Tiger Lily, Jodi Lynn Anderson

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In my first year of university, I did a module called Transformations in which we studied texts which had been written and rewritten over time – Noah’s flood and its many tellings were key stories we looked at, alongside Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, the movie of which traumatised me for the rest of university! Every since, I have had a real passion for writing which transforms popular stories. Gregory Maguire’s Wicked are some of my favourites, and there are many well written Alice in Wonderland spin offs. This fascination doesn’t rely just on books, but movie transformations as well, as I love seeing how other people view the worlds I have come to love so much. I wish that my Transformations module had developed a broader streak, as studying retellings of popular fiction would have been fascinating. With that introduction, it’s no surprise really that when my ever patient, ever loving boyfriend was buying his sister’s birthday present and I was perusing the ‘reduced’ shelves, that when I saw this particular novel for £0.99, he all of a sudden discovered his purchase was £0.99 more expensive that he had expected… boy I’m lucky that man loves me! It was nice to get around to reading it, and after the disappointment of The Stranger in my Home, it’s even nicer to have enjoyed it.

The Premise

Before Wendy, there was Tiger Lily. And this time, the tagline holds true. I hadn’t expected the novel to be narrated by Tinker Bell, but it was actually a good narrative choice by Anderson, as she was able to use Tinker Bell’s fairy attributes to give the reader insight into more than simply Tiger Lily’s mind.

Of all the characters in Peter Pan, Tiger Lily is not one I have focussed on. In my third year at university I did a presentation entitled ‘Tinker Bell, friend or foe’ and an entire 70% of my mark for that module was based around Tinker Bell. But I’ve never given Tiger Lily more than a passing thought. So whilst it was nice to be in the comfort of a narrator I am familiar with, following the story of Tiger Lily really opened up the narrative.

I enjoyed Anderson’s development of the Sky Eaters – Tiger Lily’s tribe. The traditions and experiences of the natives of Neverland were well thought through. I enjoyed their perception of aging as a sickness. It normalised Peter Pan’s infinite childhood by giving it a logical explanation – in Neverland, at some point following a trauma or extreme experience, you cease to age. This can happen any time from teen to adulthood, although the presence of an ageless baby throughout the novel calls into question how early this can happen. So Peter Pan is not the only one who doesn’t age. In fact, it gave Hook much more of an interesting back story. He left England to come to Neverland and rid himself of the aging sickness, but instead he watched as Peter Pan and the Lost Boys stayed young whilst he, himself, aged. This could have been an interesting exploration in itself, but as the focus is on Tiger Lily, I shan’t digress too much here.

I also enjoyed the development of Smee, who often comes across as a clumsy and lovable character. In fact, Smee was far more a natural murderer than Hook was, as his desire to kill the stronger, more powerful creatures had less purpose that Hook’s sole desire to kill Peter Pan to rob him of what he had that Hook wanted for himself. That was another interesting twist which just added more layers to the over arching narrative, making Anderson’s exploration of Neverland more interesting throughout.

Tiger Lily

There is a lot we don’t learn about Tiger Lily – where she came from, was she cursed, did she have a special relationship with the gods? Anderson did a good job of giving logical explanations for the actions which made her such an outcast as the novel progressed, but the unanswered questions remain even after the conclusion.

Anderson’s portrayal of Tiger Lily as ‘girl-like’, having been raised by a Shaman who was more feminine than masculine, highlighted the lack of importance the Sky Eaters gave to specific gender roles. The presence of an Englishman among them stirs the already muddied waters, and creates an extra tension with a much deeper meaning as the main story progresses. Tiger Lily, despite being accepted as boyish and a free spirit, is bound by her father’s promise that she will marry Giant. His convenient death, 2 weeks into their marriage, potentially by a girl he forced himself on time and again, both undermined Tiger Lily’s independence and emphasised her spirit. Tiger Lily married him unwillingly, but she was loyal and strong enough to stick to her father’s promise. Some parts of the relationships were difficult to read, but overall Tiger Lily maintains her independence, and her eventual marriage to Pine Sap highlights the lack of importance in traditional gender roles.

Tiger Lily and Peter

Of course, you’re all dying to know where Peter features in this… and I’m still a little confused myself! He does, of course, play a key role, as he is Tiger Lily’s first love. The others on the island, even the Sky Eaters, view him as a danger and avoid the parts of the forest he is known to inhabit. The pirates seek him out to mete out Hook’s confused justice. But actually, to me Peter came across as a much more non-character. He was sixteen and gangly, he was confused and mixed up and he went from mermaid to Tiger Lily to Wendy with barely a thought. His confused love for the lost boys was painful to watch – he wanted to keep them safe but didn’t know how, and actually there was no indication of happiness with their lot, but rather a constant, underlying melancholy. Anderson did an excellent job of using the sense of smell in her writing to conjure a dormitory-like feel in their living conditions which was easy to imagine and appreciate.

Peter and Tiger Lily spend confused time together, both loving and hating each other, being competitive and reliant. I think what frustrates me is that whilst Peter fills the role of a teenage boy with a not-girlfriend (think Sheldon’s ‘She’s a girl, and she’s my friend, but she’s not my girlfriend’) who eventually admits love, Tiger Lily is more a passive observer in the relationship, with no way to express her emotions in either direction. She does not have much say in what direction Peter dictates their relationship will develop, and she has no say whatsoever in the end of it. Perhaps this is a normal teenage relationship, but I did not enjoy her passive nature as it was at odds with the character that Anderson had worked so hard to develop.

Tinker Bell

As always, Tinker Bell loves Peter, but in this context she is happy, kind of, to watch the love develop between Tiger Lily and Peter because she knows that a life with him for herself is not practical. This made her hatred and attacks of Wendy much more realistic and understandable, whilst also creating levels of pity for Tinker Bell often missing in modern interpretations of Peter Pan.

Conclusion

Overall, this was a love story, as was promised. But it was more childish than I had hoped. Anderson does a good job overall, but her writing lacks intricacy and subtext. This is more a book for teenagers, but I don’t know many teenagers who will admit they still like Peter Pan enough to read an off shoot of it. Confused about its genre and age bracket, Anderson still does a good job of telling an unknown tale, and I enjoyed the story and the creative licence taken with JM Barrie’s world.

Success Against the Odds, Brett Wigdortz

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I’ve known about Teach First for a long time, and I’ve always known that when I did eventually do my teachers training, it would be with Teach First. There’s just something about it. Simon Sinek’s ‘The Golden Circle’ basically sums it up for me… ‘People don’t buy what you do, but why you do it’. Teach First has a clear vision and passion – that no child’s educational success would be defined by their socio-economic background. This is something I can get on board with, something that I have always felt passionately about. So, her I am in April, starting the Teach First summer institute in just 3 months, and I decided that reading Brett’s book about how he came to found Teach First, why it looks like it does and what, exactly, his vision is, would be a great stepping stone into the training. This is especially poignant as I am aware that I am a part of the last cohort to go through Teach First with Brett as CEO, as he has decided to step down to follow another venture. What he has created, though, will stand firm even in his absence, because people didn’t so much buy into Brett himself as the concept he had – he is no longer the only one passionate enough to hold Teach First together, and I’m really excited to start my journey with them at this time of transition.

Starting Teach First

Brett is a great example of the idea that you can have no idea about something, but if you feel passionate enough, you are able to make a difference. Whilst his family were educators, Brett himself worked in marketing, had the majority of his experiences in business in South East Asia, and is an American. How he came to run the leading teacher’s training in England, then, seems a little improbable. But Brett saw a problem, developed, as part of his role, a way to begin to address it, and because he was the one with the vision and the drive for his project, remained in the UK to see it through. 15 years later, I am about to commence on the training that he developed! This isn’t just a book for teachers, educational professionals or those with a special interest in Teach First. It’s an inspirational tale of a man who decided to make a difference, and did.

The layout

I actually really enjoyed the layout of the novel. I am not an entrepreneur. I have no desire to start my own business or charity, and I am in this to be the best teacher that I can possibly be. But Brett’s book isn’t as exclusive as that. There are helpful parts throughout in which he takes his practical experiences of Teach First and morphs them into a guide which can be applied to anyone starting anywhere, in any sector. Whilst for me, the tales of teachers and pupils were the highlight, I would recommend that anyone who has a vision for a charity take a look at the book as it contains some really handy entrepreneurial tips.

The motivation

The tagline of Success Against the Odds is ‘five lessons in how to achieve the impossible’. It’s hard to believe that 15 years ago, the vision that Brett had was laughed at, or dismissed out of hand, by so many, when now it is a force to be reckoned with throughout the UK, and places thousands of participants in schools every single year.

In some ways, I feel like Wigdortz wrote this to be studied by Teach First members. Each chapter very clearly relates to an aspect of the 5 key elements of leadership: Commitment; Integrity; Excellence; Leadership; Collaboration. He writes it almost like an A Level essay, trying to hit the correct number of times in relating the story or point back to the original question, or in this context, element. It was, in many ways, really helpful as an incoming participant to see how Brett had to both learn about and learn how to apply these skills in his development of Teach First, and also to come to understand the high expectations of leadership that Teach First has. They can preach at us as much as they want, but seeing their expectations in practice by the man who developed their model, is a far more effective way of helping them to sink in. I wonder whether this will become compulsory reading once I begin my course, as I do feel it offers insights that they simply won’t have time to give us in the 5 weeks of training before we begin our careers as teachers.

Conclusion

I was doubtful as to how much use Success Against the Odds would be for me, having already been accepted on the course and knowing that I want to be a teacher, but actually, I have come away feeling that I know far more about Teach First than I did initially, and with a far greater understanding of the fight they had to make the route in teacher’s training as successful as it is today.

However, the wider reach of the book ensures that it is useful not only for those of us embarking on Teach First, but for anyone who is starting a business or charity, and needs to learn the value of positive and effective leadership. I strongly recommend this book, as it is quite light and easy to read, but certainly provides interesting perspectives.

The Stranger in my Home, Adele Parks

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In all honesty, I’m really disappointed by this novel and wish I had picked up something better. It was just so… average. I thought it would be a lot more practical. It didn’t need the dark turn of an insane father; just exploring the journey that had led us to the shocking revelation that two children were swapped at birth, and the impact of this discovery, would have been enough.

I get that Parks wanted to keep her ‘twist’ secret for as long as possible, and there were some really subtle hints, but they were almost too subtle for too long. I was incredibly bored just under a quarter of the way through the novel and skipped to the end to see what was going to happen. Soon after, I started noticing the hints a little more, but without knowing what was coming, it’s doubtful that I would have picked up on them. It’s almost like Parks has tried to write a book that you need to read twice, but the book itself is so boring that I wouldn’t put myself through that just to see where things started to go wrong.

The premise sounded fascinating – what do you do when you discover your teenage daughter was swapped as a baby and you’ve been raising someone else’s child? The tagline of the novel, however,: ‘I thought she was my daughter. I was wrong’ is incredibly misleading. It sounds more like something from a horror film than the introduction to an average family, an average novel with average characters which basically achieve nothing and make no personal gains throughout the period the novel covers.

Parks tries to create an interesting history for Alison, but half way through, it’s like she’s forgotten that she intended to do that. We lose the chapters in italics and gather together information so piecemeal that none of it seems relevant. I didn’t care that Alison didn’t pass her GCSEs or O Levels, because it was just so boring to read about and at no point was relevant to the more important story that we were following.

The first person narration was incredibly dull, and whilst I believe Parks must think that she’s written a believable, realistic character, she just hasn’t. I understand the love of a mother for her child is indescribable and that a mother would do anything for her child. But Alison was just so boring. She had no appeal other than through Katherine, and having her narrate the book undermined that love, because it was confused and obsessive. I’m actually more concerned about Alison’s mental health than I ever was about Tom’s.

The book addresses issues such as adoption, cancer and parenthood in far too callous a manner. Tom uses cancer and the death of his wife for sympathy WHEN ANNABEL DIDN’T EVEN DIE. This is brushed over in a horrific manner, and Jeff and Alison are far too accepting of it all.

Whilst Parks attempts to create sympathy for Alison through the tale of her teenage self giving birth and putting up for adoption a son, the journey that she has doesn’t have ANY RELEVANCE TO THE DAMN STORY!! It just doesn’t matter. It was so frustrating because none of it mattered. There was no coherent plot structure, linking threads or purposeful narration.

Books like this are why I spent a long time avoiding popular literature because they just make me so mad. The writing was average, the book was about 400 pages longer than it needed to be, the characters were unbelievable, undynamic (is that a word?) and annoying, and mostly the content was padding rather than necessity. Perhaps Parks should just stick to writing short stories, that grip and let go, without worrying about making it a novel. I shall not be reading anything by this author any time soon, because I really have better things to be reading.

Stone Cold, Robert Swindells

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There is nothing I like better than going into a book with absolutely no preconceptions or idea what I’m getting myself into and this was one such example. Whereas with the previous curriculum texts I’ve been reading (Lord of the Flies, Skellig) I have read them with the singular purpose of learning to teach them, I had no idea what this book was about and so decided to keep it that way, as with reading for fun. I’m really glad I did, and actually I think I’ve finally found a book that I would be genuinely excited to teach for its content as much as for its literary value and societal implications. It’s hard trying to prepare to teach when I don’t even know what local authority I’ll be in, let alone what school I’ll be in, and as a result no matter how much reading I do I still might miss the text that my school will teach. So it’s hard to control the excitement regarding the novel when there is a distinct possibility that I might not even end up teaching it! That said, I am excited to blog about this as a book I have enjoyed, and not just one I have had to make myself read.

The Premise and the Golden Circle

Throughout the training days with Teach First that I’ve had so far, and the wider reading and research I’ve done, I have come across ‘the golden circle’ several times, the concept that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Robert Swindells is very clear in his final appeal that this book was written as the result of many personal interactions with homeless young people in London, and a desire to help them. The support the novel has received from the charity Crisis supports this, and gives the novel a much deeper meaning and purpose than simply telling a crime story, expanding its reach to tryiing to make a change for the few young people that it can. As a result, the story telling feels more poignant and I can absolutely see how the fact that this could be a real person the age or only slightly older than the pupils I would be teaching, would make a personal response to this novel much more viable.

Link, our protagonist, leaves home after his abusive stepfather and oblivious mother become too much for him to handle. At first he stays in Bradford, but shame and necessity cause him to relocate to London where he thinks that pickings will be a little bit easier to gain. After his first two weeks staying in a dirty, expensive bedsit, Link ends up on the street.

Running parallel to this sad tale of a teenager with no support or love to see him through, is the story of an older man who has also been kicked out of his home. Shelter served in the army for many years, and, having been discharged on medical grounds, he has lost his purpose of taking the young trainees sent to him and turning them into effective and disciplined soldiers. He has taken it upon himself, therefore, to rid the streets of London of those young people he considers in need of training, killing them and creating his own army corpses.

Some Analysis

Gloomy, I know! But actually, very effective. It’s obvious from the start where the stories are going to collide, and as an adult reading the novel, it was predictable and basic. However, the heart of the story is Link, and I was genuinely very distressed reading about his treatment by other humans. The novel certainly achieved Swindell’s purpose of warming the heart towards those nameless figures we so often hurry past and ignore on our way to so much more important things.

Paralleling Links’s rejection with Shelter’s rejection from the army ensured that there was a modicum of sympathy for the antagonist, whose back story of service and war created a figure who was to be pitied rather than hated, a fact often missing from ‘villains’ in literature for young people.

Aside from the standard literary techniques that you would study with a class, this novel is especially effective because it gives a character that everyone can relate to. As an adult reading, you feel sympathy and sadness for the young person thrust into this situation. As a young person, whether it’s Y7 or Y11, Link is close to their age, and the situations that he experiences at home, or out on the street, are stark and realistic and totally accessible for the target audience. Perhaps if every class read this novel, there will in a decade or so be an adult generation in a position to help and with the motivation and desire to do so.

Conclusion

As I say, this is more a review than an analysis as I enjoyed the book sufficiently that it didn’t feel like work reading it! I would definitely recommend anyone with teenagers give them this novel to read in order to appreciate the struggles that come with homelessness and poverty. That said, I would also recommend it for reading as an adult, as I can guarantee I will think twice before walking past a homeless child again.

The Trap, Melanie Raabe

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This is, once again, a book I picked up from the airport (I’m flying home again next week, maybe I should leave my purse behind!). The premise seemed fascinating, however the execution was rather… dull. I started the book and at first was very put off by the almost child-like writing style. A few chapters in, I realised this novel is a translation from German, and that Raabe is a German author. Perhaps this goes someway to excuse the simplistic writing style, however, having read translations of classics, a translation doesn’t have to feel like it is a translation – if it is translated well enough then it can transfer superbly to its new language. Look at Les Mis (the musical). Originally written in French, surely we all now know the English words through their flawless transformation. So being immediately put off by the writing style, I suppose I wasn’t expecting great things from the novel, but the premise was still really promising and had a lot of potential scope. Unfortuantely, I don’t feel like Raabe explored this to its full potential, which is a shame, because all the elements are there.

Linda

Linda’s sister, Anna, was murdered, and after over a decade of living as a recluse, she sees the murderer’s face on TV and develops an elaborate plot to get him to confess. Linda is a famous author who never gives interviews; she decides to write a novel containing her sister’s murder, and offer an interview to the man she knows killed Anna – the journalist Lenzen.

Linda is most definitely the most well developed and human character. At first, her idolisation of Anna seems off putting, but Raabe goes to great effort to establish that it is simply a symptom of the shock that Linda never really recovered from. From the sounds of it, Anna and Linda had a very normal sisterly relationship, which became enshrined in Linda’s memory when she discovered her sister’s body. Linda’s slips into depression, insanity and other mentally unwell states are well described, however I am not certain the author has experienced them herself, as they often seemed stilted and uncertain. Raabe uses brilliant analogies, such as ‘the earthquake’ (the discovery of Lenzen’s face on TV) and drowning (whenever Linda becomes out of control).

I did have an issue with the exploration of Linda’s illness towards the end of the novel. Raabe rather underplays agoraphobia almost as if it doesn’t really exist. She describes Linda as ‘playing along’ with the journalists and spectators who label her with a ‘mystery illness’, when really, she is genuinely unwell with a condition that does exist, and I just feel like Raabe doesn’t understand that as she undermines it frequently throughout the novel.

Fact or fiction?

In the course of The Trap, Linda experiences several very vivid dreams of potential situations and outcomes, which seem to be happening but are then explained with simple phrases such as ‘that is how it could have happened’. THIS WAS REALLY FRUSTRATING! I felt like Raabe was treating us like a young audience, unable to see the descent into madness that Linda was experiencing and needing constant hand holding and guidance to the ‘correct’ response.

Raabe works extremely hard to create an atmosphere of uncertainty, but provides a very definite ending. This was extremely disappointing. Having journeyed with Linda through her uncertainty, it would have been much more effective to have an ambiguous ending, where Lenzen is assigned blame for the crime, but the reader is not 100% certain due to anomalies within the ending. It is frustrating to see Raabe throw away her build up and very skilfully developed plot twisting, to provide a romantic, satisfactory and ‘vanilla’ ending.

A lot of the aspects of Linda’s madness seemed to be rushed. I feel like there is a certain requirement in modern literature to try to keep original novels short, so they will be read by the educated mass. However, in something as intricate as this, detailing a mental illness, a 12 year old crime and a conflicted protagonist, there would have been no harm in drawing it out, spending more time with the characters so that we become more attached to them. This is why I am having to force myself to read so much modern literature at the moment – I’m not drawn to it in the same way that I am more classical or traditional fantasy literature because it lacks the detail and the relationship that you develop.

Conclusion

It was an average novel, with some interesting twists, told in a below-average narrative. I wouldn’t say it was massively worth the trouble reading, which is a shame because the premise was so promising. Good luck in the future, though, Melanie Raabe!

A Crown of Swords – Wheel of Time Book 7

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I am halfway through this incredible series, and as stressed and exciting whilst reading it as I have been from book 1! The character development throughout this half way book has been fantastic, offering a wide variety of perspectives and drama. As always, the book is so long and thorough that it’s hard to even know where to begin, so I shall just pick out a few of what I consider to be the most interesting parts and discuss them in a small amount of detail!

Resurrected Forsaken

My boyfriend may have slightly spoiled the mystery of this for me by telling me that two forsaken were resurrected (which I had worked out) into different genders (which, at that point, I had not concluded). As a result, the surprising revelation at the conclusion of the last novel that a female ‘servant’ in Salidair (Halima) could channel using Saidin was less of a surprise for me. When it came to the mystery man rescuing Rand at the conclusion of this novel by creating Balefire but Rand was unable to sense the male source, it is a logical conclusion that this man is the resurrected Lanfear, who dreads to see Lews Therin dead.

I have found the gender transition fascinating. I had assumed, when my boyfriend mentioned the resurrections to me, that everything would change gender-wise, that the new female would use Salidar and the new male would use saidin, By maintaining their original source of the power, Jordan emphasises the humanity of the forsaken, something that is easy to forget considering their penchant towards evil and their seemingly endless blood lust. They are not simply robotic minions, like the Myrddraal, but humans who fall in love (Lanfear), like special ‘toys’ (Grandael) or become very possessive over what they consider to me theirs (Sammael). It makes you wonder, since they are so insistent on hanging onto their humanity, whether the lesser of them might still be redeemed to the light.

Philosophical discussion aside, it seriously stresses me out that Lanfear and another forsaken are back, because I’ve been enjoying the count down through every book as Rand and others defeat Forsaken after Forsaken, but now they’re down two and they don’t even know it. Also, Halima has a worrying hold over Egwene – could she be causing the headaches that she is so aptly able to massage away? With Aes Sedai having no way to tell when a man is channeling, she is in the most danger of them all at this current time! Hopefully all will be revealed in the next novel.

Nynaeve’s Block – AND LAN

I stand by my dislike of Nynaeve and her attitude, temper and self-obsession, but it was really nice to see her and Lan reunited. Egwene taking control as Amyrilin and making important decisions that led to this reunion was the icing on the cake. Seeing Nynaeve surrender completely was moderately satisfying, and knowing that she can channel without having a hissy fit will hopefully make her an easier character to read for the remaining seven novels.

BUT JORDAN RUINED IT BY REUNITING HER WITH LAN THE DAY IT HAPPENED AND I’M SERIOUSLY ANNOYED ABOUT IT.

Honestly, a woman finally overcomes a huge obstacle by herself, a strong willed and independent woman, and what should happen but she is rescued, when she was perfectly able now to rescue herself, by the man she loves. And married that same night. Just as Nynaeve develops independence from the need to be angry, she is taken in by a man who makes her forget any anger. It’s all too convenient and frustrating. They were both really fantastic things to have happened, but they should not have taken place together – dare I say, they shouldn’t have taken place in the same novel. It’s extremely frustrating.

That said, it was a little bit fun to see Tylin pursuing and capturing Mat, despite the borderline rape that was taking place. Yes, it was nice to see a woman taking control and pursuing her own interests, but the entire set up was rather suspect. Visiting a land where women are clearly the stronger sex, where they are innocent until proven guilty on murdering a man, and their excuses for doing so can be quite flimsy, and we finally meet a woman not waiting on a man… It’s just all a little uncomfortable, like women can’t be the dominant sex unless they are in a land entirely devoted to that fact. It’s just rather uncomfortable to read, and as I mentioned earlier, Mat is essentially raped by Tylin, thus undermining the entire joy of seeing women think for themselves. I’m not happy with the events there, and found them quite uncomfortable to read.

Intrigue in the Tower

Elaida is not black ajah, Alviarin is, as was Galina, and now Elaida has started a hunt for black ajah that I’m pretty sure she wants to rig to lead to Alviarin… The tower isn’t broken because of the rebels, it is broken from within. The moment there was confirmation of Black Ajah, the tower lost their position as a thoroughly united power, and the tower under Elaida’s control appears very disheveled compared to the rebels, who are uniting together. I feel sorry for Egwene, as she is going to have quite the mess to pick up.

The Weather Bowl

The entire book has been based around finding the weather bowl, and they still haven’t actually fixed the weather. More than anything, it’s frustrating that it’s being dragged out so long, that there was so much manipulation needed to get everyone in position, and that just as I thought we were getting there the Seanchen invaded, Mat’s in trouble and we just left him there! Cliff hangers and suspense are Jordan’s strongest writing techniques, I have to say, and I am biting at the bit to read the next book to see what happens.

What…? I have… positive feelings towards… Mat?

Which leads me nicely onto… Mat. For whom I am developing positive feelings. It was actually really nice in this novel to see Jordan really working to dig beneath the ‘clown-ish’ womaniser that he has so far portrayed Mat to be. Mat’s pursuance by Tylin reveals a rather understated, delicate and romantic side of Mat, where his pride will not allow him to be pursued without him instigating the chase, and his desire to truly be able to provide for a woman he has a relationship with. This vulnerability, coupled with his fierce loyalty to keeping his word and his bravery in the face of a danger even Aes Sedai could not face, have given him a much more rounded character that I don’t hate… strange to say, but he really stood out in this book. That said, a lot of A Crown of Swords did follow Mat closely and was told from his perspective, and when you’re reading almost a first person account of his journeys, you can’t help but feel positive towards him. I’m sure if the novel had leaned towards Nynaeve’s perspective, I would have very different feelings now! That said, Elayne is finally appearing to come to terms with the fact that her hatred of Mat is very much founded on Nynaeve’s attitude towards him, and it was nice to see Elayne step up and start to form her own opinions.

Those bits and bobs

A few other things to mention.

I like Min, but she has been very crafty and manipulative. She knows Elayne’s feelings and spent a significant amount of time with Elayne, so you’d think her loyalty to her friend would be a little more secure than basically rubbing herself up against Rand at every opportunity as an attempt to make him see her as a woman. I can’t help but feel that their reunion will be quite difficult. That said, I am starting to see now why Min is so important to Rand – she is a calming influence, a touch of light relief, and of course her visions at least help him to be able to plan for the future and know who to trust.

Sammael is dead, but actually, although Rand’s plans were scattered throughout the story, this is almost secondary to everything else that has taken place. Also, is he really dead; I mean, I know that Rand thinks he is, and I would assume that he is because nothing survives Shadar Logoth, but we didn’t actually see him die and the Forsaken appear to be more hardy that we give them credit for.

Rand killed a woman. Out of pity, out of desperation, to save her from the darkness that would consume her, but how will he recover from this? From his perspective he basically killed her twice – once by abandoning her when darkness came, and now by erasing her from existence to stop her suffering.

Okay, actually, there is one more massive bug bear here… Balefire. Moghedien used it on Nynaeve’s boat and killed two of Mat’s men in the process – but if she did that then why does Mat remember them? It’s a bot of a logical loophole and I’m not overly happy with the concept being so easily overwritten. For example, if the middle of the boat never existed, then Nynaeve would not have been out on the water at that time because the sailors never had a whole boat to use, which eliminates the entire drowning scene and her breaking through her block… I know it’s picky, but it is a massive plot flaw which is never really explained.

Overall

It seems to me that there was a lot less of the social commentary that I have seen in other novels previously, and that Jordan really focusses in on the progression of the plot and characterisation. In a way it was nice to move forwards with such speed and alacrity, and I look forwards to seeing where book 8 takes me!