readalong, Wyrd And Wonder

The Summer Tree Readalong: Week Four

It’s over! It’s always bittersweet to finish a readalong, because on the one hand I couldn’t wait to get to the end and find out what happens but on the other I will miss being part of this reading journey with such wonderful companions! This week, everything is happening, so please beware of spoilers going forward. Thank you to the magnificent Mayri the Bookforager for the closing questions – let’s get to it!

Paul is now the Lord of the Summer Tree. What do you think this means/ will mean?

What indeed? I have to say, second-half-of-the-book Paul is much more likeable and interesting. He had his few little moments before but his angst didn’t have any depth to make him very sympathetic but seeing all his pain laid out and seeing him overcome it did wonders for him as a character (though I wouldn’t wish it on anyone irl). I am very intrigued by his reborn-self, because he’s definitely a lot more open and aware of the world outside himself now, and also a lot more in tune with Fionavar. Plus, with a title like Lord of the Summer Tree how can he not be badass? I think it means, fundamentally, that he’ll have quite the role to play in the coming war, though I suspect that might be the case for all five of our people (yes, I read the blurb of the next book, what of it?). I suspect Paul’s role will feature the gods a bit, or the bringing back of old beings (more on that later).

Each of our grad students has found a role to play in Fionavar, most questionably Jennifer. She asks herself “what was her sin, what had she done” to deserve the terrible TERRIBLE punishment she receives at the hands of Maugrim and his creatures. What are your thoughts and feelings on Jennifer’s plight, and how have you made sense of it within the scope of the story so far?

Oh, Jennifer! That was quite the scene, and I wouldn’t reread it in a hurry. It can’t be called anything other than a rape scene, and for there being nothing explicitly sexual mentioned, it was still horribly graphic. Nobody deserves that, and even if Kim is able to save her friend I don’t see Jen recovering quickly (but then this series was written by a man so I’m not sure how the aftermath will be handled).

In terms of its role within the story, it seems to function to give us the first up close glimpse of the Big Bad, and to show he really is the Worst. In that, it certainly succeeded, but I’m not sure Jen’s plight has anything else to do with the wider plot. And was she specifically singled out to be taken away, or was she just the easiest of the five to get hold of? And from the talk earlier in the book it seemed there was a reason they needed her – I suppose that’s where her death comes in? Sacrificial blood and all… either way, not very pleasant. Beautiful women go through the worst things in fantasy, sometimes!

What did you make of the many events in the throne room, from the assassination attempt to the showdown for the crown?

I loved the throne room scene! My feelings regarding Diarmuid have been like a pendulum this whole readalong, and I end The Summer Tree feeling grudging respect and much amusement for him. No one else could have de-escalated the tension in that room the way he did. But he still tried to sneak into Sharra’s room, sigh. Oh, and speaking of Sharra, I’m so glad her and Kim are becoming friends, it’ll be an interesting pairing! I do wonder what she’ll be doing next… a part of me suspects she’ll end up marrying the very vexing heir to the throne at some point, but we’ll see. But yes, this was the court drama I wanted! More of this please!

There’s been a surfeit of signs, a plethora of portents in this week’s reading. Now is the time to air your opinions on such things as flying unicorns, getting lost in the woods, the Cave of the Sleepers, magical Horns and unearthed Cauldrons.

In a lot of ways, it’s been a bit too overwhelming, but I think I trust GGK at this point to get to what he needs to at the right point, especially with all the signs, portents, and prophecies. I really liked the scene with the flying unicorn, it was the perfect use of the purple prose, and it made me kind of like unicorns (I don’t know why I’m so averse – possibly too many pink and glittery ones in recent years). I also loved the entire time we spent in Pendaran, and I would like to live there, please. I hope we revisit it! Hints, rereaders?

As for the mentions of Sleepers, magical Horns, and Cauldrons, I recognise a lot of elements of various mythologies, but it also makes me think of Wheel of Time with the horn of Valere and the Hunters of the Horn that will return to fight for whoever blows the horn. It is an old trope, and I like it. Also, all these hints of the Warrior…. tell me mooooore! I am a bit of a sucker for a deftly incorporated myth into fantasy. And because Fionavar has been set up as the first world, it can be done well and then, if there are recognisable elements of real-world things, the explanation is simple: Fionavar did it first!

The Dwarves did it, in the darkness, with the Cauldron of Khath Meigol! What do you make of this last-minute revelation? And care to make any predictions on future developments?

It came a bit out of left field! But I’m glad we got an explanation, even if it felt a bit rushed… the dwarves have been on the fringes of this story, apart from Matt, and I hope this is another element we can delve deeper (like the dwarves) into in future books. When the different factions were mentioned I couldn’t help but think of Paolini’s Eragon and the inner conflict in the dwarven community in that story, which I was always intrigued by, so this captivated me too. I suppose it’s quite a trope, the inquisitiveness of dwarves and their desire to mess with things even when it may not be wise to do so… but they must have known what would happen when they shattered their stone?? Imminent war and death?? I feel like whatever happens next will ultimately be tragic for Matt, unfortunately.

Finally, reaction shots on Maugrim the Unraveller – go!

As far as Dark Lords go, he is both powerful (that giant claw when he first revealed himself was impressive) and a bit of a let down… his desires and impulses seem too human – though I suppose gods are a projection of the best and worst of humanity. I did like his descriptions, making him both huge and present in the room… I don’t have final opinions on him, but he doesn’t seem to have the refined trickery that one might expect after villains such as Sauron in his early days. As far as I know there was no giving of gifts under false pretences or anything like that, he was just enemy no.1 from Creation. A bit one dimensional, but time will tell!

And so it is the end of The Summer Tree, but I have already ordered the rest of the series, so who’s up for another readalong?

3 thoughts on “The Summer Tree Readalong: Week Four”

  1. Yes, we will return to Pendaran.

    The only pink glitter for this unicorn will be blood shining on her horn.

    And you’re right, Maugrim is not subtle and unlike Tolkien’s villainous gods he does not dissemble. All these beings are beneath him, he will simply (try to) crush them… in spite of having failed previously, so I guess we can scratch out humility, self awareness and quick study as traits too 😉 But he IS patient, which sort of terrifies me.

    I’m happy to light The Wandering Fire whenever you like – I’ll be alternating with Subjective Chaos and She Who Becomes The Sun, but I’ll manage!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Quest Log the Last

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