readalong, Wyrd And Wonder

The Summer Tree Read-Along: Week Two

Alright, the soundtrack to The Fellowship of the Ring is playing, the sun is attempting to shine, and I have more to say about The Summer Tree! This is week two of the Wyrd and Wonder readalong hosted by Imyril, and this week’s questions were kindly put together by the lovely folk at The Fantasy Hive. This post will definitely contain spoilers up until chapter 8, and if you want to catch up with my thoughts on the previous section you can find them at the link at the bottom of the post, but my general sentiment in week one was one of curiosity and uncertainty, both.

It’s quite an overwhelming fantasy world to be thrown into, and the prose is sometimes hard to reconcile with. This week I enjoyed the writing more, because we’re now fully immersed in the fantastical and it fits much better, but there is still a lot of lore being thrown at us without much explanation. Some of it I like because it adds to the feel of the story, but some of it I would like more explanation for now please!! Anyway, on to the questions…

There was a little confusion last week on whether chapter six was supposed to be included, so let’s explore this one first. We discussed the Pervy Prince last week – would you like to weigh in on his antics across the border?

Ah yes, the Pervy Prince, Diarmuid. I did mention last week that I think (or hope) that he had a much more cunning motivation than just “plucking a rose” for his actions with Sharra, but that doesn’t really make it better… Also, what is up with Kevin and Paul (and all the other men) letting this happen and celebrating it?? Gross.

I do think he has underestimated Sharra and she will have some bigger part to play. Other than that, he’s been a little quieter in this last section, apart from starting a bar fight and then leaving without paying any of the damages or helping with clean-up. I still don’t understand what ambitions he might have or what his general motives might be, so I’m keeping a weary eye on our party-loving prince.

We’re a sizable step into the story now, so how are we all finding the pacing?

The pacing is what you’d expect for a story weaving together so many disparate parts into one tapestry (see what I did there?) and overall I’m enjoying it. Things have started to happen more now, and the only thing I found a bit off is how quickly Paul has sacrificed himself to the tree. In any other story I would have expected this to come closer to the end, but I also have no idea which directions things might go next, so who am I to say? And that’s something I am also enjoying actually; for all that the world-building and tropes are very familiar to any seasoned fantasy reader, the events keep surprising me and I am enjoying being carried along by them.

Loren continues his mysterious antics, have your opinions about him shifted at all? Or is there a certain other mage you’re now more concerned about?

I definitely agree with Loren when he tells himself he has been a fool. What was he thinking in leaving his charges in a political situation they know nothing about? I mean, I know he was off looking for Dave, but he could have taken Jennifer with, at least! Other than that, though, I did sort of forget about him with all the other drama going on with METRAN?? What a twist, I loved it! But it still makes me wonder about Gorlaes who we’ve been set up to mistrust and who, so far, has done nothing much than loom in the background. Is he actually dangerous or is he just not aligned with Loren’s goals? All these mages are tricksy…

Between the children’s game and Kim’s dream, not to mention Ysanne’s mutterings to herself, prophecy is a key element weaving through this story. What are your reactions to the various foretellings thus far?

The one I am most curious about – and which I suspect we will get the least amount of information on – is the children’s game and the fate of those chosen for the Longest Road. Is Finn going to play a role in this story or is he just there to hint at something someone else will need to endure? And will Leila play a role, now that she’s been chosen for the Goddess? There is something both thrilling and eerie about this game the children play, and the fact that it is accepted by the adults says much about the society and how they as a people view prophecy.

All of it woven together certainly gives this story the feel of an old epic, and a feeling of having a history, even more so than the overture did. I liked the language Kay used when talking about the foretold fight between the wolf and the dog beneath the Summer Tree, it had a beautifully archaic ring to it. I also like that there are so many different prophecies and dreams, all snippets, and it makes it much more readable than the classic single prophecy that must be fulfilled. The world of dreams and possibility is closer in Fionavar, and I get the feeling it is both a blessing and a curse to be able to glimpse it.

Let’s address the massive sacrificial magical tree in the room – would you have offered yourself in Paul’s shoes?

Hah! I do not think so, no. Maybe if I were in a similar situation of loss and grief, but that is a very strong maybe because Paul hasn’t lost everything, he’s just surrounded by internalised, unexpressed grief and I really feel for Kevin as he tries to be patient with his friend, and I wonder what he will feel when he discovers what Paul has done. I do relate to Paul’s thinking of making this act count for something other than simply ending his misery, and I think if I were presented with a scenario such as this, where my sacrifice could save a lot of people, I might do it. But, because this is a world I have only just discovered, and because it is the place of the king to make this sacrifice and the only reason he hasn’t is his own fear, I think I’d have a lot more objections.

“There was no unworthiness in yielding to a god.”

Paul is definitely an interesting character, because through his own pain, he is still able to recognise it in others, and this is probably a big reason why he decided to hang from the Tree. But as the reader, I find it frustrating that we still don’t know entirely what is causing Paul’s grief. It is clear that he has lost someone, and possibly that he blames himself, but there is only so much skirting around the subject I can take, especially in trying to understand why he hasn’t been able to express his emotions at all.

There were two pretty major battles this week. The lios alfar were slaughtered by Galadan, and Paul witnessed a truly moving fight between Galadan and his mysterious canine protector. What were your reactions?

I was definitely taken by surprise with the slaughter of the lios alfar, but despite the horror of it I appreciated its role, and it really emphasised the betrayal by Metran and introduced Galadan as a foe to be reckoned with. I am interested in the mention, during both fights, that some other force was aiding the warriors of the Dark, and how those fit in with all the little hints and dreams of a darkness stirring. The battle between Galadan and the grey dog was certainly something, though I couldn’t quite concentrate because I kept thinking how unrealistic it was that the dog managed to hold to life for hours when it was so outmatched. But one must allow for such things, and it’s a small complaint! I do want to know who this mysterious canine protector is, and whether we’ll see him again or if he’s played his role… I know we haven’t seen the end of Galadan, and I quite like him, actually. Is that wrong?

There’s still no sign of Dave! First time readers – any theories? Revisitors, do you recall if you had any opinions on this before?

Poor Dave, he just wanted to study! Last week I speculated he may have fallen into evil hands and may play an unwitting part in freeing the dark lord, and I think I still stand by this. Perhaps he’s wherever Jennifer is being taken… either that or he’ll show up in Paras Derval at the highest point of tension and be like, ‘What did I miss?’ which I think would be hilarious, and I don’t think will actually happen.

On the topic of theories, I wanted to say I suspected Tyrth, Ysanne’s assistant, of being the banished prince before it was revealed to be so ( I assume that’s what his appearance at the Tree meant), and I just wanted that stated for the record. I initially though it might be the grey dog, but that seems to be an older, more fabled being…

That’s it for today! Now onwards with the story as I will be hosting week three, which includes chapters 9-12, and I have a feeling things are going to get more exciting with all the action starting up in earnest. I hope we finally see Dave again…

If you would like to join us, there is a Twitter Community where we post the weekly discussion questions and share our posts and other thoughts. DM one of the Wyrd and Wonder hosts if you’d like us to add you!

6 thoughts on “The Summer Tree Read-Along: Week Two”

  1. Well spotted on Tyrth!

    And welcome to Team Galadan; he may be a villain, but he has style and that’s always to be appreciated. He’s also rather terrifying; the casual certainty that he can take Metran makes the battle with the grey dog all the more of a marvel – I think we have to step back from the unreality (although I feel it too, even on a reread) and ask ‘who the hell is this dog that he can defeat Galadan?’…

    I’m with you on feeling Paul’s sacrifice comes shockingly early – it DOES feel like it should be a climactic event, but nope, we’re not even halfway. And I can’t remember what the climactic event(s) is/are… some rereader I am!

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