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Kelsey Jefferson Barrett

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.

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“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…]

Like a Riptide, S. M. Wheeler’s Sea Change Takes Readers Much Farther Than They Expected to Go

I’m honestly not sure how to review S. M. Wheeler’s Sea Change (excerpt here). It’s a bit like trying to review a poem, or a piece of music; descriptions seem to fall short of the actual experience of reading it, and the themes are subtle and made to be absorbed slowly.

On the surface, Sea Change is the story of a girl named Lilly and her friendship with a kraken named Octavius. When Octavius is captured by traders and sold to a circus master, Lilly must embark upon a quest to free him. Lilly is told that she must obtain a magical coat to exchange for Octavius’s freedom, but the coat maker is dead and his (presumably magically) animated corpse is being held by bandits, so she must sell her services to the bandits’ captive witch in order to rescue him. Add in a troll from whom the price of directions is high indeed and the beautiful dark-wife who would consume the circus master’s soul—and Lilly’s to boot—and you have a recipe for one incredible story.

[But none of that tells you what the story is truly about.]

A Choice Between Darkness and Light: Siege and Storm

Last year, I ended my review of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone by demanding that Bardugo hurry up and write me a sequel, and I am very pleased to report that she did. (Although I am sure it had nothing to do with me.)

Siege and Storm picks up merely a few weeks after where Shadow and Bone left off, and Alina’s role in the course of events has expanded to take a broader and more world-driven perspective, which allows the reader to see the plot unfolding on a global scale. With the truth about the Darkling exposed, he has become an enemy of the Ravka and has clear designs on the throne. Meanwhile, Alina must decide where her place is. Should she run, and try to hide herself in the mountains of some foreign country? Should she return to Ravka and serve the King in the fight against the Darkling? Or should she surrender to the connection between them, and take her place at the Darkling’s side?

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Believing in Magic is Believing in Yourself: Terry Brooks’ “Imaginary Friends” from Unfettered

A special five story preview of Shawn Speakman’s epic fantasy anthology Unfettered will be released at Phoenix Comicon this Memorial Day weekend. This week, we’re taking a spoiler-free look at all five stories, many featuring new glimpses of our favorite fantasy worlds.

I read Terry Brooks’s Shannara trilogy when I was pretty young, and if I’m being honest, I don’t remember them all that well. But I do remember how much I enjoyed reading them. I remember liking Allanon best and imagining that he would appear at my house one day and tell me that I was descended from a magical line of elves. I remember being inspired by the idea that a magical world could be our distant future, rather than a mythic past, and using colored beads as my elfstones.

I wish I had gotten my hands on Terry Brooks’ short story “Imaginary Friends” back then, too, because I would have adored it.

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As Beautiful as the Fey: Magic and Romance in Tina Connolly’s Ironskin

I was actually already through two-thirds of Tina Connolly’s Ironskin, before I realized that I was reading a fantasy version of Jane Eyre. Of course, to anyone paying attention, this fact is obvious; the story centers around protagonist Jane Eliot, who comes from London to a country house on the moor to become a governess to the daughter of Edward Rochart. I suppose I can only plead the fact that I was so caught up in the magic of Connolly’s world that I hardly noticed anything else. The fey of this magical England are mysterious and imaginative, and if I have any complaint about them, it is that I wanted more.

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