Posts tagged ‘reading’

The Crippled God: In which Steven Erikson is the best some more.

This is not a review. Mainly because then I’ll have to go re-read the entire series again in the light of this book, and I don’t think my stomach can take it just yet.

Also: there be spoilers here. Many. Maybe. I’ve not written ’em out yet, but I did draw a spoiler dragon that I’m dying to put up somewhere.

spoiler dragon

First thing: What a thoroughly excellent book The Crippled God is. Steven Erikson is such a nice man: he doesn’t clear his throat, stick his nose in the air (as well he might, as the writer of many millions of really good words) and be all “Ahem. Here is my existential treatise you guys. It’s full of doom and gloom with brief flickers of hope and some redeeming moments of compassion. Make sure you accord it proper respect.”

Instead he writes it into this tightly-plotted, suspenseful story that’s bursting with strange characters, random machinations, giant battles, creepy bits, funny bits (The first time Tehol Beddict shows up, in a Brys flashback, I giggled so loudly that the auto guy slowed down on the Ring Road so as to turn back and look worriedly at me.) and insanely miserable bits. He even manages to sneak in bits so maudlin Dickens would be iffy about them. And it is fully awesome.

Over the last nine books, Erikson has introduced us to about eight hundred characters, each oozing all kinds of kindness and nastiness and plans and general coolth. Shoving them all into this book’s giant convergence means that whoever your favourite ones are, you probably feel a bit short-changed. I, for one, would’ve gladly skipped most of the other sub-plots if it meant more Quick Ben/Kalam, Hellian/Urb and Shadowthrone/Cotillion. The vast amount of plot also means fewer jokes, and less random sitting around and complaining — I’ve read lots of reviews of Malazan over the years, that are less than thrilled with all the verbal back-and-forthing in the series, but I’ve always loved Erikson’s conversations. He is at his best when he has two characters playing off each other. There’s a reason all my favourites come in pairs. Then there’s Erikson’s sibling thing – eighty percent of everyone’s troubles have to do with their siblings, somehow. I was a bit disappointed we didn’t see Quick Ben’s sister in this book, actually. He’s so loony and untouchable, and she’s one of the few characters who really upsets him, that you know them hanging out together would’ve been priceless.

I was also slightly let down by the great coming together of all the plot points – mainly because I didn’t want them to. I love the way the series is full of these loose canons randomly ricocheting off each other and somehow getting stuff done. The knowledge that some of them were actually, to some extent, controlled, made them much less fun, I thought. The other reason this upset me is ‘cos I liked Shadowthrone and Cotillion being snide, devious, awful people – retrospectively, their greater cause, while noble and all, made every time they appeared in the previous books cackling ominously a little bit childish.

*  *  *  *  *

Kaminsod (the crippled god’s real name) is my new favourite word. It’s a sneeze and an oath. “Kaminsod that cook,” the Duchess might say elegantly to Alice, choking on her soup and shunning her baby. “Why’d she put so much pepper?”

Or: “Kaminsod and bebother those dwarves!” Bilbo Baggins could huff when Thorin and co. invade his house and eat all his food.

Or: “You and your kaminsodden collection!” one could whuffle at one’s favourite dust-connoisseur friend in a moment of anger.


April 2, 2011 at 3:20 pm 3 comments

in which i am point-y

1.  Calcutta is dirty, smelly, humid and utterly charming. Like one of those large licky, copiously shedding dogs that sort of knock you over and then stand over you with their mouths open and tongues dripping, simultaneously stinking at you and licking you with great affection. I wouldn’t want to live with one, but meeting one  for a few days is one of life’s major joys. Mine anyway. I dunno if it was the company (sadly I cannot link you to the two other people I really wanted to put here because they both think blogs are peculiar and meant for other people),  or the big ancient buildings, or the metro, or the food, but I loved Calcutta. I wish I’d had more time for book-shopping and jazz-listening. And LP hunting. Calcutta struck me as just the kind of wonderfully junky place where there’d still be piles of LPs.

2. It’s official: Bangalore is what causes my permanent cold. All of last week I was an easy-breathing, hankyless person. Not one sneeze. I felt like someone else.

3. So you know how awesome it is that wordpress lets you know intimate details of your visitors’ private lives like where they got their link to you from, and what precise combination of words fed into a search engine led them here? Today (ok, not today today. This post has been languishing in my drafts folder for a while, waiting for me to draw it a suitable animal) I logged in to find that not one but two (two! two!) people got here by using for their search that delicate, evocative phrase “donkey sex lion”.  I hooted hysterically for 10 minutes. I now want to cry, as I imagine all my fond literary aspirations being trampled on by a reputation for bestiality.

4. You know how some people talk about the book that changed their life? Then there are the people who’ve read more than one book.

Books, I have always found, are sociable people, and like company. The important thing is to read and to be reading – a continuous thing, implying that one has read in the past, is doing so nowish, and will continue to do so in the future.

Compare swimming. One doesn’t swim one breadth and declare: I have swum. It changed my life. One swims many breadths, many lengths, perhaps a lake, and says ‘I swim’ – or if you are desperately enthusiastic, ‘I like swimming.’

5. I love listening to Nick Drake on rainy days.

6. When we were small,  my sister and I went to a million music classes. We kept making excuses to stop taking them, on account of how they seemed (at the time) a terrible waste of our evenings. Plus I hated having a high, weedy voice. When I talk, it’s sort of inaudible and nondescript, but when I sing I attract bats. I wanted (still do) a deep bass full of fire and brimstone, something awe-inspiring and magnificent. As ever, my desire for grandiosity was matched only by my complete lack of skill. My singing voice was, I felt, more suited to a rabbit. I’m not sure what my sister’s hang-up was, since her voice was distinctly deeper than mine (but then the squirrel on the tree outside my window has been known to have a deeper singing voice than mine) but clearly she too had some vast singing shame, and we sulked in wondrous togetherness. It was the one thing we always agreed upon. Our lack of enthusiasm must’ve been contagious, because sometimes the teachers also made similar excuses and never came back.

And sometimes, our (oh so cruel!) parents would line us up and ask us to sing at random relatives.  We’d valiantly not look at each other, and start off ok – both of us have a respectable sense of tune. A line later (before the song could go high and my falsetto could sneak out) — and in my memories our embarrassment threshold was so neatly aligned that we never did need to look at each other for confirmation — we would just stop. And one of us would say very firmly, ignoring my parents’ fond promptings: paadiyaach. (“I’ve sung”. Past perfect, indicating that there would be no more singing in the future. We hoped.)

Apparently adulthood has made me no better at ending things.

August 25, 2010 at 4:22 pm Leave a comment


I am reading Notes from Underground. It’s been a while since I read Dostoevsky, and I cannot begin to express how taken I am with this book. I had forgotten what happiness there is in reading something where every single word is so utterly right, for the very first time. Yes, first existential treatise and all, but for me the joy I get from the proper-ness of the words more than makes up for the bleakness of what they’re saying.

There are very very few writers who can go an entire novel without striking any false notes. And usually false notes are directly proportional to intensity of story. But not so Mr D, whose tongue-chewing excruciatingness (the scene in which the Underground Man goes to meet some old schoolmates made me long to crawl under the bus seat and hide from all people forever) is matched only by the perfection of his prose.

This book is a freak of nature,
I tell you.
A yali among books.
But handsomer.
Far handsomer.

January 20, 2010 at 10:32 am Leave a comment

Wonder Woman – in which there is much (more) ranting

Dear DC Animated Universe People, I am going to be very mean now. And the reason I am going to do this is because I watched your Wonder Woman film. There was nothing wrong with the plot or the story, so you can stop worrying. What did annoy me greatly was the women in your film, which is clearly not something that you’re very fussed about. But if you’re feeling low and sensitive, and easily-upset today I suggest you not read any further.  If you try to sue me I will claim that my mind is unhinged.

I’ve always been a little iffy about Wonder Woman. I suspect everyone is. As the major female character in DC, WW is thoroughly weighed down by the need to be every kind of hero for every kind of woman, and every kind of man. And as if that’s not enough, she also needs to be a every kind of heroine, just in case we manage to forget for an entire second that she’s, y’know, a woman.

The distinction between a hero and a heroine, in my opinion, is a narrative one: the hero is the person who is making the journey; the heroine is the person who inspires the hero to make and complete that journey: sometimes it’s waiting at the end of the maze, sometimes back at home, sometimes it travels with the hero providing sympathy, food, advice, weapons, clues, inspiration, and generally being helpful. Please note that the hero isn’t necessarily a man, just as the heroine isn’t always a girl.  This is why when they are not attached to a specific character, I am calling them both “it”.

In Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle, the strands of hero and heroine are thoroughly mixed up. The story is told from Sophie’s point of view, and the eccentric Howl functions both as the person she aspires to be, as well as the person she aspires to be with. Howl is written as nice-looking, and as conscious of the fact: Sophie has been aged into a small, round, shapeless person, who keeps house of Howl. Howl is n full control of his (pretty impressive) magic powers;  Sophie (SPOILER!) isn’t even aware she has them, but acts, anyway, with compassion, honesty, and loyalty. Both Howl and Sophie, therefore, give each other something to aspire to. And both of them sustain each other with advice, jokes, food and shelter.

Wonder Woman, unfortunately, isn’t allowed to do something as simple and obvious as this. She is both the ideal woman Steve Trevor aspires to be with, as well as the person who must find and destroy the bad guy, with Trevor’s misogynistic nagging as her only support.  No one ever asks Batman to be Boy Scout and Dark-and-Angsty and Pointy-Boots-Barbie at the same time. But Wonder Woman is so busy being everything everyone in DC has ever expected of a superhero, PLUS bludgeoning the reader’s eyeballs with her breasts and boots (“She is a woman with a lasso! We are Progressive! Fetish Ahoy!” DC incoherently shrieks in every frame), that she has no time left in which to even create an archetype for herself, let alone the option to be one actual person. Not surprisingly she is a black hole of character suckitude.

Even on good days, DC isn’t terribly good at women. But they have outdone themselves this time. The Amazons are all little puppets with labels saying cheap things like “Butch!” “Bookish!” “Woman Scorned!” “Bitter Spinster!” Note to DC: The Amazons are an entire society of warrior women. Ergo: a) they will all be built differently from each other b) they are terribly likely to be muscular. Not necessarily all bulked-up, as some of them will be lean and sinewy instead. And it’s perfectly all right if some of them are stout, or short, or wiry-looking. Using a single template-body for an entire people is stupid. At one point the Amazon army is actually described as “supermodels in armour.” (probably by Steve Trevor but I lack the courage to check) I nearly stabbed myself in the eye with a blunt pencil. If you KNOW that they look like clothes hangers rather than warriors then why did you DRAW them like that in the first place? I honestly prefer the giant-breasted Diana in some of the comics – at least she has some muscle. This lot looks like they don’t even have bones.

As with most DC animated films, the backgrounds and battles are beautiful. Lovely colours, nice movements, some exciting fights, a dragon – all good things.

The film tries terribly hard to give Wonder Woman some character by making her a lot harder and more steely than she is usually written, which I like in theory. (I’ve always found it a bit silly when the comics try to convince me that a) Diana is a Warrior and that b) Diana is this super compassionate pacifist Mother Teresa figure and c) Diana is a supermodel. Stick to one archetype DC morons.) I was sort of charmed by her teaching a little girl how to injure her playmates with a sword. It was wrongheaded, yes, but it was one of the few “Diana-is-an-Amazon-and-is-therefore-puzzled-by-Man’s-World” moments that rang true for me. Also endearing was when I noticed she was fighting barefoot in an alley. Clearly someone on the writing team has tried throwing a kick in giant heels, I thought.

But these moments are soon crushed by the demands of the idiot plot: Diana needs to kill Ares, and Diana needs to kiss Steve Trevor. And so all Diana’s potential complexities of motive and selfhood are just ignored while she does the important business of bashing and making out. In the end, while Diana had to become this has-car-doors-opened-for-her girl, Trevor gets away with being exactly the same cheerful misogynist he is to begin with. He fell for Diana because she has a nice rack, and he continues to hang out with her for that exact reason.

There’re frequent and gross shots of the Amazons’ body parts in battle. Women dying in battle should not be about sex. No one dying in battle should be about sex. (And this applies to pretty much any fight sequence you have ever had, DC). Trevor, of course, does exactly this: “That was hot!” he leers as Diana finishes a fierce fight. Not strong, not quick, not skillful, not smart, not saving-his-life-awesome. Hot.


By the time the film ended and Diana had left her island (Which DC is determined to tell us full of bitter spinsters. Trevor actually calls it “chastity belt island” at one point. Diana looks lovelorn. I looked nauseous.) to stay with gross Trevor carry out her Mission of Peace, I was beginning to think she deserved him. Clearly this particular WW wants what every woman ought – in DC’s opinion – to want: a self-absorbed man to condescend to her constantly.

That this is the lot which gave us Harley and Ivy, high on my list of comfort TV (Also on the list:  Jeeves and Wooster, Monty Python, lots  more of this particular animated Batman, most of Buffy, Season 1 of Veronica Mars, some of Firefly, Merlin, Season 1 of the new Dr Who, some Arrested Development) makes me very sad indeed.

December 17, 2009 at 10:24 am 2 comments

newness: in which I try my hand at honesty

First honest thing: I find wordpress a bit intimidating. I think it’s the sleekness. Blogger was sort of cheerful and goofy. It had low expectations and didn’t seem to mind whatever I said, even if it was awful. WordPress’s grey posting page has a steely, business-like look about it.


Honest thing number 2: I wanted to hate Brandon Sanderson with a deep and dreadful hatred for being the non-Robert- Jordan person to write the end of the Wheel of Time series. But really, in some very specific ways, I think Brandon Sanderson may just be a better writer than poor Robert Jordan. Not a better plotter, and not a better world-builder, and not even necessarily better with character (more on this in a minute), but in sheer ability to make the now huge and cumbersome plots actually move. Remember that thing called urgency that Robert Jordan decided to forgo way back about Book 8 or thereabouts in favour of more Sea Folk customs and more low-necked green dresses slashed with yellow? Brandon Sanderson is all jumpy with urgency. And I have to sort of cheer him on for it. He clearly wants to get to the Last Battle (hint to BS: maybe spreading it into three books isn’t the best way to accomplish this?) and start the big bloodshed that some of us have been anticipating for almost a decade.

Other Wheel of Time related, possibly less true things:

1. Poor poor newly-pointless Mat, who has been my favourite person in the books all along. Give him a plot someone. Even a tiny little battle would do.  And stop trying to write him like the Wheel of Time’s sub-par version of Tehol Beddict. He used to have his own personality, remember? Ditto Thom.

2. Egwene finally justifies her existence! *drumroll* Even if all her adversaries did seem to just crumble without her having to try too hard. Still. I liked the way her civil disobedience thing played out.

3. If Perrin and Faile don’t die in the last book I am going to be very very upset. They are stupid and whiny and turn plot-gold into straw without even trying.

4. I’m not yet done digesting the many and strange metamorphoses of Rand al’ Thor. I am suspending judgement until the last book.

5. I can finally say I like Nynaeve. She has always been one of those borderline good characters for me. Sometimes she was so sneaky and clever and yelled satisfyingly at characters I disliked. The rest of the time she sort of collapsed internally and based her entire self-esteem on ugly clothes and strange power games and blamed every single person for her own stupidity. And then Robert Jordan would have some random person yell “Brave-as-a-Lion Nynaeve” and expect me to ignore the evidence of the last 300 pages.

I am happy to finally have her sensible and efficient and doing actual things.

5. The entire Aviendha plot-line annoyed me. She always comes off looking interesting from other people’s points-of-view, but her own is a bit boring. This is true for many of Robert Jordan’s women – their actions are admirable, but he doesn’t seem able to correctly describe the internal processes that end up with them doing those actions. Which makes me think that perhaps Sanderson’s nicest contribution to the series is this: he focuses on the actions of people like Egwene and Nynaeve (and even Tuon), and leaves some of their internal monologuing offscreen, for the reader to fill in.

Short version: I want to read more Wheel of Time. And I think I like this new format.

October 30, 2009 at 3:38 pm 3 comments


So I’ve been reading George R R Martin’s series (its called A Song of Ice and Fire, if you’re feeling masochistic) and the rant demon has possessed me. Since my rage is of an orderly compulsive sort,  I have decided to vent in numbered points.

I should add here, that for all its faults, the actual plot of the series is quite excellent. I know I will keep reading it obsessively just to know what happens next. And when Martin forgets to make people thoroughly miserable, all kinds of exciting things happen, mainly involving Daenerys and her dragons, and Jon Snow and his awesome friends. Which makes the rant slightly redundant, but who cares.
1. I don’t mind grittiness, in a general way, when it consists of a lot of non-bathing and death, but when it starts rolling around in the mud with torture and ruthlessness, and the writer in question starts making a game out of how much he can torture a character before they disintegrate, and then goes on to torture disintegrated people, it makes my head hurt. 
Murders are fine. I just tend to like my deaths clean. And quick. All this four-book long, excruciatingly drawn-out torment really gets to me after a while, and I start thinking wistfully of my thesis. For future reference, GRRM, when all your main characters are hardened murderers and your readers just feel relief with every new death, soon enough no one’s going to care enough to read further. Also you might run out of characters and that would be unfortunate.
2. Note to Sansa Stark, aged maybe twelveish, if that: Your life sucks. I’ve watched you get sold off to a louse by your oh-so-honourable father, I watched you sell out said father, I skipped horrifiedly through your endless list of beatings and strippings, I read on through your family dying/allegedly dying in awful ways, I even kept going when you were married off, and then kidnapped and then attacked by your mother’s creepy sister and her obsessive and dreadful husband. And I’ve had to leave out a lot of the comparatively minor stuff, for brevity’s sake. Stop being polite. It’s driving me insane. Yell. Get up and leave. Set things on fire. Kill someone. Just do something about it. Please.
Perhaps you could consider moving to a Georgette Heyer novel? I can promise you no one will try and marry you for another 2 years, at least, and what with your good breeding and wonderful politeness you will probably get a Happy Ending, and I can stop cringing when I see you in a chapter. 
3. And while I’m giving advice to fictional people:
Dear Brienne,
You are a girl. You’re also large. However, since you are also terribly capable of killing anyone you happen to dislike, please deal with facts a and b; the rest of us are managing quite well. Stop making me have to blush for your issues. Also, keep away from Jaime Lannister, who is a sister-doing, child-killing, lying, all-round louse. Now go kill some more people.
4. Resurrections. I just don’t like them. And resurrecting Catelyn Stark, was just low-down and stupid. She was pretty much played out, and honestly? I was relieved when she and Robb just died so I wouldn’t have to watch her agonise over Dead Ned anymore. Beric being brought back to life was, since it was a novelty then, cool. Bringing Catelyn back to life just trivialises a) her b) Beric and c) all the other people dying in the series (which is a LOT. See point 1 on grittiness).
5. GRRM: Child marriage is just plain creepy. Please stop it. You world is harsh and cruel, we GET it. Now stop with the paedophilia.
6. And Eddard Stark? Is not the paragon you seem to expect me to think he is. He was stupid. He knew almost everything we knew in Book One, and watching him passive-aggressively ruining the lives of a) his wife b) his children c) his stupid dukedom d) poor moronic Robert and e) the whole goddamn kingdom only served to convince me of this. An actual genuine good person, even if he had a death wish for himself, would’ve at least sent his daughters home and away from all the machinations in court, before he begged the evil people to destroy him.

If you look carefully, you might notice that almost everything horrible that happened in book two (and even some of book three) happened because Ned Stark spent book one busily navel-gazing, and whining about his honour, and refusing to actually do anything. Except scattering his family around the map in convenient bite-sized bits for anyone at all to attack.
Having relieved myself of all the rage, I feel obliged to say, again, that for all its many faults the series is thoroughly exciting. A lot of the characters is actual real fun people, some are dire wolves (wolfs? Probably not) and I live in hope of meeting an aurochs
More extinct animals and less torturing of sad people, I always say.
(Irrelevantly: it is very sad that the blogger spell-check cannot spell aurochs)

January 31, 2009 at 2:47 pm 7 comments

The Mists of Avalon


Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Arthurian books are quite simply one of the most frustrating books I have ever read. The first time I read them, I found myself in a simmering rage for days, until the last book was done, and I put it quickly away.

This time, I found myself beginning to feel sorry for the characters, but I still wanted to knock some sense (and also spine) into them.

Essentially the books are a re-telling of Arthurian legend from the points of views of the major female characters. The books link paganism with eco-feminism in the society of Avalon, composed of priestesses to the Mother Goddess who represents the land. They represent older cultures and civilisations, sworn to plurality that exist before Christianity sweeps the land, preaching of a single god and singular good.

While the theme is an interesting one, the debate gets a bit repetitive. By the end of the books Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar have yelled more or less the same arguments at every other character in the book – Morgaine is the spokesperson of Avalon, and Gwenhwyfar that of Christianity at its narrowest.

While I couldn’t quite dislike Morgaine – her frustration with the book parallelled and fed mine – Gwenhwyfar is reduced to a caricature of piousness-cum-adultery who is no longer quite real.

There are four things about this book that make it such a frustrating thing to read:

1) We all know how it ends. Everyone dies or is miserable and war breaks out. There is nothing we can do about it, except wait for it. And Bradley *really* makes us wait.

2) The massive MPD that doesn’t miss a single character. This isn’t that much of a flaw – it is reasonably realistic, after all, and trauma has a way of making people behave uncharacteristically. Which brings me to:

3) For the characters, the books are one long trauma. It goes with the general theme of unavoidable tragedy, no doubt, but after a while the heaviness of the tragedy begins to pall – it is no longer tragic but just plain irritating.

4) The characters’ blind faith is a bit unlikely. Given that the sensibility is frequently pretty modern, even post-modern, and that Arthur and his companions are primarily *soldiers*, I find it a bit ridiculous that everyone is so religious. The conflict of faith is reduced to a (slightly simple) conflict between the pantheistic followers of the old Druidic religions and the monotheistic followers of Christ.

Personally, I would’ve found a conflict between faith and a lack of it a lot more interesting. The only main character who is frankly non-godly is Morgause – and her character is a strangely uneven. She is simultaneously sensuous and calculating, perceptive and utterly blind, and the scenes from her point of view don’t seem to quite add up to her actions. After three books that show her as pragmatic, shrewd, worldly, and ultimately someone who won’t randomly knock down the applecart, Book Four! Morgause is a fairy-tale witch. She plots frantically toward world domination, spills blood lavishly for a stupid spell to talk to her spies in Arthur’s court, she coos psychotically at Mordred. After three books that establish to us that Morgause couldn’t care less about anyone’s sex-life except her own (including her husband’s) she is suddenly there plotting to catch Gwenhyfar and Lancelot in bed together.

At some point, it is as if all Bradley’s good intentions towards the women characters, and all her reasonableness in making everyone’s motives understood are suddenly swept away by the demands of the very plot she is trying to subvert: Morgause is the evil witch everyone made her out to be, because if she isn’t then who is going to precipitate the final tragedy?
Mordred, likewise, flashes from sarcastic but earnest to Evil Plotting Child of Incest!, because if he isn’t why would he kill poor senile well-meaning Arthur?

The book’s frustrating-ness is inherent in its structure – both the reader and the characters are bereft of free will, as the story goes to its inevitable end.

The other thing I don’t like – and this is linked with the first one – is the way the characters keep refusing to take any responsibility for their actions. When he’s discovered in bed with Gwenhwyfar, Lancelot *kills* Gareth and a bunch of other people before running away with her. Later, he blames the whole episode on Mordred – and not say on the fact that he’d been sleeping with someone else’s wife for 30 years – for spying on him, and Gwenhwyfar ascribes the murder to what an awesome knight her Lancey-poo is.
Morgiane *murders* her stepson (so he won’t tell his father and her husband that she’s having an affair with his son) and calls it the “will of the goddess” ?! And Accolon, the brother with whom she is having the affair, buys it!!!
It was at that point that I decided that the bad end I knew was coming to everyone was richly deserved.

The reason these things annoy me as they do, is because the book is an attractive one. It deals in relationships and conflicts of interest and myth, and the world it creates is sometimes very compelling. The characters are all (to begin with, anyway, before the events of the book tire them out) strong and vital ones – you *want* to know what they think and what they’ll do. Arthur’s loves for and conflicts between Guinevere and Lancelot and Morgaine (and all they each stand for) are dealt with subtly and delicately. You rarely know exactly what his own opinions are, but the pressures on him are built strand by strand, until the whole narrative is taut with them.

And then, somehow, the moment of reckoning never comes. Viviaine, (the lady of the lake who is to confront Arthur over his betrayal of Avalon) is killed. After that, the momentum dissipates and the series never quite regains it. Morgaine is married off and drifts along playing an unconvincing Wicca game, Lancelot and Gwenhwyfar romance boringly and angstily, Morgause and Mordred plot a plot that is strangely empty (it is as if Bradley *knows* they are the bad guys and must go forth and do evil, but until right at the end they do very little other then smirk and make snide remarks), the holy grail is a plot device to kill off Galahad and Kevin the bard (whom I *really* like. More on him later) and Arthur pretty much stops caring about anything except Excalibur, which he hoards with random zeal, simply because its his big sister’s (Morgaine’s) and she wants it too. And everyone gets paranoid about aging.

The only person who deals with their own inner demons – and when I say deals with I mean like a rational adult, not random sulking/mooning/going mad/swooning – is Kevin the traitor Merlin. He is a cripple but somehow he is minimally angsty, unfailingly courteous, thoughtful and kind. It is ironic that his stealing the Grail from Avalon and taking it to Arthur’s court is punished with entrapment and death, while all the other characters get cheerfully (and piously) away with murder.
His path from being a druid to becoming a person who puts peace (even Christian peace) ahead of everything else is depicted as evolving with the times, not as the random fits (also known as the goddess) that take Morgaine, Igraine and Viviane from time to time, until they all become interchangeable.
In the end, when she comes in the barge to take a dying Arthur back to Avalon, even Morgaine can no longer tell which one she is. And while I understand that the whole Great-Goddess-who-is-every-woman-and-maiden-and-mother-and-wise-woman-and-crone deal is important to Bradley, taking away all your protagonist’s character and free will, and reducing her to nothing but a tool of a (possibly loony) goddess is *not* the most empowering story you can tell.

August 26, 2008 at 2:10 pm Leave a comment

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