A Positive Outlook

You’d think that, having finished Merchanter’s Luck and Rimrunners by C.J. Cherryh, I’d be excited to dive into the pile of books I bought yesterday.  Well, I am excited for a number of the books I bought, but I wanted to keep reading through Alliance-Union for the moment.  Overall, I’m going in chronological order – the timeline, not publication date.  Which means that yes, I’ve skipped over the most important book in the series, Downbelow Station.  Why would I have such a gross oversight?  Well, for all the book is a Hugo winner, I’ve already read it this year.  Just a few months ago, I think.  And as interesting as it is, it’s not one that I can just pick up and read anytime.  I was very tempted to reread the forward, describing how both Downbelow Station and Merchanter’s Luck came to be, but I’ve read it enough to have the salient points memorized.

Essentially, Cherryh wanted to write the story of Merchanter’s Luck, but wanted it to be part of a larger universe.  So she wrote Downbelow Station to create and define that universe.  That book was so long though, that there was no way it’d fit into DAW’s format.  However, the editor couldn’t see a good way to cut it, and the publisher released a new, larger format, just for this book.

All of which means that Merchanter’s Luck takes place after the conclusion of the Company Wars that were heating up in Hellburner.  It’s actually a very short book, not much more than 200 pages, and questions what truths a man can hold to when everything he does is a lie.  Sandor Kreja is a skilled liar, smooth-talker, and desperate beyond belief.  Dreams die hard, and the one he’s risking everything on he’s had for years.

Then we move on to Rimrunners (that might technically take place before Merchanter’s Luck, but I usually place it after just because of the whole Downbelow Station introduction) which features Bet Yeager, an ex-marine just trying to make a new life for herself on a ship – any ship – that’ll take her.  She’s not a merchanter like the protagonists of the other book, she’s military through and through, and trying to conceal it because people don’t like the idea that they might be sitting next to a trained killer from a ship that is now a pirate.

There are horrible things mentioned in Merchanter’s Luck, in Downbelow Station, in Rimrunners, and they’re part of human nature.  But these books, like so many from the seventies and eighties, see our future as being bright and positive.  Sure, shit happens.  Even Star Trek addresses how their utopian society isn’t nearly as utopian and foolproof as it seems.  But so many books today are incredibly depressing.  So many have the underlying message of “the human race is fucked and there’s nothing we can do about it.”  I don’t spend most of my free time reading just to get scared and depressed about the future.  I want to see that while shit will continue to happen, we can be better.  We can do more.  We can prevail.

There’s a saying that most Jewish holidays, the ones that aren’t fast days, can be summarized as “Someone tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!”  It’s actually pretty sad how accurate a statement that is.  But there’s still the sense that the future is bright.  After all, we did survive.  And in the case of the Holocaust, we say, to this day, Never Again.  Because the future is in our hands.  It’s our job to make the world a better place – “tikkun olam” the phrase is.  Healing and repairing the world.  We do this because it’s a mitzvah, a sacred responsibility as well as a good deed, to leave the world a better place than we found it.  To make happier lives for our children.  Isn’t that what parents everywhere want?

So when I look at all the poorly written, poorly conceived dystopian young adult novels out there, among others in this negative trend, is it any wonder that I find myself ever more strongly drawn to the sci-fi of the seventies and eighties?

Do You Trust a Smiling Hacker?

Not that the word is ever used in Hellburner, 1992 (the year this book came out) was a little early for hacking to be common phraseology, if it was even used in the same context we know today.  The word that keeps coming up through both Heavy Time and Hellburner is “rab”, short for “rabble”.  The Earth Company, the corporates, would say “the rab is”, implying that the rabble was going to be what it was and do what it would do, regardless of what the Company wanted.  The Company could steer the rab, oppose the rab (absolutely necessary), but they could never be the rab.

Which is why it’s the rab; the Belters, the spacers, and the Attitudes who are so vitally necessary to protect Earth from Union.  The blue-skyers (as those from the homeworld are commonly referred to) really don’t understand not only how far away Union is, but how different it is.  In order to fight an enemy, you have to have some kind of understanding of it, and Earth has been fighting not to know for several decades at this point.  So now they have to rely on the rab to protect them.  And Mazian, of course, but he’ll become a more important figure later.  Funny, in this book, it’s Edmund Porey that’s the key command figure in the Fleet, at least in the reader’s perspective, and Conrad Mazian who is the shadow, off doing things planetside.  In Downbelow Station we see a lot more of Mazian, and it’s Porey who’s his faithful shadow, doing his work in the background.

Observations like that are why I like to reread books.  Obviously I would never catch such a neat turnaround on my first read-through.  Some people might, but I’m not one of them.  Yeah, I’ll remember the argument about whether or not fish is meat.  But seeing something more subtle like that?  Not usually my forte on the first read.  Plus some of these things you just don’t see until you’ve read all the applicable books, and if you only read them once, you can only build off of what you’ve already read.  I’m not even talking foreshadowing, I’m talking about the interplay of multiple books set in the same universe at different points along the timeline.  Books that, outside their specific timeframe, don’t affect each other.  Series like this…it’s like taking a walk with a camera.  Photo, not video.  During the walk, you can choose to take a picture at any point.  And you’ll have a photo of that place at that exact moment.  But you can’t – won’t – get the entire walk.  Just snapshots of what you, with your camera, have decided will be the key points.  Yes, the beginning of the walk will inform the end, but only in the sense that you have traveled between two points.  If someone comes across your photos later, all jumbled up, they can still appreciate them all, even if they’ve fallen out of order.

However, C.J. Cherryh’s Alliance-Union universe isn’t the only thing I’ve been reading today.  Thanks to summer hours, I got off work early and was able to take a trip to the comic book shop and pick up some new releases.  So I’ve also read (and mostly reread) Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #0-5, and Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Pink #1-2.

However cheesy and low budget the old show might’ve been, it did tell some good stories.  And anyone can tell you that the best story of the original run was the Evil Green Ranger.  Which is undoubtedly why the MMPR comic books pick up just after that and focus on Tommy’s integration into the team.  Of course, this is also updated to present day and while I may miss the nineties, I can understand that they want to attract not only older readers who were kids when the show came out, but also younger readers who might be watching the most recent seasons on tv.

And if your favorite characters were Bulk and Skull, well, never fear, they are here too! Even better, they have a mini comic, in a goofier art style, at the back of every MMPR issue.  It is hilarious.

Pink, on the other hand, is a mini-series focusing on Kim (well, obviously).  It takes place later in the timeline, after she, Jason, Trini, and Zack have all moved on from being Power Rangers.  Tommy is the White Ranger now (thank you issue 2 for giving us a sense of timing) and this is post Thunderzords as well.  I’m not finding Pink quite as engaging as MMPR, possibly because Kim is not my favorite character.  The older I got, the more I saw her as being kind of empty, there as a love interest for Tommy, and a gymnast.  When I was a kid and thought gymnastics was AWESOME she was my favorite.  Also because she had the pterodactyl zord, and I love those crazy flying dinosaurs.  I even have a not-Barbie doll of her somewhere.

Pink isn’t bad, but I’m finding it much more predictable than MMPR, and so less engaging.  There should be at least one more major twist, probably two, in the remaining four issues, so I hope it can redeem itself.

Rabspeak is Hard to Understand

I wasn’t planning on making a post today.  But I guess I underestimated how long Heavy Time is.  More sci-fi, this time from C.J. Cherryh.  We were talking about Mars at work yesterday, and people going there, which made me think of Heavy Time and Hellburner, in which MarsCorp is a significant presence in the background.

This book takes place out in the Belt (the asteroid belt) and in the region of Asteroid Exploration Refinery Two.  R2 and ASTEX, you see.  ASTEX is owned by the Earth Company, an important point as this book is from the Company Wars era of the Alliance-Union universe.  Essentially, there’s one megaconglomeration that owns all the stuff beyond Earth, and at some point the furthest reaches of human space say No, and refuse to deal nicely.  So the EC builds some warships to bring them in line.  Company Wars.

That’s a terrible summary of how the war started, but it’s the best I’ll do tonight.  I’m not sure how much of Alliance-Union I’ll be reading at this time, as it’s a series that you can pick and choose what you read from anywhere on the timeline.  Some books clearly go together, like Heavy Time and Hellburner, and it’s easier to read them in order.  Some books, like my favorite The Faded Sun trilogy, can’t be read out of order.  But they’re so distantly connected to the bulk of the series that you feel no obligation to read them in any order relating to the rest.

On an unrelated note, I’m proud to say that this book is signed.  C.J. Cherryh was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America earlier this year, and came to Chicago as a result.  Thanks to some good and geeky friends, I learned that the SFWA would be hosting a mass signing open to the public.  It was well worth driving into the city on a Friday night.  I got a bunch of books signed, saw several good friends, and had some great conversation around the loud music of the highschool prom on the same floor.

I’m not rabid about getting books signed, but I’m certainly happy to take advantage of an opportunity.  I always check the autogrpahing tables list for the cons I attend, though mostly it’s just been local authors like Eric Flint and Jody Lynn Nye.  I haven’t been part of the con scene for very long, so signings are just a casual perk for me.

Next up is Hellburner, not just because the characters from Heavy Time return, but because I like that book a lot more than this one.  As far as I’m concerned, these two are loosely enough connected that I don’t feel any obligation to reread Heavy Time just because I want to reread Hellburner.

Watching a Beloved Character Diminish Hurts

Where Crystal Singer is an origin story and Killashandra is a love story, Crystal Line is the frantic reaffirmation of both.  From the start, we’ve been told that crystal singers have memory problems, that it’s a side effect of the profession.  It’s not something that affected our main character much in the first two books, considering how new she was to her profession at that point.  For the record, crystal singers also live much longer than most humans, with lifespans of multiple centuries, so when I say “new”, I mean that Killashandra, in the self-titled book, was in her first decade of crystal singing.  At the end of Crystal Line, we learn that she is 215 years old.

In Crystal Line we see Killashandra deteriorating mentally.  She’s still as fit and able as she was at the start of the first book, but her memory is functioning only in the short term between trips to the ranges and those things which have become instinct and muscle memory.  She’s still strong-willed and personable when present in the moment, but she’s also become set in her ways and even more stubborn than previously seen.  The book itself is a sad tale of how things can change for the worse if we’re not careful.  I guess you can also see it as commentary on Alzheimer’s or just old age in general.

Killa still has Lars, but she spends much of the book pushing him away because he’s advocating change and she’s clinging to the tradition of the past.  It hurts to see this character intentionally hurting herself and her beloved, but we can also see how crystal-mazed she’s become over the years (and years do pass in this book, though because of the curious nature of crystal singers living only in the present, the immediate past and the immediate future, we don’t really hear about the overall passage of time) and how it hurts every part of her life.

The climax isn’t the big moment that she dreads for a chapter, but the realization afterward, and it’s nothing less than total relief for the reader, having become attached to Killashandra and her desire to be the best crystal singer in the Heptite Guild.  Still, she had a close call overall, and those echoes linger.  There may be a happy ending, but like many of the FSP books McCaffrey wrote, there are clear parallels between this futuristic universe and our own world today.

On a nearly unrelated note, Killashandra was one of the earliest books I read to feature a bisexual character, and that preference is explicitly stated at one point.  As previously noted, that book came out in 1985.  It always makes me happy to see marginalized groups recognized in a logical and respectful fashion.  I should’ve put this in my last post, but I forgot.  Sadly, I can’t blame the crystal like Killa can.

Having finished this set, I’m not certain what will be on the menu for tomorrow, but you can be sure that I won’t leave the house without a book.

What’s in a Title?

It’s interesting that the middle of the three books is titled Killashandra.  One would expect, Killashandra Ree being the main character, and the books being written in third person limited and restricted to her experiences, that it would’ve been the first book named for her.  Instead, that was titled Crystal Singer and was a thorough introduction to the position and how she attained it.

I don’t know that we learn more about Killashandra as a person in this second book. It could’ve been titled Optheria and that would’ve worked just fine.  I suppose the title would’ve been an easy hint to readers in 1985 that this was a sequel to Crystal Singer, but I’m sure there’s more to the title than that.  Titles are strange things.  In some cases, they draw a reader’s attention to a particular scene by using whatever phrase is on the bookcover.  In other cases they make it clear what the main character, location, or focus is.  A good title is almost as important as good cover art to attract browsers.

When I was in the airport two years ago, browsing books in one of the shops, I noticed a book titled Queen of the Tearling.  The phrase is, overall, not uncommon.  Fantasy books like I tend to read have a lot of Queens of various places and peoples.  But what is a “tearling”?  I can’t actually answer that question, as I haven’t read the book yet.  I do intend to do so at some point, but as I know it is the first book of multiple, with a second (at least) also available, by an author I’ve never read before, it’s not a huge priority at this moment.  But the title is notable enough that I haven’t forgotten the book, even if I can’t remember the author’s name without an internet search.

Having finally reached and savored the very happy ending of Killashandra, it’s time to wrap up the set with Crystal Line.  And no, I don’t really know or care how McCaffrey picked that title for the last book.  For me, the important bits are the author, and the fact that this follows two other books that I immensely enjoy.  Not that I haven’t read these three before, I have, and multiple times each.  I’m just pointing out that getting me to grab the third off the shelf is as easy as getting me to buy a new Valdemar book or anthology.

Yes, we’ll get to Valdemar.  Eventually.  But that’s a subject for a very different post.

Back to an Old Standby

Well, after the emotional turmoil of completing the Symphony of Ages I wanted something less intense and more familiar. Also some sci-fi to balance that epic fantasy. Which brings me to a classic author of the seventies and eighties, though she continued writing up through her death. It is the one and only Anne McCaffrey, creator of the Dragonriders of Pern, among many other series, novels, and stories.

Today’s book was Crystal Singer, first in a set of three and set in McCaffrey’s widespread Federated Sentient Planets (FSP) universe. (Pern is technically a part of this too.) I say that it is a set and not a trilogy because these books may follow the adventures of a particular character, but they don’t have the feel of a planned trilogy. So while Crystal Line is a clear conclusion to Killashandra’s story, I don’t get the sense that McCaffrey always intended there to be three books specifically.

Being from the early eighties, these books are roughly three hundred pages apiece, so it’s unsurprising that I’ve already finished the first.  If they were ten years older, the average would drop 100 pages. Twenty years older, and the average would be about 120 pages. A decade newer, and they’d be a hundred pages longer. I always find it interesting how accurately you can date books by the length and the cover art.

See you after I finish Killashandra!


Oh my god.  Well.  That was…I’m having trouble putting it into words.  I have literally just finished The Weaver’s Lament, the final volume in the Symphony of Ages.  And I believe it, that this saga is concluded and finished.  I just…wow.

The Hollow Queen ended on a line that implied we were going to skip ahead a thousand years, and it was true, not just a statement of “and they lived happily ever after”, even though they did, for the better part of that thousand years.  And that brought us to the conclusion of the tale.  Not the War of the Known World, as the events of the previous volume became known, but the end of an era, of an age, of a life that we have followed, in a way, from the start.  The answers to all the questions, the final end of the threat, the end of the characters we have known.

I am on the verge of tears as I type this.

Is it wrong to get so emotional about a book?  I don’t think so.  After all, I have been reading this story for some fifteen years now.  Rhapsody was originally published in 1999, but I don’t think I picked up the series until 2000, when Prophecy came out.  It’s now 2016 and The Weaver’s Lament has been out for just over a month now.  This isn’t the sorrow the world over felt at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows because this is not a fandom shared so widely that it’s mainstream.  This is merely a personal sorrow, and joy, that a series which has accompanied me for so long, even spending a summer at camp with me, has finally come to its well-earned end.

The last series I read which had an ending like this was Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer.  That series was always overshadowed by Harry Potter’s widespread fame, and unjustly so.  But that’s a discussion for the next time I reread it.  Let’s just say that it’s been four years since my last similar experience to today’s.

One day I’ll probably be better able to put into words what I think of this book.  I may point out some of the flaws or absences – what happened to Gwydion Navarne?  Was he a good duke?  Do his descendents still rule at Haguefort?  Did his sister marry the man I think she did?  Is the Patriarch still the man we last saw, or has he too passed on in the intervening millenium?

And really, Elizabeth Haydon, what made you choose to become so much cruder in your terms and descriptions?

Okay, that last I will address today.

It seems to me that the final three volumes are geared at a much more modern audience than the preceding six, namely that of highschool students.  This is evident not only in the change in terminology and vocabulary, but also in the cover design.


Above, you can see a clear divide in the first six books, with a very 90s style of cover illustration rendering the main characters, in locations readers will recognize.  The final three, however, are in the standard young adult style of today.  Author and title are still very obvious in all nine, but the images in the last three are simplified, down to a symbol that is recognizable, but more evocative than visual.  The crown of the merchant emperor.  The compass of Rhonwyn, in front of Meridion’s heart.  A funeral pyre and someone’s very intent face.  Frankly, I prefer the older images, where I can recognize the characters and study them.  Are they completely accurate to the descriptions?  Probably not.  Are they close enough to satsify?  Definitely.

It’s a bit disappointing, the change in style, as I do prefer my series to be unified in their appearance.  Unfortunately, that’s not my choice to make.  I mean, I suppose I could try to buy books that are from the same set, and I often do, but there is nothing I could do in this particular case.  The publisher’s choices are the publisher’s choices and I guess they wanted to snag a newer audience.  Hopefully any such new readers had the intelligence to seek out the earlier volumes, because I can’t imagine how awful it would be to start at volume six and realize that pretty much everything previous is now spoiled.

Where will I go from here, now that I’ve finally finished the complete Symphony of Ages?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  I think I want to reread something next, though I’m not sure what type.  My head is still buzzing from that conclusion, so I may not even start a book today.

Look, a Book I’ve Never Read Before!

For a war that’s been building for seven books, that was fairly short.  The Hollow Queen is just over 400 pages of story, and the rest is a surprising list of characters and places.  I say surprising because while every volume has contained a decent map of the Middle Continent, this is the first time the Symphony of Ages has ever chosen to give us the standard aids of a long and epic fantasy series.

But I still feel like it was a very short war, for all it’s supposed to be the War of the Known World.  There were a lot of characters in a great many locations doing things, and it felt like many scenes were snippets, maybe two full pages in length, an update for that character.  It was also difficult to judge how much time was passing from scene to scene, and there were many important battles that simply weren’t written, just mentioned after their conclusion when we returned to the characters involved.

It contrasts greatly with another long series I’ve been following for some years, David Weber’s Safehold.  Safehold may read like a reimagining of 18th century naval battles, but it is actually science fiction taking place far in the future.  In that series, we really are tracking an entire planet’s worth of wars, battles, and politics, so the book is divided up by months, and each section then tells us exactly where we are focusing for that scene.  Admittedly, The Hollow Queen continues using the excerpt maps I had previously mentioned and details where exactly the scene takes place.  But Safehold makes it a lot easier to keep track of time.  I will also point out that a cast of characters has been an integral part of the books for most of the series…and that said list was well over sixty pages in the most recent volumes.

Back to Elizabeth Haydon.  I’d guess that, unlike David Weber, she is not so interested in military history and chooses to write battles as important moments of the story, not to be the entire book.  So, because this volume is almost all war, it is clearly shorter, because the author didn’t want to write about war.  If that makes sense at all.

It’s also interesting that this is the first book in which I’ve noticed Haydon using swear words.  Specifically “shit” and “fucking”.  Up until now I only recall seeing more acceptable variations.  “Shit” was usually replaced by the fictional Bolgish word “hrekin” and “fucking” could be anything from “knobbing” to “buggering” and a whole bunch in between.  Clearly this was a conscious decision on the part of the author, though I’m not entirely certain why things changed.  It’s not like these were meant for kids before, not with one of the main characters having been a prostitute and there being some very frank discussions of sex, genitals, and related topics.  In this volume though it just seemed…cruder, and more obvious.  Frankly, it robs the series of some of its charm.

In the end, I am a little disappointed because I made a prediction to myself about Talquist’s quest for the Child of Time.  He was told he had to eat the Child’s beating heart at the moment of its death in order to gain immortality.  When he was demanding its location of Rhonwyn, the Seer of the Present, before he killed her, she told him that she and her sisters were called the Children of Time at one point.  After all, the three of them were the Seers of Future, Present, and Past.  Which means, with the death of Anywyn, Seer of the Past, along with Rhonwyn, Manywyn was left as the last of the original Children of Time.  Since we’re seeing a dimunition of the ancient characters and the amount of magic in the world, it would only make sense to me that eating Manywyn’s heart would fulfill the prophecy, augury, and quest.

On the other hand, seeing Talquist dead doesn’t exactly make me cry.  The man may not have been as reprehensible to me as Tristan Steward, but that’s undoubtedly because he wasn’t a major character for very long.

I don’t really have much left to say, but I do want to point out that I love sharing my love of books with people and so while I’ve tried to be relatively circumspect in these posts, I do want to keep from spoiling key parts of these books on the off chance anyone decides to read them.  Yes, I’ve surely given away some things by now, but I do intend to clearly mark anything that is quite specific that you really wouldn’t know from a casual glance.

Two in One

Every time I open The Assassin King or The Merchant Emperor, I sigh in pleasure at the glorious sight that is revealed to me.  Full color maps of the world decorate both inside covers.  It’s not as important to know Serendair’s location (I mean, it’s buried under the ocean), but we did know it was on the exact opposite location of the planet from the Great White Tree.  However, the maps explain the locations of Gaematria, Manosse, The Fiery Rim, The Great Overward, etc.  It also amuses me that on this particular map, one region is Canrif Firbolg.  I’d like it more if Canrif was scrawled out instead of simply struck through, but this will do.

These are not the only maps in the book, just the newest and prettiest ones.  We still have a black and white spread detailing the main continent.

This is also the first book that introduces the wonderful decision to head every chapter up with a map, showing a cropped section of the black and white map that tells us exactly where this scene is taking place.  It’s a rather nice aid, and I can think of a few other series which would do well to consider the idea.

We’re into the climax of the series now, the beginning of the war that has been brewing since the first book (and may I remind you that The Merchant Emperor is book seven) and shit’s gotten real.  In case you feel like you missed something, don’t worry, I finished both The Assassin King and The Merchant Emperor today.  The former is the absolute shortest book in the series (unless if The Hollow Queen or The Weaver’s Lament is shorter, I’ve never read either before, so I don’t have a visceral memory of length yet) and clocks in at about 376 pages.  Considering how rapidly I’ve been finishing the other shorter books in the Symphony of Ages, it’s no surprise that I had to bring two books to work today.

Anyway, the war has begun, lots of loose ends are turning from threads to ropes, characters are entering, leaving, and entering again, and there’s a dragon’s tongue whip.  Weapon.  Thing.  Ask Witheraugh about it, it was his grandmother’s.

Also, one of the most obnoxious characters in the entire series is finally dead.  Under pretenses that were false as far as the killer knew, but true in actuality, but who really cares.  This series may portray an epic battle between good and evil, but evil comes in many forms.  The character in question was so self-centered and spoiled that anything good he accomplished in his life was purely by accident.  Good riddance.

Now that I’ve reread all the books I had already owned, it’s time to plunge into the new ones!  Next up is The Hollow Queen.

It’s a Scum-rian Dragon

Ask and you shall receive: I got my shipping notification from amazon, and the last book will be here tomorrow.  Amazon, is there a reason why you want to pay overnight shipping?  It’s not like you didn’t have plenty of time…  Oh, and I finished Elegy for a Lost Star.  As you may have guessed.

Anyway, onto something that drives me insane about books: errors.  I get super involved when I read, and there is nothing more jarring than a mistake.  It jolts me out of the zone, makes me pause, and check to see what it was I just read.  These include spelling errors, grammatical errors (or just very strange choices), wrong character names, and other facts I know to be incorrect.

Elegy for a Lost Star has a couple glaring errors.  At this point we’re four years into the present timeline, and this has been repeated and made clear throughout this book and Requiem for the Sun.  However, when discussing the training of the Bolg Archons, we see numbers such as five and seven pop up.  Ylorc has been unified only four years, how could these people possibly have been trained for five or more years by people who weren’t even present five years ago?

Now, it is true that, of the various races, the Bolg are among the shortest lived – probably due to their lifestyle in the past, rather than any real traits.  However, I’m pretty sure that they use the same years as everyone else in the world.  If, for some reason, they counted the length of their years differently, that’s something that needs to be established and made clear to the reader.  But that’s something you usually see in books containing multiple planets, not one bound to a single world unless if the species in question is from another.  Since the Symphony of Ages is a very self-contained world, I think we can safely agree that this is not the issue.  That, in fact, this is just shoddy editing.

Back to the Archons. It is stated that not one of them is yet eighteen years old.  This makes me question my impressions of some characters who have been introduced earlier, though not as Archons. Again, it has been mentioned that the Bolg tend towards shorter lifespans, but “short” hasn’t really been defined.  It’s also misleading because of the Cymrians (pronounced “Cum-rians”).  First Generation Cymrians are immortal (of the “if nothing bad happens, they don’t age or die” variety), and their descendants are long-lived, though the further removed from the First Generation, the shorter the lifespan.  There are about fifty generations at the present, those youngest being among the Bolg.

So it would be nice to define terms, since we know one of the main characters is 157 years old, another is roughly 1700 (sequentially, not experientially), and others fall in all sorts of areas before, between, and beyond.  Are most adult Bolg in their late teens instead of their 20s-30s?  It would make more sense then that Krinsel has been one of the primary midwives from the beginning, considering that this is a position of rank and respect in Ylorc.  But saying that, as an Archon, she is younger than 18, raises a lot of questions of how she rose to that rank by age 14.

Now, on a more positive note, this book contains one of my favorite scenes.  You have your dragon, attacking the mountain kingdom.  There is one actual weapon designed to fight the dragon…and it’s not in the kingdom right now because the King is elsewhere.  He really should stop leaving – bad things happen when he does.  Anyway. How do you defeat a maddened ragewyrm?

You do so in a way that is utterly reminiscent of the absolute snarkiest chapter of Les Miserables: by overwhelming her with raw sewage and fecal matter.  And yes, the classic French novel has an entire chapter about the Parisian sewer system and the contents therein.  Don’t ever believe people who say Victor Hugo was boring.  He knew his snark, and the current translation conveys it so very well indeed.

With that image clearly in mind, I’ll be back after I finish The Assassin King, the shortest book in the Symphony of Ages.  So, tomorrow.