readalong · Wyrd And Wonder

The Wandering Fire Read-Along: Week 3

Week 1: Chapters 1-6
Week 2: Chapters 7-11

I can’t believe we’ve already finished The Wandering Fire, book two in the Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay! Despite having read it over the course of a month, roughly, it feels like it’s over in a flash! So much happened, and yet, not much has advanced? Idk, I may unpack that thought later… this week, the discussion is being lead by Peat Long, who has to win the Most Committed Blogger Award for getting to these questions and keeping on top of his posts while also moving continents! I am in awe, Peat! So, let’s talk about the end of The Wandering Fire:

Five questions for five friends seems right and the first concerns Darien. We’ve seen a lot of the young and slightly less young andain as he goes through a rapid and terrible coming of age. Would you have handled it different? Do you think he’ll be alright?

This is well phrased – I am concerned about Darien. I can see no outcome in which things end well for him, regardless of the side he chooses… a part of me is disappointed in Jennifer for not sticking with her son – though I know how much grief that reminder would probably bring her. But, at the same time, she made the choice to keep him, and so in her place I think I would have taken that step further to give him the best chance of being good. And a part of m is also disappointed in Vae for leaving the house by the lake so soon after Darien disappeared; he may look like a young man now, but he is still a child and he may have chosen to return to his safe place…

I really didn’t like the sped up ageing, either. I already mentioned it last week, and as I said I know it is convenient for a plot that takes place over such a short period of time, but there’s something about it that feels like cheating. And denying Darien a childhood is dangerous, in my view… sure he was already showing spooky tendencies as a child, but I don’t think Paul made the right decision, even if he was acting with the right intentions. Basically, I would like to volunteer to give this smol possibly evil andain a hug.

If one thing has dominated the thoughts of the four survivors in this part, it is the memory of the fifth. Are there any reactions to Kevin’s sacrifice that particularly caught you? Any reactions you might have expected but didn’t see?

The reactions definitely hit me a lot more than Kevin’s final moments, mainly because at the time I didn’t quite realise what was happening… the one I felt the most was Kim’s distress at not remembering Kevin’s last words to her, because that’s what would haunt me in that situation. But I do wish I had seen a scene where the four surviving friends are able to sit down and remember Kevin, but maybe that’s something that can only take place when everything has come to an end. I would have liked, also, to see Diarmuid’s band raise a toast to him, or do something – maybe armband style – to commemorate him as they went into battle.

Maugrim’s reaction to the defeat of General Winter is predictably violent and it is the Dalrei – and their unlooked for allies – who take the brunt of it. And give the brunt of it too! Tell us of your reactions to the Battle for the Plain.

I am still in shock about the Wild Hunt. Maybe I should have seen it coming, but I have not seen this myth in action many times, and it really took me by surprise. But overall this battle felt like a combination of Helm’s Deep and the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. The swans, though, were entirely unique, and I’m not sure how I felt about Avaia not being the only one, because her descriptions were so vivid and powerful that she really was a force to be reckoned with, and in a way her not being the only one diminishes her? But it did say it was her brood, so maybe they’re not as powerful? Idk but it just jolted me a bit.

I do like that it’s all from Dave’s point of view, and he really is great during action, especially side by side with Torc, who I didn’t see nearly enough of in this book. Him and Dave definitely need to get together (sorry Ceinwen) and continue saving each other in battle forever. Thank you. But it was a brutal battle, and I’m sure there is absolutely worse to come, which makes me sad.

But there are other battles too when you sail north into the north wind. The soulmonger! The cauldron! Yet more sacrifice. How much of this did you see coming? How much surprised you? Would you have made Matt’s demand, or Arthur’s choice?

I did love the seafaring part of this tale, and the absolute horror of the discovery that none of the lios in the past thousand years have made it to their promised land. That is hardcore and I shudder to think what the surviving lios will do when they find out. I think this tragedy is a great summary of the story Kay is writing, with this mix of beauty and hopelessness; it’s quite something. Also, Diar leaping onto the soulmonger’s head to get the staff? Super on brand and I love it, but nobody tell Sharra.

I didn’t quite know what to expect from this section, though, except that it would involve a life-restoring Cauldron. Sadly, I am not well versed in the sources for these stories, though I plan to change that, and it made me think of John Gwynne’s Malice more than anything else, because there too is a cauldron with mythic properties. I suspect similar inspirations (though I also haven’t read the rest of Gwynne’s series so I don’t know what happens to that cauldron). I did like the epic mage showdown, and Matt’s sacrifice was not exactly a surprise. His resurrection was, though, and I am eager to see the reversal of roles between him and Loren in the future. Before I say anything else, though, I have to mention that the name Matt throws me out of the story every single time. It just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the names in Fionavar; I know that all the dwarves we’ve met so far have had short “stocky” names, which does fit, but Matt is such a 21st century thing that I cannot reconcile it with noble dwarven king… is this just me?

As for weather I would be able to do what he did, I hope so… if I knew that it would save so many people, I hope I could do it. I don’t know if I could have done what Arthur did, though. But I’ve never had a best friend who, in every lifetime, stole my true love. Arthur really is noble to the point of self-inflicting pain, and – like with Darien – I don’t see a way things can end happily.

And so concludes The Wandering Fire. It has struck, and it has kindled great pain and suffering. Looking back over the whole, are there any moments of foreshadowing you particularly appreciate? Book arcs you love or hate? Questions you need answered right frickin’ now?

Yeah, I’ve got a question: what has happened to Kim and what do the poor Dalrei women and children have to deal with now?? I am Very Worried.

I don’t think I was smart enough to catch any foreshadowing, sadly. I was just flying blind though this whole thing, which has been weird! Usually I am a reader full of predictions, but this series seems to do something that, while full of familiar elements, is unlike anything I’ve seen before. The pace of it, after the slow build up in book one, took me by surprise but I liked it and think it fit really well with the feel of the story and the events taking place. All of this means, basically, that I have no idea what to expect for the final volume in this saga, but I do look forward to reading it with you lovely companions when we get the chance!

6 thoughts on “The Wandering Fire Read-Along: Week 3

  1. I know what you mean about Avaia, but it has just hit me that in taking and twisting familiar elements, Guy Gavriel Kay took one look at The Silmarillion and Morgoth’s dragons and their broods and said: “I like it a lot. Let’s move it on. What if they were SWANS?” …I would not have thought to put “enormous bad-smelling murderbirds” in my Evil Air wing and I take my hat off to him, because Avaia and her brood make me shudder every time.

    I am 100% in agreement with you on Darien. The little lost andain needs so many hugs, and I too would have felt better if Jennifer had stuck around to help raise him (although I understand why that might not have been possible for her own sanity).

    It’s been a couple weeks since I finished reading and I had somehow forgotten Diar’s flamboyant staff-harvesting manoeuvre. You’re right, that is SO on brand. Say this for the Prince of Brennin: he always gives full value when you deploy him for heroics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely not something most people would think of, but it helps that normal swans are already evil, and yes the bad-smell element is so visceral!

      It’s funny how some charming antics can make me almost forget the slimy unpleasantnesses that Diar has shown in the past! Very unfeminist of me but I do love some action and wit!

      Like

  2. We’ve got a Kevin and a Kimberly running around the landscape, and you’re there going “but not a Matt”? 😛 I kid, although that is probably a big part of why it’s never occurred to me to question it before. Well, that and The Wheel of Time. Mat is an acceptable fantasy name to me, for better or for worse

    Although now you mention it, Matt isn’t that far away from Math, a king of Brythonic legend who is maneuvered into leaving his kingdom in the care of others, and returns to express his extreme displeasure… which is possibly another reason it doesn’t jog me much.

    Also yeah, Avaia makes skin creep. Too much for her to be diminished by anything much in fact.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, I know! But Kevin, Paul, Kim, Jen, and Dave are from our world and so it’s not as weird, though I much prefer it when their names get ‘Fionavised’ (that’s a word now)… and Mat is Matrim so it’s Fantasy™️ haha. I don’t know the legend about Math, though, so I shall now investigate!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I mean, logic is on your side, but my brain is very happy to chuck out logic to have everything make sense.

        And happily that myth isn’t a major spoiler, or things would be about to get very weird and nasty.

        Liked by 1 person

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