readalong, Wyrd And Wonder

The Darkest Road by Guy Gavriel Kay: Read-Along Week 2

It’s been such a weird week for me that I was convinced we were already on part three of The Darkest Road! But no, we are about halfway through this journey full of pain and hope in spite of it, so let’s get to these questions, kindly provided by Imyril @ There’s Always Room for One More!

Who wears this next shall have the darkest road to walk of any child of earth or stars. But would you try to win Darien over or set him free to choose? What do you make of the various reactions towards Darien, and to his actions?

I am very unimpressed and not a little frustrated with the way everyone has treated Darien from the moment he was born. Even Finn, who loved him, left with no explanation, and his adoptive mother so quickly abandoned the only home Darien knew and might return to. Then there’s Paul who had good intentions but demonstrated no knowledge of how children – and teenagers – work, thus making things worse. The only one who is trying is Kim, and I know one can’t help one’s fears, but she could have been less Seer-like in that moment and a bit more of a friend, rather than simply handing Darien a powerful object with no explanation.

And then, there’s Jennifer. Jennifer has done nothing in this book to make me like her, and this is the worst of them. I do understand that she wants Darien’s choice to be entirely his own, but there are so many ways to explain that to a child, and to say that he is no longer a baby and cannot be treated as such is pointless when Jen never interacted with Darien as a baby either. Surely for Darien to choose between love and power – which is how I see it, really… the Light is love and the Dark is desire for control and power – then surely he should experience some love other than fleeting moments?

Darien’s actions themselves are a little frustrating at times, as he’s very flighty and you just want him to calm down a bit, but they are totally understandable. Lancelot so far is the only one who has demonstrated something close to decent (other than Sharra’s brief outburst) with him simply showing his presence. And speaking of Lancelot…

And three makes a triangle. Thoughts on the trope, and on this specific trio? …and now that we’ve seen Lancelot in action… reaction shots are Go.

I’m going to start with an unpopular opinion, from what I’ve seen of other’s posts: I didn’t like the fight scene. I know Kay worked so hard to make it such an epic moment, and the language was beautiful and I can see the grand romantic Arthurian appeal, but all I could think was how unrealistic it all was. I know this isn’t that kind of book, but I also know it’s the kind of book where – though people do get killed off – there is great purpose to certain deeds and characters, so I knew that Lancelot was likely to survive the fight. Which meant that with every passing blow that extended it I just grew impatient.

But as for Lancelot himself, I do like him. I’m not mad about the fated triangle, but I like the depth of it in this instance where all three members of the triangle really love each other, and it’s not just two people making a third choose between them. But I am not very interested in this particular tragedy with so many other things at stake, I’m afraid. Maybe the secret to breaking poor Arthur’s curse is to start a thruple?

Jaelle has warmed up since Maidaladan. Any thoughts on our formerly icy High Priestess and her actions?

Jaelle is great, and I can’t tell if her relationship with Paul is supposed to be leaning toward romantic, and I can’t tell if I want it to be. More like lesbian and bisexual straight man solidarity maybe? What a different story it would be if we had polyamory and queer people! Anyway, back to seriousness…

I do remember that I wasn’t overly fond of Jaelle when I first met her way back in The Summer Tree, but she has remained an interesting character throughout this trilogy, and I’ve really enjoyed the little moments we get inside her head. And bringing Paul back into it, the two of them work really well together from a narrative perspective, these two spiky people who accidentally puncture one another, but the gashes they leave behind give them a better understanding of themselves and the other person. If that makes sense? As for her actions, especially that of leaving Leila in charge, makes me think she might not be making it back home. Whether through death or change of life, it feels like Jaelle’s ties are slowly dissolving.

Our understanding of the Weaver and the lore of Fionavar has deepened this week. Any insights, theories or reactions to share?

There is certainly a lot of new lore still coming our way so late in the story: the birth of the Wild Hunt, Curdardh, and the appearance of Amairgen. The one I love the most as a concept is Curdardh, because I love that he is the Oldest One, even if he’s a very violent creature that I wouldn’t actually want to meet. Does anyone know if this demon comes from any pre-existing mythology or folklore, or if it’s Kay’s invention? I looked up the name but could mainly see posts about this book… either way I’ve had a soft spot for great beings lying buried beneath the earth waiting to be called forth ever since I read The Chronicles of Narnia and we see Father Time slumbering in book 6 and then being woken by Aslan in book 7. Good stuff.

I’m quite torn about The Wild Hunt, and what this says about the Weaver. I keep getting different impressions about the Weaver, too. Is he all knowing and thus weaves the loom based on what he has already seen, or is he a spectator of his actions? Does he just stay in motion, and some other force determines the way things play out? I suppose that great storm that drove Prydwen to shore says otherwise… and the fact that he introduced an element of randomness to allow for choice does follow the Christian choice-based system, but I’m not quite sure I follow the logic. But then I think part of my issue is that I’m currently quite critical of the ‘big bad that wants to destroy everything’ trope, and the fact that Rakoth Maugrim exists simply because the world has free choice, and thus there must be an ultimate evil, doesn’t quite work for me.

As for Amairgen, I do find his ghost ship very cool, and appreciate the tragedy in the way he can return to the tower as a dead man, but it will always be too late to see his love.

Snark question: Based on the evidence, do you think any andain have sensible relationships with their parents? Or a handle on their feelings?

I mean, Flidais seems relatively normal? But no, it seems that with powerful parents come powerful emotional outbursts… I would love to see more andain, since I’m sure there are plenty. Is Galadan the only diva, and all his cousins and siblings are always rolling their eyes at him? And how many side with him, and how many side with the Light? From lack of evidence, I will assume that most are indifferent to the struggle going on, which is weird if you consider that the Unraveller would destroy everything, presumably. And Galadan definitely wants everything and everyone to die, so you’d think some self-preservation would be involved.

Actually, this makes me wonder: do we actually know if Maugrim has an ultimate goal? Is it simply to rule? Would he keep everyone enslaved to his will, or does he also want to destroy all living things? What would the world with him victorious look like? I feel like I don’t understand the stakes with enough nuance. Is that picky of me? You are allowed to tell me off if it is!

And with that, I shall return to Fionavar to find out what happens next! As we left them, Lancelot is slowly following Darien’s flight towards his father, the armies are assembling for the final battle, and Kim has taken Loren and Matt on their dwarven side quest, which I suspect will result in last minute aid from the dwarves in battle, once Matt has reclaimed his place.

You can see my thoughts on part 1 here.

4 thoughts on “The Darkest Road by Guy Gavriel Kay: Read-Along Week 2”

  1. Flidais seems relatively normal, by the standards of people who’d basically hold people hostage to get that one last final riddle answer 😛

    Re Curdardh – I’m not familiar with a good analogue, but suspect one might exist in old Greek mythology.

    Like

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