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Kelsey Jefferson Barrett

Reading The Wheel of Time: Mistrust Fractures the Fellowship in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 5)

Robert Jordan has talked about how he intended for The Eye of the World to include some reference and homage to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and since these resemblances have often been remarked upon (sometimes positively, sometimes less so) by readers, it seems fitting at this moment to circle back around to the themes I addressed in the first week of this read. Then, we talked about questing stories and the formation of a fellowship. Now, it is time to talk about what happens when that fellowship is inevitably broken.

[Let’s get to the recappin’.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Dreams and Prophecy in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 4)

The use of prophecy and fated destinies is pretty intrinsic in epic fantasy. The tradition of prophecy as a plot device in western storytelling goes back at least to the Greek epics, if not farther, and although different authors have different approaches, the theme of characters having a glimpse of the future and choosing if and how to be motivated by it runs through many of today’s great fantasy tales. But the idea of time and existence as a turning wheel adds a specific flavor to Jordan’s universe, and it’s one I’m very interested to see play out.

Welcome back to week four of Reading The Wheel of Time! I’d like to do something a little different this week; I won’t be covering any new chapters, instead I’d like to look at the dreams Rand has had so far, as well as exploring what we know of the prophecy of the Dragon Reborn and going back to look at the Prologue, which I haven’t actually covered yet. I’ll be making some observations about how prophecy plays a role in epic fantasy as well as seeing what I can predict about dreams and visions and how they may affect our heroes’ futures.

[To dream, perchance to die?]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Fiery Magic and Icy Distrust in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 3)

Dramatic irony is a tool used by authors, often to increase suspense or to set the scene for a future action, in which the audience knows something that the characters don’t. Like when Romeo doesn’t get the message about the Priest’s plan and thinks Juliet has actually died, but the audience knows the truth and can only watch, helpless, as he kills himself to be with her. Dramatic irony can be employed in a variety of ways in stories, but sometimes an aspect of dramatic irony can be created that is outside of the author’s control; like if you’re watching an action movie and the hero thinks the bad guy has been defeated but the audience knows there’s still almost an hour left in the film, guaranteeing at least one more battle scene. Or when Mat decides that he and Rand and Perrin have escaped the Draghkar, “if it was ever really after [them]” and that they don’t need to go to Tar Valon after all. Meanwhile the reader is shaking their head thinking, Oh, honey. We’re only 180 pages in! Of the first book! But Mat is kinda cute anyway, and his role as the Peregrin Took of the party is about to become even more obvious.

Welcome back to week three of Reading The Wheel of Time! We’re going to cover the stay at Baerlon today, and watch Mat (and Rand) figure out how to make everything just a little more dangerous for everyone. There will be new additions to our cast as well (more ladies, hurray!) and the narrative will begin to show us just a little more of what the One Power can do.

[Onward to the read!]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Separate But Not Equal Magic in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 2)

So there are clearly some old-school gender dynamics going on in the world of The Wheel of Time. High fantasy stories generally tend to; it’s an assumed-inevitability of the ancient European type settings many such tales enjoy. But The Wheel of Time has something a little different than those other Tolkien-esque tales do; a set-up in which the very driving force of creation is made up of two parts, male and a female, which by working in opposition to each other turn the the eponymous Wheel of Time.

What does it mean to have not just societal convention but the very essence of creation dictating the qualities and roles of men and women in this world? I have a few thoughts.

Hello friends! It’s week two of Reading The Wheel of Time, and I’m here to talk about what happens when your magic system (and the very fabric of existence) is broken into distinct male and female halves. I’m guessing this is going to be something I will want to revisit later in the read, but I’d like to get started with some initial impressions and predictions of what might be to come. Those of you who already know how this all plays out can continue to enjoy knowing more than I do, but don’t forget to watch your spoilers! [On to part two of the Reading of The Eye of the World!]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: A Boy Leaves Home in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 1)

Welcome to the first installment of The Reading of The Wheel of Time! I’m Kelsey Jefferson Barrett, and despite my lifelong love of high fantasy and the fact that I have fantastic librarian for an aunt who was largely responsible for my education in both science fiction and fantasy, I somehow never managed to pick up any of The Wheel of Time books before now. So rather than a reread, this series is going to be me reading Robert Jordan’s novels [insert dramatic announcer’s voice here] For The Very First Time!

I’m going to try to avoid spoilers in these articles as much as I can, but feel free to talk spoilers in the comments. That way those who already know and love The Wheel of Time can have fun of watching my reactions as I discover the mysteries, the characters, and the magic of these books. This week’s installment covers Chapters 1 through 9.

When I was in undergrad, my favorite writing teacher said something about fiction that has always stuck with me, both as an aspiring writer and as a reader. All stories, she said, start one of two ways: a stranger comes to town, or a boy leaves home.

[Now, without further ado, I give you the very first installment of Reading The Wheel of Time]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

The Grisha Trilogy Reread: Ruin and Rising, Part Three

Well my friends, this is it: the last installment of the Grisha Trilogy Reread.

I forgot how much more there was to get through in Ruin and Rising, so I hope you all don’t feel like I’ve glossed over too much. There’s so many themes coming together here at the end, still more death and loss, questions about fate versus choice, and the idea of power and long life weighed against an ordinary existence.

[And just what is ordinary, anyway?]

Series: The Grisha Trilogy Reread

The Grisha Trilogy Reread: Ruin and Rising, Part Two

So what do you call a love triangle with four players, instead of three? A love rectangle? Maybe some kind of three-pronged love star? I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the ships for Alina and the Darkling, Alina and Nikolai, and Alina and Mal. When you look at reviews for The Grisha Trilogy you see a lot of discussion about this topic, and while sometimes people’s favorite relationships are just between the two characters that they like best, there’s a lot of debate out there about who Alina belongs with.  Who is the best match for her, as it were. And I think that this question is more interesting for Ruin and Rising than it is for a lot of other YA novels and series, because so much of Alina’s life is about fate. The chance of being a Sun Summoner, the way in which the amplifiers change her from a (relatively) normal Grisha into something mythic and strange and new—all these things affect the romantic relationships she has much more than her personality or tastes really do. And in this final book of the trilogy, more than the other two, Alina has finally become aware of that fact. I think it’s as clear to her as it is to the reader that Mal is the person she really loves, but she is looking at her destiny in a new way this time; she is realizing that she might be too much like the Darkling for that to work even if she still wanted it, she is seeing her relationship to Nikolai in a new and more complex way, and she is starting to accept that Mal may not be what is right for her, even if he is truly what her heart wants.

The question of choosing love over power is a central one for the Darkling and Baghra in Part Two of our reread, but it is an even more interesting journey for Alina throughout Ruin and Rising.

[Now let us go see what future Alina will chose.]

Series: The Grisha Trilogy Reread

The Grisha Trilogy Reread: Ruin and Rising, Part One

Welcome back once again to The Grisha Reread! It’s kind of hard to believe we’re already on the third book, kinda like it’s a bit hard to remember that it’s only been two years since Alina unleashed her power on the Fold to save Mal’s life. I always have trouble keeping track of timelines in the novels I read, but I’m pretty good at tracking symmetry. Let’s see how that sacrifice and that love work out for our intrepid orphans in part one of Ruin and Rising.

[We can even discuss the perhaps too obvious symmetry of a story about the struggle between Darkness and Light.]

Series: The Grisha Trilogy Reread

The Grisha Trilogy Reread: Siege and Storm, Part Two

Oh my saints, Vasily is an annoying person, even before he destroys the country. But you all knew that.

Welcome back to the Grisha Trilogy Reread for part two of Siege and Storm. It’s time to sit through long political meetings, make alliances (for good or ill) and have the best laid plans of man and Grisha laid to waste by jealous idiots. This is a long one folks. Things are getting real in Os Alta.

[Let us dive right into the price of power and the weight of loneliness.]

Series: The Grisha Trilogy Reread

The Grisha Trilogy Reread: Siege and Storm, Part One

Welcome back to another week of Grisha infighting, political intrigue, and fancy mythical creatures brought to life (and then immediately killed). It’s The Grisha Trilogy Reread! This time we’re covering the first half of Book Two: Siege and Storm.

I think my favorite thing about Siege and Storm is how we get more main characters in the story. In addition to Alina, Mal, and the Darkling, we get to see much more from Alina’s Grisha friends and acquaintances, we get a brand new mysterious frenemy who is also a pirate who is also a prince!

[Set sail for adventure on the high seas and then a lot of political talk.]

Series: The Grisha Trilogy Reread

The Grisha Trilogy Reread: Shadow and Bone, Part Two

Hello and welcome back to the second half our our reread of Shadow and Bone, the first book of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. Today we’re going to pick up where I left off last week with Chapter 14 and go right on to the epilogue.

Looking back on last week’s reread, I was thinking about the characters that didn’t get much or any of my attention; characters like Zoya and David and Ivan, who are important to the book, but moreso to the series in general than in Book 1. All three of those characters come up in this week’s reread, but they still don’t seem as important to the themes of the book and Alina’s journey as they could be. Or maybe I’m just too busy fawning over the parallels between Alina and Genya’s circumstances and trying to decide how much sincerity lurks beneath the Darkling’s lies and sultry ways.

[Now, let’s go hunt a mythical stag, shall we?]

Series: The Grisha Trilogy Reread

The Grisha Trilogy Reread: Shadow and Bone, Part One

Hello there, Tor dot readers, and welcome to the reread of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy! I did the reviews for the first two books here on, so I’m pretty excited to be back to enjoy them a second time with all of you.

This post will cover chapters 1 through 13 of the first book in the trilogy, Shadow and Bone. Obviously there will be spoilers ahead, including mention of events that occur in later sections or later books as I consider craft and foreshadowing and things like that.

So, what is it about these books that so many people love? Is it the characters? The Russian flavor added to the fantasy world? The elemental powers of the Grisha? Or something else? I remember how much I loved the books when I read them, but it has been awhile, so this question is one of the things that I’d like to explore as I read them a second time. I’m especially interested in how the character of the Darkling reads to me on the second go-round, both in the sense of how the mystery is constructed as well as how much the character appeals. The pull between Alina and the Darkling is such a crucial element to the story, and I think one of those things that readers really responded to when the books came out.

[Alright, enough talk. Let’s get to summoning.]

Series: The Grisha Trilogy Reread

Slinging Drinks and Slinging Magic: Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger

Are you one of those people who feels awkward around bartenders? Are you embarrassed because they clearly know so much more about alcohol than you do? Or do you perhaps you get the feeling, as they serve you up the perfect gin gimlet or rye old fashioned, that this smiling purveyor of all things intoxicating has an amazing secret, and that you should be humbled to even be in their presence?

If you answered yes to these questions, I can tell you that your instincts are spot on. If you didn’t, well, you should take another look at that tip percentage, friend, because Paul Krueger is here to let you in on a little secret. Bartenders are secret super heroes, and Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge will tell you the whole story.

[Read more]

“The Tales and Songs Fall Utterly Short of Your Enormity…” The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Kelsey and I went to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at midnight, and between our ice cream nibbles and a lot of shrieking managed to cobble together our general thoughts so you can find out what you’ve got to look forward to. And we have to say, despite some additions that weren’t too thrilling, if you’re going to miss one of these Hobbit movies, this one shouldn’t be it because HOLY SHIT DRAGON.

Ahem. Let’s get down to it.

[Non-spoilers to follow.]

Spiders, Bear Men, Bowmen, and Crises of Elvish Conscience—What We Might See in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

We don’t have to wait much longer for the next installment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. While An Unexpected Journey met with some very mixed reviews from die-hard Tolkien fans, it was a box office hit and pleased a lot of people. If nothing else, the adventure and action sequences of The Desolation of Smaug promise to be even more exciting.

The trailer is setting us up for a film that looks more action-packed and suspenseful than the first. Gone are the scenes of White Council debates, to be replaced by Bilbo sneaking through the spiders’ lair and sucking up to Smaug, and where we had dwarves running from goblins, now we’ll have of battles in which the elves gracefully slaughter them bad guys in droves. Helped along by Legolas’s flashy knife tricks. And what else are we likely to see?

[The Elvenking and Two Towers parallels…]