Ramblings · Wyrd And Wonder

The Wandering Fire Read-Along: Week 2

Week One: Chapters 1 – 6

Another week means another post delving into the world of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, and we are just over halfway through book two: The Wandering Fire. I am really loving it, and I think this series really benefits from being read in a group, because there are so many things to look at its impossible to catch them all by yourself. This week we are reading chapters 7 – 11 and it is pretty action heavy, with lots of things being set in motion by various people, and I had a lot of fun setting the questions to make sure we got the chance to talk about all of it! So, let’s get to it, and please beware of spoilers!

After spending most of our time in Fionavar either in and around Brennin or with the Dalrei, we are finally getting a closer look at Cathal and its king, and revisiting the intriguing Sharra. Thoughts on this culture and how it fits within Fionavar?

I know I set this question, but I can’t actually think of too much to say… I got excited at the start of the chapter because Shalhassan is a really interesting person to be in the mind of. I thought we might see a bit more of Cathal or, given that they’re all travelling to Brenin, a bit more of the social and political structured. It quickly devolved though, but I’m not mad about the scene it became, with Diarmuid’s cocky boasts and betting. It was highly entertaining, but what I did love the most was the dynamic between Diar and Aileron, so strong and so fragile at the same time. Never has a character conflicted me so much as this wayward prince!

What I also liked was how, at the end of the whole ‘actually Brennin is a strong power’ Shalhassan is able to respect the effort and the new king, rather than turn bitter and make more conflict in a world already on the bring of the end times. I know many authors would have pulled on that thread, and it definitely works sometimes (see: Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey which I am finishing right now) but I think for Fionavar it wouldn’t have fit into the vibe (for lack of a more nuanced word) that Kay has created.

What I didn’t like was Sharra. Or rather, the way Sharra comes out of this scene. Sure, it sets up the whole scene with Diarmuid later – and okay, that was adorable and I do hope he’s being genuine – but I wish she could have come out on top. It’s almost like book one saw her be as clever as she could be, she had her moment, and now she’s just there. Actually, I feel this way about Jennifer too, but Jen obviously didn’t shine. I mean, I speak only of how things stand halfway through the book – and the series – and if these chapters and all their events are any indication, a lot is still to come.

Huh, look at that. I did find things to say!

Everyone has now met King Arthur! What do you make of this legend out of time now that he’s had a bit more page-time and of the revelation about Jennifer?

I really love this Arthur. I don’t love all Arthurs, but this one is a good one. You can feel the weight of all the lives he’s lived, even if you’re not explicitly told them. It’s almost as if all the tellings and retellings of his legends have worn him out, and Kay’s is the final version. I do like the way everyone bows to him, but I do wonder what it is about him that makes everyone immediately recognise him. I know this isn’t that type of story but it would have been really funny if Kim had to keep introducing him. Or if he stood there all unassuming until the prefect time for the reveal.

A bit like Jennifer as Guinevere, I guess. I definitely did not see that coming, or even if there was a build up. I guessed it during the scene when she is walking to the room Arthur is in, but there was no foreshadowing I could see before that. Right? Did I miss it? Either way, it’s quite rogue. Look, as a concept I love the idea of Arthur and Guinevere both reincarnating and living out their tragedy, but to see it happen, especially to a character who has already endure so much as herself, it’s not great to see this future ahead of her as someone else. Also, Jennifer seems very sure there is no ‘third’ aka Lancelot, but I feel like Kay wouldn’t leave that unfinished. I don’t know… I’ll just have to see how it plays out. The romantic part of me just wants Jen to throw away all her pain and embrace Arthur, but the realistic part of me knows that she needs to heal and be left alone by all these men who think they can fix her!

First the fleeting lios alfar, and now the glimpses of the Paraiko; we have talked about myths and legends, but what do you think of the mythical creatures of Fionavar?

I have to be honest – it took me until my third encounter with the Paraiko to realise they weren’t lios alfar. I thought they were ones that had been captured at the same time as Jennifer was. I am so frustrated at the small glimpses: I want to see more! The lios alfar are still very 2D for me, like shadows of Tolkien’s elves, but the moment in which Daniloth revealed itself I saw a bit more and it added a bit to them as a culture. The Paraiko are fascinating and I want to read a whole book about them! Tell me more! I also just love how mashed up everything is, like many things in this book, but it does all fit! I’m still not sure how I feel about the unicorn though…

‘And far, far above all of this, outside of time, the shuttle of the Worldloom slowed and then was still, and the Weaver, too, watched to see what would come back into the Tapestry.’ (ch. 9)

Thoughts on Fate and the place of the Weaver in all of this?

I had to include this line as a question/talking point because it just stopped me in my tracks! Like, what!! The Weaver has been a very remote character, easy to forget until mentioned again, and he definitely fits the role of God in the Christian faith, or something like Eru in Tolkien’s mythology, but unlike them he seems to be the one keeping the shuttle going, and the world in motion. Am I overthinking this? Unsure… I just find it absolutely fascinating. It also keeps reminding me of The Wheel of Time with its tapestry metaphors and the wheel that spins out new patterns every age. I see The Eye of the World came out a few years after The Summer Tree so I do wonder if Robert Jordan borrowed from Kay or if they just had similar sources…

We need to talk about Kevin. What do you make of his role in this story, and the way all five of the friends seem to be playing out a role? What did you make of Maidaladan and all that came with it? Re-readers, any new thoughts on this section?

I combined the last two questions because I do realise they are so connected… first of all I have another question – is that it? Is Kevin gone now? I didn’t quite get the chance to mourn because I didn’t realise what was happening until it had happened. It was a very emotionally tinted scene, and it definitely touched me, but it just took me completely by surprise. Especially because I couldn’t remember if I was supposed to know Liadon’s story. Was it mentioned? I understood it in the end, but I felt it would have been so much more impactful if, perhaps during the Maidaladan celebrations, someone had performed the story and then we saw it played out.

I think I was also thrown by Maidaladan. I am already used to this series being a lot sexier than I thought going into it (idk why I expected it to be sex-free… I guess the similarities with Tolkien made me think it would follow that trend) but still there was something about this Midsummer festival that rubbed at me the wrong way. I think it was the way all the men are just super aroused and it’s never quite specified whether the women also enjoy this heightened arousal – and in cases it seems some individuals definitely don’t. It just makes me uncomfortable to think of the consequences and the way, even in this celebration of fertility, the male arousal is celebrated and the willingness of their potential partners is glossed over.

Also!! Kim and Loren?? I’m sorry? Did I miss something?? Is this going to be a thing now or is it just a Maidaladan thing? Isn’t this man really old? I can’t remember actually how old he’s supposed to be but if he’s not quite Gandalf level, I thought he might at least be a Theoden or something. (Have I negated my argument? Theoden is a very handsome gentleman…) Anyway, I shall read on cautiously to see what comes of this, since I always thought Kim had a bit of a thing with Aileron…

Any other musings?

The only thing I haven’t talked about, I think, is the Sleepers and Finn’s storyline. I loved his sections with Darien, and feel so sad at the thought of Darien now without his loving brother, having to fight the darkness alone… I’m assuming, with the third book being called The Darkest Road, that this plot point of the Sleepers and Finn will return. And I know the Wild Hunt is another old myth like that of Arthur, but I want to know more about them! So, the best thing to do is push onwards through the story, as I’m sure much more is still to come, but I can’t say I’d be confident predicting any of it right now!

9 thoughts on “The Wandering Fire Read-Along: Week 2

  1. I also totally mixed the Paraiko and lios alfar together. 🙂 I do think of the Weaver as a little bit of a recorder like god. There are threads of certain lengths and there are different patterns that could be done but I’m not sure he’s an active participant. I was also surprised by Kim and Loren. Plus I’m with you on the women having dubious consent. Jaelle talks about it being a restlessness for women. Also, there were men in the square and the idea seemed to be that the women go with them and that’s expected. I also paired Kim and Aileron. Then again, the relationships have been fairly casual rather than committed so far (Kevin and Jennifer, Paul and Rachel, Liane and Dave).

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  2. Interesting thought on whether the Weaver and the Wheel have similar sources. I want to guess no – that Jordan was explicitly looking at Buddhism, and Kay is far more deliberately north-western… but there could have been something else that they expressed in different ways. Or maybe it was the mood of the time? A lot of authors around then used recursion motifs in some way (Eddings and Kerr in particular). Also, since you’ve touched on it… yes, the worldbuilding is very thin in some ways here, and I kind of wish it was otherwise. Although kind of not? I do find my favourite authors from this period are increasingly those who used a light touch on their worlds, and used them as painted stages for their characters to live very real lives at great velocity.

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    1. I think because I haven’t really read a lot of books from that period – I’ve mostly read either earlier or later works – I don’t really have that reference as much… but yes you’re right that Robert Jordan’s reincarnation is definitely a lot more Buddhist. I think Arthur’s fate in The Wandering Fire is mostly what made me think of the Wheel.

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