The Stone Sky

I’ve been waiting months for this book to release, and although I hate to admit it, I wasn’t one of those good people who re-reads through an entire series before reading the following (or in this case the final) book. It’s not as tragic as you may think because most  the memory of the characters comes back fairly quickly, and N.K. Jemisin always slips little reminders as to how the main character feels about everyone and what they remember from the previous ‘adventures’. But still, I made a huge faux pas. And, I’m going to have to read through the entire series again and then re-read this book because there are tons of little pieces to relish, which you can only truly understand if your knowledge of the series is thorough.

Still, here’s a few things I enjoyed about this book:

1. Multiple Perspectives

Jemisin loves experiencing other characters’ perspectives, and just as she did in her previous books, she does the same thing here—amazing as always. This time, it’s only* three people of choice: Essun (previously Syenite and then more previously Damaya), Nassun (Essun’s daughter), and Hoa (previously Houwha, pre-stone-eater era). I use the asterisks because she does dip into other POVs throughout other chapters. Watch out for the triple stars within a chapter. This signifies a POV shift. I enjoyed Essun’s chapters because I love to watch her character develop through the struggle of what she emotionally wanted and what she logically wanted. I enjoyed Nassun’s chapters as she struggled, again, to follow what she logically wanted and what she emotionally wanted. And, Hoa’s chapters duplicate these same struggles, except piecing together more information of how this Seasoned world came to be, which I find direly interesting because I need to know how this horrible Earth resulted. So while all three are different characters with different experiences, they all follow the same basic trials and struggles with the end result that they are a tool, and should they follow what’s expected of them, or should they follow their heart?

2. Footnotes within History

At the end of most every Nassun and Essun chapter are the three stars signifying a POV shift, and I enjoyed these a lot because they mostly followed the same basic pattern: disaster strikes, orogene (or the derogatory rogga) saves the day, and mob kills rogga in typical hate-crime fashion. But let me just point this out—I don’t like the people getting killed or the mobs hating on someone. I just like the fact that the theme of racism (or discrimination) is addressed. Because to be fair, even if this is a common theme, we still see it again and again, probably because humanity never learns.

We saw it with African-Americans pre-during-post Civil War.

We saw it with Jews in the Holocaust.

We see it with mutants in X-men.

And we see it now with something as silly as majors. I remember taking an internship with Caterpillar—industrial and waste marketing job—and I was invited to a general welcoming party with all the other interns for Caterpillar in Illinois. And what was I told? ‘Oh, you’re a marketing intern,’ the engineering interns said with a sneer. Their perspective changed when I told them I was an engineer but wanted something else besides that for a job, but this perspective still exists on campus. Why does it matter what you major in? What does it matter what you specialize in or what your skills are? We can’t all be good at everything. But still this discrimination or sneering at differences exists, which is why I think this is a good point to drive home. And these little snippets of how people retaliate against the roggas, even as they’re saviors, helps show that discrimination can be stupid.

3. Second Perspective

Very few authors use second perspective for their characters, so the only author that comes to mind who uses this is Jeff Vandermeer, and even he used it rarely. Only Jemisin is brave (or daring) enough to use the second person perspective for a third of the book, for Essun’s perspective. But between Essun’s second perspective and Hoa’s first perspective, it makes you think a little bitter deeper on who’s the true teller of the story.

SPOILER ALERT. 

Just as Alabaster lost his humanity to using his magic/orogene to create the Rift, we find out that when Essun dares to use sapphire Obelisk, she also aligns all the particles in her body, causing her to turn to stone every time she uses magic/orogene at that point in time and after. SPOILER. The twist is that while you turn to stone, you don’t necessarily die. When Alabaster turned completely to stone, the trick is that while you lose that sense of yourself, you’re also reborn as a stone-eater, where if your partner stone-eater cares for you, they can help transition your past memories to you. Here, Antimony tried and somewhat succeeded for Alabaster, although we see in the books that he struggles a bit with his mind and memories. But with Hoa, because he loves Essun, he tries his very best to help her be reborn with all of her past memories. All of these memories that we are reading now because the twist is, this book is actually of Hoa telling the story of Essun to herself, once she has been reborn as a stone-eater. I loved this reveal at the end. Nothing more than realizing what is the true perspective you’re reading.

4. Earth is alive

This is one of my favorite parts of the book and while this isn’t about writing style, I do think this is an interesting idea. On our Earth, we are ruining the planet in so many ways. We’re acidifying our oceans; we’re globally raising the temperatures; we’re creating the sixth mass extinction—if you haven’t heard of this yet, check out my previous blog post here, and similarly SPOILER ALERT, the people on this alternate Earth were found to be ruining their Earth by using a special six roggas to help capture the Earth’s life source as an eternal power source. So when they attempt to do this, they anger the Earth, which decides to fight back, creating guardians and stone-eaters. And it’s so cool to finally see the Earth take a stance to fight back, which it does throughout the whole novel. You can listen to it fight for control. Fight to live. And, maybe this is a surreal element, but I loved having a normal object turn into a personified character to have its own struggles.
This isn’t to say I loved this book. There were definitely a few quirks that left me feeling…not the greatest. For instance, Essun’s pregnancy? She was so willing to give up a possible child. Or the fact that Nassun gave up her dreams for Schaffa, who followed her to the other side of the world and gave up his sanity, instead for Essun, who had given her nothing but bad memories. It seems somewhat out-of-character. But, it could’ve been the strength of that singular moment. Overall, I still really enjoyed this book. This series has been one of my favorites.

Jemisin, N.K. The Stone Sky. New York, NY: Orbit, 2017. Print.

Advertisements

Splitting perspective like light

Phew. I’m exhausted. I just finished reading 624 pages of book, and it was a monstrosity of a story. Not monstrosity as in bad but enormous. A Conjuring of Light is what I would’ve called the equivalent of an epic. And that’s a huge change in tone considering its sister volumes weren’t anywhere close in length, at least, not in terms of page numbers.

About two brothers whose fates are intertwined, literally – the two brothers share a lifeline after what happened the previous story. I guess that’s what happens when you die and your brother’s a magician – they both are in the midst of a tragedy after a magic-demon takes over their city and threatens their kingdom. Oh. Did I forget to mention these brothers are royalty?

What I really enjoyed about this book was not necessarily its plot line, but it’s unique strategy in presenting that plot. I was used to reading this book from a few of the main characters perspectives, either Lila (magician of grey London) or Kell (magician of red London) or Rhy (prince of red London). But in this book, I read from multiple POVs. And plenty of them characters I’ve never heard from before. And that’s what I really want to examine in this post. So forgive its length.

Chapter Character Why their POV?
1.1 Lila Because she is testing her magic to the extent of an Antari, testing if she is in fact Antari, and if she can save Kell in time.
1.2 Holland To show that Osaron’s will had conquered Holland’s, that it was no longer Holland’s body but Osaron’s.
 1.3 Kell Because Kell’s magic is disappearing due to the collar, and Rhy is dying.
 1.4 Rhy Because he’s dying.
 1.5 Alucard Alucard can see the strands of magic, watch them disappear as the threads tying Rhy to this Earth disappear.
 1.6 Lila  Because Lila is fighting to save Kell, to save Rhy.
 1.7 Kell  Until Kell gets his magic back and fights to reach Rhy, realizing along the way that Lila had a fake eye the entire time. That she was Antari, like him.

As you can see, there’s no specific order to the perspectives. It just jumps from character to character, but I kind of like this method. If you notice the first 6 chapters, even though they center on different characters, they center on one plot-point event: Kell wearing the collar that saps your magic strength, making it so you can’t access magic at all. Leading to Rhy dying.

And I really like this idea because when you read a story, it feels very linear. This happens often when you see an event only from one character’s perspective, but when Schwab changes this pattern, showing us at least 5 different perspectives, it gives the event a sort of 3-dimensional perspective, almost like you were Neo in the Matrix when all the cameras went off to create a 360-freeze-frame effect. It’s a very good way to flush out an event and fill in a scene.

And if you haven’t notice, she doesn’t use the same characters every time.

Chapter Character Why their POV?
1.11 Osaron To reveal the arch enemy of all worlds, and how much he thrives in Kell’s magic-filled world.
2.1 Kisimyr Because even though Osaron can take over some people, for others, he burns through them too quickly. Part of the population of Red London dies like Kisimyr.
2.5 Lenos The man who has the sixth sense of foreshadow, and warns the reader that the demon king is taking over the city from a citizen POV.
3.2 Emira The queen and mother of Rhy, who regrets not better raising Kell, to use him as more of a guardian than a brother, even though it was part of that closeness that saved Rhy.
4.1 Nasi To show that scars are a sense of pride for London citizens; it shows that you’ve survived.
4.3 King Maxim Because the King is willing to do whatever it takes to save his city, same as his son and Kell.
6.1 Ned Tuttle To show how close Osaron is to taking over all the Londons, including the Grey.
9.1 Tieren  To reveal a small theme, that”Love an loss are like a ship and the sea. They rise together. The more we love, the more we have to lose. But the only way to avoid loss is to avoid love. And what a sad world that would be” (371).

As you can see, Schwab switches perspective quite often. But, there’s not as many as I initially thought. With this book, there are 13 different perspectives, as well as an omniscient perspective that pops up once or twice. But with fifteen sections, each with their own series of short chapters, this multiple POV doesn’t feel as overwhelming as it should in a normal-sized book. And because each character adds a piece to the resolution of the plot, it helps make this book feel like a world rather than just a theater, with the spotlight focused on one character or one perspective.

I think I would definitely feel inclined to use a technique like this in the future.

Schwab, V. E. A Conjuring of Light. New York, NY: Tor, 2017. Print.

Snyder’s Strengths

Maris Snyder is who I would describe as a new adult author with a quick-writing style. I’ve always been a fan of her because of how quick her books move, always fast-paced action, her writing always direct and to the point. And this book is no different.

Shadow Study is meant to continue Yelena’s and Valek’s plot line—the Poison Study series, and while I wonder if it’s one of the last, it definitely leaves the series open enough to continue. (I won’t spoil the ending.)

But in the manner of reflection, there’s a few high points I want to focus on.

1. Using nicknames to denote character familiarity

Onoro had disappeared into the forest. probably climbing a tree. And then he wondered when he’d stopped thinking of her as Little Miss Assassin. (238)

I love how her characters can be humorous and annoying. She does annoying so well, which makes me wonder about her personality, ha. But what I particularly like about this section, is how she shows Janco calling Onoro nicknames, slowly fading it out until you realize, when did he stop? It forces you to go back and look.

2. Using cliffhangers to keep you reading

I hesitated. A dagger slammed into the ground near me.

“Let go or my next knife will not miss.”

<end of chapter> (249)

This is how almost every one of her chapters end—with a huge cliffhanger. It definitely pushes you to keep reading, always advancing the tension with what happens next? It definitely gets old after a while, especially if you make it to obvious. I know there was cringe-worthy cliffhanger, ending with, ‘when he took off his mask, she gasped. She never could’ve guessed it was end.’ Or, something along those lines. Either way, withholding his name, kinda mean for the reader.

3. Using flashbacks to elaborate the relationships between characters

“…Get me the name of the patron and I won’t go after the assassin.”

“And why would I do that?”

Time for the ace. “because you owe me a favor and I’m collecting.” (256)

What I really liked this is that throughout the book, I was questioning why Valek kept having flashbacks. It was a smooth blending in and out, to the point where I had to go back and reread the transition, but I kept wondering is, why now? It’s interesting and all, but what’s the point? Until…I got to scenes like these, where she would reference the past. And here is where I was grateful for the flashbacks. I felt like such a insider after I witnessed them.

4. Using multiple perspectives to show where readers hoard knowledge

Kiki slowed as a wagon appeared, traveling toward them. Odd. (374)

In the previous chapter, we saw Yelena strapped to the wagon, after she had been kidnapped, so seeing her boyfriend riding her horse, her horse figuring out Yelena was there, it was quite mind-blowing as a reader. It makes you want to stand in your seat, waving your arms, pointing the wagon and saying, Go save her you nincompoop! Too bad he never figured it out…Either way! It was a fun scene. Made you feel like you had insider’s knowledge.

Synder, M. V. Shadow Study. Don Mills, Canada: MIRA Books, 2015. Print.

Writing with Multiple POVs

When you think of a typical book, you think of a single-character, linear-timeline, which Allen Steele breaks completely when he wrote Arkwright. Containing 6 different perspectives, Steele covers at least 8 generations of Arkwright’s while following the trajectory of his novel. Refer to the genealogy below.

family tree

Note: It’s unknown how many generations were skipped before Nathan Arkwright II was born. Only that the Galactique landed during Dhani’s lifetime, near after Julian’s honeymoon, and it took nearly 300 years before the first Sanjay Arkwright generation. This is only an estimate from the book. 

I really enjoyed the non-singular character trajectory. I think it makes it a little more fun to write, since you get to cover so many more “mini” stories, but it’s definitely a break from the norm. That’s not to say it isn’t linear—it is. We move from past to present to future. But, at least it covers more than one main character, which I think was relatively done well. I know a little bit about all of them:

Nathan…the writer. 

Kate…the science journalist.

Ben…the engineer.

Matt…the lazy, nomad. 

Dhani…the physics teacher. 

It’s great to pair each of them with a profession and a strong personality because it makes them easier to keep track of, even with a novel that skips characters like this one. And I like the fact that it didn’t skip multiple generations but always traveled into the next one. This way it gave me someone concrete to remember while I expanded my character list. Overall, well done.

Steele, A. Arkwright. New York, NY: Tor. Print.

A Voice that Speaks

I think everyone wishes for when they speak, the stars stop their trek across the sky, pausing for a moment to listen, wondering what it was that was said. I think everyone wishes that for a moment, they are heard.

And for the voice in the book I just read – I listened.

Jemisin is talented, and from reading some of her earlier books, I can tell she has a strong voice in the making, that is only strengthening through practice. It’s hard for me to quantify voice, just as it’s hard to quantify volume and tremor through words. But her words hold a certain vibration upon the page. They seem to sing with life.

The streets are paved not with easy-to-replace cobbles, but with a smooth, unbroken, and miraculous substance the locals have dubbed asphalt. Even the shanties of Yumenes are daring because they’re just thin-walled shacks that would blow over in a bad windstorm, let alone a shake. Yet they stand, as they have stood for generations.

At the core of the city are many tall buildings, so it is perhaps unsurprising that one of them is larger and more daring than all the rest combined…Pyramids are the most stable architectural form, and this one is pyramids times five because why not?

None of these places or people matter, by the way. I simply point them out for context. (Jemisin 3).

I think the reason this section stood out to me was how natural, how easy-going and casual her voice appeared. There’s opinion when she speaks: miraculous asphalt, daring Yumenes. It bleeds into her writing, originating within her and then her characters. And while this is something I personally enjoy – I usually favor strongly opinionated people – I think others can agree this is something to support. It gives your characters more personality when they have a voice, an opinion, a stance.

All the sudden, perspective is not this 2D definition of ‘you’ or ‘I’ but 3D definition of where you stand, how you feel in that moment in time.

And I think for this story, this story in particular, it was necessary to establish so much opinion, so much perspective. For a character who develops over the course of the novel, who we see in snapshots over her lifetime, it was necessary to give her personality to show how she changes and grows.

Jemisin, N.K. Fifth Season. New York, NY: Orbit, 2015. Print.

How to make summaries exciting

When you read most chapters of a book, usually you’re witnessing a scene of some sort, where the characters are committed to an action. For this book, The Girl With All the Gifts, that is exactly true. Primarily scenes. Minimal summary. But, there’s a third type of chapters: reflection.

I think the biggest part came from supplementary character POV, for example Soldier Parks.

See? Parks is no fool. He knows what’s being done here, and he’s served that purpose silently and uncomplainingly. He’s served it for the best part of four years now.

Rotation was meant to happen after eighteen months. (Carey 73)

That isn’t to say that this paragraph isn’t also a summary. But, this whole chapter is also a reflection of his inner thoughts, and even if it’s a summary, there’s enough confusion, conflict that his own thinking lends itself to the tone of a scene. There’s also explanation for everything, like what’s going on and why. Why this setting? Why’s it so important?

The answers to these sorts of questions help grip the reader because these are the sort of the questions that the reader is looking to answer.

I also like how the chapter overviews Parks life so far, how he got wrapped up in this school to where he’s in discussion on how he got in some trouble with some junkers. This is a good way to do the history of the story, using someone else’s perspective. It gives the reader someone to identify with so that even though it was a heavy summary chapter, it reads very quickly.

The takeaway would be by lending perspective and emotion from your characters, you can give an otherwise long, tedious summary conflict and sympathy that makes for easy reading for people.

Carey, M.R. The Girl With All the Gifts. New York, NY: Orbit, 2014. Print.

Lightbringer Series: Plot Examination, Part 3

At this point, everyone’s probably thinking, how much more can you talk about this series? So, I’ll try to summarize all the characters perspectives as much as I can in order to focus on the question, how do each of these add to the overall plot?

SPOILER ALERT!

Point Of Views:

1. Karris (in book 1, start chapter 18)

Karris, is a bichrome drafter and a Blackguard, and in this series, we follow her perspective as she learns about the true identity of Prism Gavin. Here, I have to be honest. I saw no point to her POV. She found out about the identity, which added to the overall romance between her and Gavin, but I’ve never been a huge romantic. There was a point that I thought her POV would add tension since her brother turned out to be the Color Prince – the leader of the old religion and new war, but nothing developed from this. Her POV doesn’t get truly exciting until the third book, where she becomes the leader of the Spectrum. I expect her role to grow in the fourth book.

2. Liv (in book 1, chapter 30)

A bichrome drafter, who serves the Color Prince. Her POV took on a huge role that slowly grew in importance because as you read, you’ll learn that she takes you through the perspective of the villains. By serving the Color Prince, she is serving the enemy. I really appreciated this perspective because the villains aren’t always painted human, and having her here, it really gave the Prince some depth and added dimensions to the conflict, besides just that of “war.” Of course, with her becoming a god with the superviolet…she’ll ease take on one of the greater roles in this series.

3. Teia (in book 2, chapter 28)

A used-to-be-slave, Blackguard inductee, and paryl drafter. Honestly, with Teia making such a late appearance, I didn’t expect much of her. She was a late development, but this can be explained considering the trajectory of Kip’s education. When Kip learns about the Nine Kings Cards, he learns about Janus Borig, the shimmercloaks. This is when Teia’s education begins, when she learns that she’s not only a paryl drafter but a lightsplitter. This is where she becomes apart of the team of shimmercloaks, known as the Order of the Broken Eye. Because these are a secret guild whose purpose is built on keeping order in the land, I’m sure they will become immensely important later in the series. Weeks is building himself up for a finale – so much complexity!

4. Dazen (in book 1, chapter 3)

Real name, Gavin Guile – the old Prism elect before he was replaced during the False Prism War. Honestly, I was expecting him to break out. If a man is in prison, and you read about him ready to escape, waiting to escape, you bring along the expectation that he will free himself, so when he was murdered, it’s safe to say I was disappointed. His POV I then saw as filler. His craziness didn’t really do much at that point other than add to the true Dazen’s own craziness, to show how desperate he was that his brother not escape.

5. Corvan (in book 1, chapter 59)

The war general for the true Dazen or current Prism. I don’t think I read too much from his perspective. He was rare. I would have to go back to read his specific chapter, but I feel his POV didn’t amount to much. It didn’t influence the plot a lot, and his own influence doesn’t ramp in importance until he becomes a satrap. And at that point, I would’ve liked to seen his perspective. We missed so much time between when he saved a city and became the husband of a seer. I would’ve liked to seen that. He deals important information, being the main correspondence. (Maybe this would be better as a side story since it doesn’t contribute immediately to the plot.)

6. Ironfist (in book 2, chapter 6)

Commander of the Blackguard (and the most fierce character besides Gavin). This man has had a few chapters for his POV, and although I don’t think it’s necessarily important for him to have the camera, I think his perspective has been helpful for seeing scenes that we need to see in order to develop background. I think the only reason he was used was because he was well-known to the reader and got around easily around Chromeria.

7. Gunner (2-10)

Ship captain. This guy is crazy. Literally crazy. He wants to be famous, legendary, and his perspective gives us some of this insight. But even with commanding Gavin as a slave and releasing him, I feel like Gunner’s perspective, as few as it was revealed, didn’t add to the story. At least, I don’t see the point, not yet.

8. Aglaia Crassos (2-56) – teia owner

Teia’s old slave owner. Her perspective wasn’t necessarily important, but I think it was important to justify the command one of the leaders of the shimmercloaks – Master Sharp. Mostly to help develop his character. Not strictly necessary, but a fun scene to read.

9. Vox (2-59)

Shimmercloak. This is one of those once written scenes, where they’re confusing to read because you haven’t been set up in the setting or character-head orientation. I had to re-read this, after knowing who was who. And knowing that, I think this was mainly set up for the Shimmercloaks – their purpose, and who the people were who killed Janus Borig.

10. Samila Sayeh (2-63, 3-53)

Color wight. Okay, I’m going to be honest. I love this perspective. In the story so far, all color wights are bad and evil, and having this perspective in combination with the color prince, who speaks for the defense of not killing people once they break their halo…this proves that maybe the Color Prince has some grounds on what he’s saying. Maybe he’s not as wrong as we thought. Maybe we should doubt the Chromeria. After all, they’re killing people before they even break the halo. Maybe they’re not as innocent as we thought.

11. Blackguard commander (2-65)

I don’t even know who is talking, which is weird because for most of the book, we’re in a third person perspective, and all the sudden we get this random first person POV. That must mean it’s important, right? Or, is it because we’re closer to the character’s thoughts, we’re supposed to think what he thinks? The commander is contemplating the line between normal and wight-like. When is luxin-body modifications okay? The Chromeria says no. The Color Prince says yes. Who’s right? Maybe that’s the point of this chapter.

12. The master (2-91) – andross guile?

Another perspective I’m not sure who it is, but there’s a few clues. With the gloves, the cloak, and the constant heat-vision/red-luxin, I have a good hunch it’s Andross Guile – the red wight. This was kind of cool not knowing who it was, not getting much of a chapter, and seeing a nice contrast compared to the logical blue wight, Samila Sayeh. It also shows us how Kip has something Andross wants.

13. Zymun (3-7)

A young, prideful drafter and Karris’ son. He doesn’t seem too important yet. And I kind of would prefer him not to have a perspective. He keeps struggling for power, and even though he can draft nearly all the colors, he hasn’t quite gained a good position yet. People keep rejecting him because of his personality. I would prefer if he stayed that way – as a way of the author rejecting him as well, but I have a feeling he’s going to come back. It seems like there might be a battle between him and his half brother Kip.

14. Darjan (3-13)

I believe this is someone who used to be an old God because they speak of Atirat needing them as a pure drafter for her command. But then they go to another color to draft and become something wight-like. In the back, Weeks defines her as a “legendary drafter during the time of Lucindonius and Karris Shadowblinder” (766). Is this meant to give us a glimpse into the old religion?

15. Arys Greenveil (3-31)

Sub-red on the Spectrum. Another Master Sharp moment, when he kills the sub-red leader on the Spectrum. Kind of cool to see this woman’s perspective considering how much Gavin made fun of/depended on her weaknesses, but I feel like this just reinforces Sharp’s behavior. Always working a job. Mostly emotionless, shameless.

16. Quentin (3-60)

A luxiat, or priest of Orholam. This gives us some insight into Quentin’s own goals. And my gosh, here we learn the luxiat want the special knife back, the one that steals colors from drafters. But instead of just stealing it, they ask Quentin to shoot Kip to get rid of the heir. Is this… Now I’m going to have to read back on what happened to Quentin. I remember the two were close, but I don’t remember him shooting a bullet or aligning with Kip. I’m going to have to read back.

17. Shimmercloak (3-62)

This is like the origin story of all things Shimmercloak, and I enjoyed it. It was kind of cool to see the “science” of how it was done. And now we see why the knife is so important. It’s the color-taker, and apparently it has more power than we think. If it can take the Prism’s powers, can it give them back? Can it grant anyone the power to be Prism?

This series is already so complex. Weaving a story about not only a culture but a battle between beliefs, this is surely one of the most complex stories I’ve read in a long time and deserves to be called something along the lines of an epic, if not that.

I think one of the strengths of this series was not only its story complexity but choice in perspective. A lot of the characters chosen here were based directly on their perspective, meant to develop both sides of the war – good and evil, and then twist our minds enough that we’re confused on which side is truly good.

In summary, the main lesson to take away would be on how can you use characters to truly develop sides that aren’t really good/evil but more two differences. I especially like the evilness of wights and then a back-and-forth argument, using multiple perspectives of different wights.

Of course, these only reflect my opinions and are open to debate. As I encourage all readers, everyone should take the time to reflect and analyze what they read in order to learn techniques that may or may not work for them.

Weeks, Brent. The Black Prism. New York, NY: Orbit, 2010. Print.

Weeks, Brent. The Blinding Knife. New York, NY: Orbit, 2013. Print

Weeks, Brent. The Broken Eye. New York, NY: Orbit, 2014. Print

Lightbringer Series: Plot Examination, Part 2

Last time I talked about the plot, I provided a little bit of background about the story before I launched into one of the main characters, and why their perspective was pivotal to the story. There’s one more who I consider of the utmost importance even though there’s at least 10 different perspectives throughout the series.

Let me introduce another main character: Kip.

From the first chapter of the first book, The Black Prism, we know that Kip has a druggy mother: “But Ram didn’t have to feed his family; his mother didn’t smoke her wages” (Weeks 1, The Black Prism). He is fifteen years old, with the following quote putting the reader in perspective of where Kip fits into the history of the Seven Satrapies: “And it had been sixteen years since the final battle – a year before Kip was even born” (2).

We find him in the beginning of the first chapter scouring fields old farmland, which had been ruined from the past battles. Where there used to be figs and grapes, there were now burnt homes/barns and craters as the scars from cannon fire. Here, we find Kip looking for solid Luxin to sell, yellow being the most valuable (2).

SPOILERS!

This is a beautiful introduction to not only one of the main characters, but it leads the reader into learning about the oncoming war, where old religion resurrects to battle the new (or, old gods versus the Prism and Spectrum: Orholam’s main supporters).

MAJOR SPOILERS!

Not only that, but Kip deserves to be the first character we see in the books. As we read later on in the series, Kip is what the people believe to be the new Lightbringer, which everyone calls Diakoptes, or “Breaker.” Here are some clues to prove his purpose (skip if you don’t like spoilers):

  1. He’s a superchromat, meaning he’s extremely color-sensitive, which is rare for men, usually on the order of “one in tens of thousands” (145). This is an important fact because as Gavin mentioned, “if you can see heat…there’s a good chance you can draft it” (146). This is the reader’s first clue Kip is rare. For him to draft green and sub-red, two discontinuous colors, makes him probably a discontiguous bichrome, even more rare.
  2. Kip failed the Thresher, but at four minutes and twelve seconds. Most normal people last around a minute, and even though Kip failed, it was only because someone handed him the rope to pull, interrupting the test. His results are in comparison to his “father,” Dazen who never grabbed the rope. This tells us how stubborn/determined Kip is (279). See his realization on page 574, 587. See the start of his self-inflicted nickname, turtle-bear.
  3. Gavin reacts strangely to Kip’s Thresher results, realizing that Kip is a polychrome (286). Readers get more proof later, hint: page 472, 575. For the real evidence, look to The Blinding Knife, page 20. We get final proof that Kip can draft all colors (The Blinding Knife 356)!
  4. killed the king
  5. rhea library understudy
  6. Janus Borig – the Mirror who reflects only truths – tells Kip that he will not be Prism (207). She reveals to him later, while dying, “I know who the Lightbringer is now” (285). It’s assumed she means him since he’s the only one around, and he’s the one whose purpose she’s been trying to divine. Look at page 352 for confirmation.
  7. Will breaker
  8. According to Blackguard tradition, those who train to join or have joined get a new name, according to the tradition of Lucidonius and his men. As Cruxer – another trainee – said, “So what’s he done? Arm-breaker, Will-breakder, Rule-breaker, Nose-breaker…Chair-breaker…we dub thee Breaker” (263). We learn later that Breaker is a nick-name for Diakoptes or Lightbringer.
  9. Still haven’t figured out what this power is relative to Kip’s skill set, but in the middle of battle, “Whoosh. The world looked beyond real. Kip realized he was seeing the whole spectrum at once” (519). This is the only time he does this, and I imagine it’s a similar skill to the Prism. This is also one of the times he drafts without lenses on, which he has done more than once.
  10. “Kip’s dagger punched straight into the back of Atirat’s head,” (608) which takes care of the old green god that birthed from the green bane. This also marks one of Kip’s major accomplishment: the murder of a god.
  11. “Magic was useful for everything,” said Kip as he reflected on its multiple uses while he was stranded in the jungle (65). It’s the location that forced him to invent shoes with a flexible sole, leaving “an open connection between his feet and the bottom most layer of the sole so that he would be able to adjust the grip of his shoes immediately” (65). Then he did a waterskin (67), fireplace (69), a sunshade (78), blue bandages (80), cocoon shelter (78), cloth/clothes (82)… I think it’s particularly funny that he asks himself, “Am I a genius of magic, or not?” Because this is the exact point we’re arguing.
  12. This is a similar point to #11 because he drafts himself boxing gloves, but he takes it a step further to invent luxen-body manipulation. His first experiment was to speed up his kicks (170-171), but it slowly expands to include running faster, jumping farther.

It’s around this point in the series, where the characters firmly believe Kip is the Lightbringer and will defend him at all costs.

MAJOR SPOILAGE!

Other people believe that the old figure, Lucidonius, was the Lightbringer who already came, and as we find out from Kip’s later run in with Lucindonius in the library (around p. 522 in The Broken Eye), Lucidonius was the Lightbringer – although a perverse evil alternative compared to Lucidonius and lightbringer that society likes to acknowledge, seeing a much more rosier version.

According to Glossary, Lucidonius is the “legendary founder of the Seven Satrapies and the Chromeria, the first Prism. He was married to Karris Shadow-blinder and founded the Blackguards” (Weeks 773, The Broken Eye).

This brings up the question of how many lightbringers can we have? Are they always as good as the people have been led to believe?

What kind of lightbringer will Kip turn out to be?

Vocabulary:

Blackguard – a group of warriors that defends the Prism and Spectrum

Mirror – a type of person that can reflect a person’s history through ingraining luxen through art

Weeks, Brent. The Black Prism. New York, NY: Orbit, 2010. Print.

Weeks, Brent. The Blinding Knife. New York, NY: Orbit, 2013. Print

Weeks, Brent. The Broken Eye. New York, NY: Orbit, 2014. Print

Lightbringer Series: Plot Examination, Part 1

I just “finished” a series, called the Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks. “Finished” because I just completed reading the third book in the series; “finished” because the series isn’t yet done but won’t release another book until next year.

Overall, I like it. The originality is great. The complexity is great. And although the book is based on a foundation of lies and deceit, the reader isn’t shocked with a slap-in-the-face discovery but led through a plot that makes sense even as it astounds.

Because these books were gargantuan – each one over 700 pages – I would like to back track to review the plot. Because each of these books holds multiple POV’s, I want to pose the question: is each one necessary?

Basically, do they support the plot?

The foundation of this story is based on Seven Satrapies – seven countries who follow a religion that honors a single god, Orholam. In their legends, Orholam created mankind, also called the old gods, from light. And one of those original men stole the light, who is called the Lightbearer. He split the light into multiple colors and used it to create more men, human ones in his own image. The plot that follows in this series is many times later, where civilization has expanded to include certain beliefs and customs, where Orholam acts through the Prism to ‘chain’ the light. The main idea of these customs include that the people follow the Prism as their religious leader, and although his power is mitigated by the Spectrum (a sort of congress with each country/color represented by a different leader), the Prism is the one the people look to for guidance. Because he can balance the colors in the land, honoring color stability, most of the country looks to him for peace. (Weeks 478-479, The Broken Eye).

As further background, when light was split into multiple colors, this included paryl (similar to microwaves), sub-red (similar to infrared), red, orange, yellow, green, blue, superviolet, and chi (similar to x-rays), including two more “colors” called black (absence of light) and white (all colors combined). The idea is that, while most people of the land are normal ‘humans,’ others have the power to absorb one color and transform it into luxin – a colored substance that can form solid objects. For example, someone with blue powers can draft a blue sword by looking at a blue sky and absorbing it through their eyes into their skin. This power carries restrictions since each color has its own weight, tactility, scent, personality-influences, emotional-influences, and purposes. Some people can also draft more than one color, called bichromes (for 2 colors) or polychromes (for 3+). 

Also to note in Orholam’s beliefs, the legends say there will come a man named the Lightbringer – a man who “will slay or has slain gods and kings…is a genius of magic, a warrior who will sweep, or has swept, all before him, a champion of the poor and downtrodden, great from his youth, He Who Shatters” (Weeks 772, The Broken Eye). Basically, he’s a rescuer of the people, but the people have not agreed whether he has come already, is here now, or will come in the future.

SPOILERS!

This brings us to current day, where the current Prism “Gavin” has secretly replaced his brother, “Dazen,” during the Prism War over a decade ago. He is one of the main characters that the books revolve around, being that he plays a strong hand within the fate of the countries politically, religiously, socially…in every sense. He influences everything.

Because his importance is ingrained within the foundation of this society, he is a necessary character. Not only that, but through his simple lie – of changing places with his similar-looking older brother – he has changed the natural course of the Prism’s customs and his relationships with family and friends, none of whom know about his deception. Because Gavin has lasted for such a long time (16 years), with most Prisms not lasting beyond 7,14, or 21 years, he thinks he will last 5 more (13, The Black Prism). As such, he promises himself to fulfill five great purposes within that time. All these hopes fall apart when he reads a note, “I’m dying, Gavin. It’s time you meet your son Kip. – Lina” (13).

Who is this son of his? And is it truly his or his brother’s?

From this preliminary discussion, I think this was great perspective for the story, and by giving him depth, where he was interwoven in the land’s religious history, recent political history from the Prism War, and still has complex lies/deception within the lands current politics, his influence echoes throughout the series.

He is a great addition, and through a deep character study, new writers can learn a lot from him.

Weeks, Brent. The Black Prism. New York, NY: Orbit, 2010. Print.

Weeks, Brent. The Broken Eye. New York, NY: Orbit, 2014. Print.

Story-Telling with Games

The best idea generator for you as a writer: your friends, your colleagues, random people you find on the street…

I recently went to PAX, and although this is a video game convention, there’s a lot of story telling in video games.

As background, I’m the type of player that goes for active-interaction stories, survival games. I just can’t survive any other type of game because when you insert me in a game with shooters or actual violence (or real-live players rather than NPC’s), I die. Figuratively – in the game. Not in real life.

For example, I just got one called, This War is Mine. I’ve enjoyed it. It has a lot of strategy to plan how your civilians will survive the war, and although the setting is great, the story isn’t really in depth. You basically get a bio on each of your characters. But I guess since you play the story, you determine the course of the game. Other story games have included State of Decay, Transistor, Bioshock Series

There’s also a card game I tried. Somewhat similar to Cards Against Humanity, and yet more similar to something like Story Cubes. It’s called Skip Trace Game.

This game has 4 sets of cards, and they’re divided between the player and boss. The boss gets 3 sets: location, target, and method while the players get 1 set: item cards. Basically, the boss draws one card from each of the three decks and frames a story, in which the player must act out the method, using the item they draw. For example, I think our mission was to wreck a bro at the airport, i.e. method to target at location. The winning player played a hangover with an air horn (two items being the max to play during one turn). The idea of this game is to BS your entire story. The boss BS’s the mission. The player makes up a story that fits the items to the story.

This whole game is about story telling.

I’m not saying these stories were anything good enough to integrate within a short story, novel, etc. But it certainly sets yourself up for creativity and originality since the originality is determined by the randomness of the cards, and the creativity is up to your “team.”