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Bilbo Baggins is a young hobbit, living a peaceful and prosperous life. So prosperous that he becomes stale and priggish for his years (60, the middle years for a hobbit). Suddenly his everyday life gets abruptly interrupted by wizard Gandalf and 13 uncouth dwarves. The dwarves are set on journey to free their homeland (the Lonely Mountain) from dragon Smaug, who took it over from them some long years ago. They are in a need of a professional burglar, and Gandalf has chosen Bilbo, who is far away from being burglar as is possible to be. After some convincing and some songs, Bilbo is convinced and their start their journey, where they are awaited by many adventures...

This last sentence sums this movie pretty well. Contrary to LotR trilogy, which was a big epic fantasy, "The Hobbit" is an obvious light adventure fantasy. There is a big goal in future (killing a dragon), but we don't even see the dragon in this movie. Instead, our heroes go on a journey, find some clues and build up for larger adventures. It is really a classical fantasy, which I don't mean in any diminutive way, because I really enjoyed the movie. There is also some history in it (of the Tolkien's imaginary world Middle-earth) and some explanations that help to put this movie in context of LotR. At the same time, they give it hidden epic proportions, if you are familiar to LotR.

For the hard-core fans of the books, "The Hobbit" will be a thrill. I haven't read the book in some time (ten years or more), but I have read it a lot of times before, and I think that it follows the book surprisingly truthfully. I can list only two real changes from the books: Azog and Radagast. And even these are based on the book and fit in the spirit of the movie. All other changes are minor, like the meeting of the White Council (which happened off-screen in the book), or history tales (that are actually part of the LotR appendix). But considering all, "The Hobbit" follows its literary counterpart more truthfully than it was the case with the LotR. At least for this first movie; we will see when next two come out...

There is one thing that will maybe bother some viewers, especially the stiff ones: Radagast the Brown. And his rabbits. It is obviously put here for the kids. But I found it quite funny actually, and I think that it was fitting for this kind of movie. If someone tried to put something like this in LotR trilogy, it wouldn't fit so well (even though that LotR books have Tom Bombadil), but here it felt almost natural.

I haven't watched many 3D movies (I tend to avoid them), but "The Hobbit" was the first movie to impress me. Few times I actually flinched. I was also impressed how they made stone-giants and goblins, even better that I imagined them. Production of the movie was really on high level.

In the end, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" was a great movie, both for fans and non-fans. It is thrilling, funny and interesting through all two and a half hour of movie. I can't wait for the next two movies ("The Desolation of Smaug" and "There and Back Again") to come out.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Wheel of Time reread: "Lord of Chaos" by Robert Jordan

Wow, I just realized that I completely forgot about this post. I was already preparing the one for the next book, "A Crown of Swords", and accidentally saw this unfinished post. I read "Lord of Chaos" more than two weeks ago (I am currently reading "The Path of Daggers"), but I had very busy two weeks and trip to Budapest for the weekend in between (pleasure, not business; and the trip was great).

In "The Fires of Heaven", we have seen Rand take hold of both Cairhien and Camelyn, and in "Lord of Chaos", he will try to solidify his take. We are introduced to two very important, but non-POV characters: Marshal-General Davram Bashere, from Saldea, and Mazrim Taim, an ex-false-Dragon, also from Saldea. These are probably the first two willing followers of Rand, but while Bashere's loyalty is pretty much undoubtable, Taim will become one of most mysterious characters in the series. We will also see Rand's official first interactions with Aes Sedai, both official White Tower and rebel Salidar Aes Sedai - and it won't end well. Egwene, who has become almost Aiel while apprenticing to the Wise Ones, will be in big shock after she is commanded by Salidar Aes Sedai to join them immediately. Elayne and Nyneve are still in Salidar, but not feeling relieved for it: they possess too much secrets, including the one about Moghadien. Perrin will again become a part of series, and Mat will assert himself more, both as farmers-become-leaders.

I always liked the beginning of this book: Rand's sword-training, Bashere's humor, first meeting with Taim... As I said, Taim becomes a very mysterious figure - only in "The Towers of Midnight" we will see some clear clues about what is going on with him in Black Tower. Rand is feeling much on the rise in this book, even though he is in for some smaller shock, and one big. Love the chapter when Alanna bonds Rand and the Two Rivers' girls are scarred of him, even though it is hard on him. Even more so can be said about the final chapters about Rand - they are great, but are really traumatic for him. Nevertheless, these are some of the most powerful chapters in series. They will make problems for him and more in next five books. We also get the first mention of cleaning of saidin.

Nyneve and Elayne few chapters here, but they are not really really important, more like a preparation for next stages. Except when Nyneve does the impossible. Egwene on the other hand has a transformation as big as Rand's. I was very surprised the first time when I read it. She benefits much from her time among Aiel. I wasn't much thrilled with her parts with Gawyn, though.

Mat in this book is great again, pure and simple. This is where he becomes my favorite character in series. Not that really much happens with him, but Jordan wrote some great jokes with him. Especially the part when he arrives to Salidar. As I said, Perrin appears again in series, but his part start really at the end.

There are some good jokes about humor and jokes, especially about differences between normal and Aiel humor.

While writing this post, I realized that I have written it once already! And I wrote it better last time, while it was fresh. It looks like Blogger reverted my post to earlier draft version - either that or I had best déjà vu ever! So I am sorry if I don't sound coherent in places - this lost post has mixed up much, especially since it has passed two-three weeks from it. So don't let my bad post spoil "Lord of Chaos" for you, because it is one great book.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Wheel of Time reread: "The Fires of Heaven" by Robert Jordan

Another book in my WoT reread done: "The Fires of Heaven". As I said, I find "The Shadow Rising", "The Fires of Heaven" and "Lord of Chaos" quite similar: the size, split plots and characters, chunkines... Also, despite the ominous titles, things are going seemingly well for our heroes in these books.

Since there is no Perrin's POV in this book, we have two main clusters of characters. Rand is leading our Aiel from Aiel Waste for the first (real) time, and he is followed by Moirane, Lan, Mat and Egwene, and of course Aviendha. On the other side of the world, we have Nyneve and Elayne, followed by Thom and Juilin, where they unexpectedly meet Galad and some other familiar characters. And there is also trio of Min, Siuan, Leane, accompanied by Logain, as they search for the rebel Aes Sedai, but their part is smaller, and it later combines with Nyneve's and Elayne's.

This time I noticed how cleverly Jordan introduced Lews Therin Telamon inside Rand, and how he made Rand gradually accept him. First we have ideas that are indistinguishable from Rand's, then we have few shy thought, and in the end we have him trying to take over Rand's body. And it is presented so normally that we don't even see what dangers will this put Rand into in future.

Egwene's parts are OK, but nothing I found impressive. It is good for her to find her own strengths (even though the way of this found was a bit unfair toward Nyneve), but here is also the source of the problems between Rand and Egwene. I like her part in later books and what she does, but when I look at her relationship toward Rand, I can't help myself but to feel angry. I am talking about her (Aes Sedai) perception that she knows what is better for him that Rand himself. Oh, she is right in many things, but she also thinks that he MUST be guided for his own good. In some ways, she is worse than Cadsuane. And I hope that the forthcoming "Memory of Light" will solve the mess with Seals.

Mat's part is great and full of fun. It is nice to see his new skills come to fore. Battle scenes in Cairhen (both from his and Rand's perspective) are pretty well written.

If you haven't read the series, don't read this paragraph, because it contains one big spoiler for next few books (even though much of this will be forshadowed, and has been already, in books themselves). I am following Leigh Butler's much more detailed reread on And it happened that I read this part with Moiraine's death in this book at the same time I was reading about her rescue mission. It was a bit strange....

I didn't like much Nyneve's and Elayne's part in previous book, during their stay in Tanchico. But here they are much, much better. I especially liked Nyneve - she is hilarious in this book. But she is also awesome - and you can drive parallels between her now and Mat later, how they both think little of themselves. When we are talking about them, while I was reading the end of the book, I somehow thought that Egwene joins them immediately in Salidar at the beginning of next book, "Lord of Chaos". But as I started reading LoC, it looks like I was mistaken.

Another thing to note is the triple action pack at the end of this book: Moghadien, Lanfear and Rahvin - it was very impressive.

There is not much more to say except that "The Fires of Heaven" is another great book in the "Wheel of Time" series.

Curiously, it was pretty tiring to do a reread of "A Song of Ice and Fire" this spring, and it had only four books (plus one new one). I am currently on sixth book of WoT, and don't feel any lack of interest.

Another thing: while browsing on WoT and tFoH, I found these two drawings (source) of Lews Therin Telamon with young Forsaken, and Rand with now older Forsaken. I even managed to guess most of the Forsaken (not sure which one is Rahvin, Asmodean and Bel'al). Anyway, they look pretty good.