Monday, May 16, 2016

The Elfstones of Shannara

I am moving right along through Terry Brooks' series into the second book The Elfstones of Shannara. That's right second, even though the cover now says book 1. It hurts my book related OCD! Anyway that rant aside I really enjoyed this one, yep more than the first. I think the Ellcrys tree is maybe the coolest thing about this series! I love the idea of that level of protective magic and I think Brooks has created one of the most harmonious & peaceful depictions of "the ultimate sacrifice". 

It did take me an embarrassingly long time to make some of the generational connections between this book & the last one. But once I got there I really enjoyed that aspect to this series. I read somewhere that The Count of Monte Cristo (by Alexander Dumas) was an influence over his approach to this series & I feel like you can tell. In a very good way. Most (not all) series only show us the one generation in which the story takes place, but this multi-generational approach really shows you the effects, both good & bad, that the events of previous books had on the world. 
I of course was was excited to see Allanon again, and was please that Brooks made evident the toll that his magic takes on him. It eliminates the idea that magic has no consequences & I really like that. I was intrigued by the introduction of the wing riders. I'm really hoping to see that again & hopefully in more detail. Will was very likable, maybe even a little more than Shae. Not sure, the jury is still out one but I enjoyed reading sections told from Will's perspective. His personal discovery & struggle with the Elfstones was well written to, I think most people can relate to the feeling of having one of our characteristics hold us back from where we need to be, even if we don't want it to. This book left me satisfied in terms of the adventure it took me on but also left me wanting more of this world. I am really excited to see where Brooks takes this in the coming books! 

The Sword of Shannara

I will be totally honest I started reading this series because I saw the first episode of the MTV adaptation of this series. It seemed kinda good and I thought, "well if I don't read it now I probably never will." So off I went to the book store to find Book 1, only it took me like 3 trips & some internet research to find the correct book to start with. Terry Brooks not only wrote a prequel to the first trilogy but he also had them put "book 1" on the second book after the show premiered because the show starts with book 2. Talk about confusing! 

After I finally started reading The Sword of Shannara turned out to be every bit the high fantasy series I wanted it to be! The writing style reminded me a bit of Tolkien, only with less poems. Particularly when there was long stretches of traveling and description of the country side. I really enjoyed that it felt big, right from the beginning. The history is long & rich, and there are enough characters/races to fill it. I think Allanon was my favorite character because he is equal parts caring & mysterious. There is so much about him that we don't know and It has to be interesting! Also it becomes clear that he is one of the few characters that will be constant for a while in this story. For the majority of the characters the final chapter was our goodbye to them. 

The Sword it self was fascinating to me. I found how it worked very interesting and wondered what  kind of reaction I would have to the power of the Sword and having to face the truth about myself. It was also interesting that so many magical objects appear to be tied to this one family. I found myself wondering (having watched the first episode) how that power will be preserved as the elvish blood diminishes. Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was all the parallels to our current world & the conflicts we are facing today. Brooks makes it very believable that this world was created out of the collapse of the current world we live in. Yet he never comes out and says it directly so that is still left up to the imagination of the reader. 

As with most first books in any series there were parts that dragged a little but it was very clear that the description in these portions were pure world building and they were super interesting despite their slow moving nature. I would definitely recommend The Sword of Shannara to a fellow fantasy reader! Maybe even to someone that hasn't read a lot of fantasy & would like a good series to try.

The Great Harry Potter Reread - Part 2

Several months ago my book met to discuss Sorcerer's Stone (SS) & Chamber of Secrets (CoS). This very exciting gathering we talked about The Prisoner of Azkaban (PoA)!! Now this was my favorite book of the series all the way up to the point where it was almost (but not) knocked to second favorite by Deathly Hallows. It remains to this day my favorite so know that any of my own opinions will certainly be biased. 

We got together & chatted over food, and covered a great many of topics! As before I will highlight some of the major discussion points and some of the more interesting comments that were made. 

Book vs. Movie

This time around we spent way more time comparing the books to the movies. I suppose this it makes a little sense. PoA was bigger than the first two books by at least 100 pages but the movies were roughly the same length. I won't lie this is my least favorite movie due to some casting disagreements but also largely due to the fact that so much of what grabbed my attention in this book had to do with our four favorite mischief makers. We all agreed that you don't really get the gravity of what meeting friends of his parents really meant to Harry. You also don't get from the movie just how deep the betrayal of Pettigrew went and how much it hurt everyone that knew the Potters. Obviously there are other differences but those were the big ones that kept coming up as we talked. 

The Marauders!

We love them!! All were in agreement. It was obviously nice to learn about them because it helps fill in some of Harry's personal back story & as the main character it's important we feel like he is 3 dimensional but lets face it the Marauders are just fun. They are quirky, quick witted & always up for adventure. There are so many adventures a reader can imagine they had but never get told in the books! Ahhh to have a book on the Marauders. Specifically we compared James & Sirius' conflict with Severus to Harry's conflict with Draco. It was agreed that while James & Sirius were arrogant ass hats as teenagers, they probably didn't spend a lot of time thinking about how to be mean to Severus. They created a magical, interactive map of the entire castle & grounds AND learned how to become animagus in 4 years. They were too busy to be seeking out conflicts with someone they saw as no consequence to them. Before everyone gets all mad at me, I'm not excusing how they treated him, but it is likely they were ass holes of opportunity more than malevolent bullies. Which is far different from how Draco thinks of Harry, he does a lot more active plotting against Harry. 
Another thing we talked about with regards to the Marauders is how Lupin is probably the only one that actually grew up. James & Lily died relatively young. We don't get an exact age but one can imagine it's their early 20's since wizards are done with school at 17 and most people don't settle into their adult personalities until their mid to late 20's. Peter spent most of his adult life as a rat hiding from his past not moving on with his life. That leave Sirius who never really grew up because he spent most of his adult being emotionally traumatized in Azkaban. We see great evidence that this is true later in the series. Where as Lupin grew up, had to process through the grief of losing 3 friends, and started a profession. We all felt like Lupin would be the best teacher ever & were really sad that he had to leave. We felt that one with Harry. We questioned what James & Sirius might have been like as adults had the been allowed to actually become them. 

And Their Map

For all their good and bad points we can all love the Marauders a little bit because they gave us one of the most fascinating magical objects introduced in the series. The Marauder's Map! Now I know I'm a little odd, but I also know I'm not alone, I love maps! LOVE THEM! I love world maps, city maps, fantasy maps (usually found in the front of the book), all the maps! Side note: I also love castles & exploring them. So when JKR gave us a map that is comprehensive of the castle, it's grounds, and all the secret passageways I about lost my shit. Then to top it all off you could see everyone who was in the area covered by the map. So now I could not only imagine myself exploring the castle to its entirity guided by a wonderfully detailed map, I could imagine myself being a wizard spy! There was a legitimate 5 min or more spent gushing about how cool the map is and how appropriate it was that the twins found it. Mischief Managed!

Patronus or Animagus

Just as we talked about what our wands & houses would be with the first two books we definitely spent some time on talking about what our Animagus forms & Patronus would be. As we went back & forth on this topic someone brought up a wonderful point, what is the difference between what form your patronus takes versus what your animagus form is. Here is what as decided:
An Animagus is you only as an animal. Everything in the story suggests that this form does not change, this is why the ministry is able to track Animagus based on their markings, which resemble the physical form of the person as a human (McGonagall's glasses). Given that this form is fixed it should being representative of who you are as a person. 
A Patronus is a protective spell that is drawn from important happy memories, the stronger & more important the memories the more effective the Patronus. What is important to us, and the emotional attachment we place on memories changes and grows as we change & experience more. We experience this in a first person perspective with Harry as he has to process through changing what memories he uses at times to produce his Patronus & in a third person perspective when we find out that Tonk's Patronus has changed form. We felt that Patronuses were more a reflection of your inner emotional state.
For those of you that are curious I decided my Patronus would probably be an owl & my Animagus form would likely be some kind of larger cat, maybe a hawk, but probably a cat

Darker & More Serious

This heading was for a laugh because we joked about how the Trio actors said this about every single movie in interviews! Seriously though JKR's writing did evolve as the series progressed with each book. We discussed how PoA is the first big step in that direction, there wasn't much difference in the writing level & style between SS and CoS. For the first time you get the grander scale of the world & character development took the forefront.Harry starts to get more concrete pieces of his past and as he starts adding to the puzzle we as readers get to see his point of view change. It's not just him versus Voldemort once a year at Hogwarts & anymore, his picture of the Wizarding World becomes more complex. As a first time reader I remember just being excited that I was being given more, but as I am rereading (for the millionth time lets be honest) I can see how the change in writing style & the character development she began in this book really started to lay the ground work that made major events later seem more realistic & plausible.