Read-along: The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay (week 4)

And so, we come too quickly to the end of the first of the two Wyrd and Wonder read-alongs.

“Such powers had moved across the face of Fionavar as had not been gathered since the worlds were spun and the Weaver named the gods.”

Indeed. Let’s discuss.

I don’t need to warn you about SPOILERS, right?!

 

Week 4: Chapter 13 through to the end

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

Apart from calling everyone on their bullsh*t now, which I’m loving (to Jaelle: “Aren’t we two human beings first? … With very great burdens, and support to share”; to Aileron: “You arrogant bastard”), I don’t know what this might mean. It clearly doesn’t mean he’s now the High King. But it does mean that the (nearly)High King will bow before him. I’m thinking of it as a more ‘spiritual’ role than a civic one and it feels like it’s important (a god gives you your life back, I reckon it’s for something) but I can’t imagine how.

What I do know is that I thought Paul’s suffering on the Summer Tree was about as bad as things could get, but clearly I had no idea

 

Each of our grad students have 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?

… because what the heck was this?! Seriously, I can’t begin to grasp what’s happened to her as anything other than excessively godawful. It almost feels like this has happened to Jennifer because she’s the least offensive of the bunch (not that I think Kim is at all offensive, but each of the lads has managed to incur my irritation at least once during this read-along), she’s the innocent sacrifice to the monster/evil/darkness. But even as I’m typing that I’m shaking my head because she’s not ‘just’ being sacrificed, she’s being destroyed.

Huh.

Unravelled, even.

If this is less about Jennifer and more about our coming to an understanding of the nature of the Maugrim (great name btw) then point made. POINT VERY MUCH MADE.

 

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

This was pure entertainment! Diarmuid put on a heck of a performance, as did Aileron. The brothers clearly both have a dramatic bent and seem about as bad as one another in a lot of ways. Having said that, I’m still glad that Diarmuid relinquished his claim to the throne, mostly because I still think he’s an asshat.

My reaction to Sharra’s skewed knife throw was “dagnabbit! You missed!” even while I was applauding her travelling all that way and facing potential humiliation to get the job done. I hope this means that Sharra will continue to play a role in the story because I like her. (And I’m pleased that she and Kim have made friends and thrown cold water at Diarmuid).

Absolutely the best bit, though, was Paul calling Aileron on his “my war” nonsense! I’m going to treasure that scene until my dying day.

 

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.

Yeeaaahhh, one of the things that I have not carried out of my childhood and into my cynical adult years is an unquestioning wonder of magical objects. Now I’m all questions: how did you people lose that most prized and magical Horn and only find it now, right when it’s going to come in handy? Why wasn’t that sounds-frigging-evil Cauldron destroyed instead of just buried so someone else could come along and dig it up later? What do you mean no-one really understands that glows-red-when-bad-things-happen ring of yours? Who made it? Where? When? Why do you not know these things?

And I know, I know, this is where that suspension of disbelief is supposed to come into play, but I think the Highly Significant Object of Magical Importance trope is just one that I can’t overlook. Put it down to too many years of being repeatedly disappointed when my newly discovered (usually at a school fete or jumble sale) ‘magical’ item proved to be entirely mundane, (my most treasured example *sarcasm* being the ‘genie’s lamp’ that I discovered in a cupboard at school and kept sneaking off to polish before my teacher revealed that it was actually a fancy (and confiscated) lighter. Mrs Slater everyone, destroyer of childish dreams).

However, I’m totally on board with flying unicorns and getting lost in grumpy woodlands. I’m fascinated to learn more about Imraith-Nimphais, a creature that didn’t exist until she did, and what her role will be in the events to come. And I loved the episode in Pendaran Wood all the way from “the Wood forgives none of us” through to Dave, Levon and Torc awakening on the other side. I loved the sound of the leaves and then their silence, I loved how the Wood kept turning Torc around and how it separated the friends from each other, I loved Dave’s meeting with Flidais, and I loved how flipping lucky they were that it was that particular night when they entered Pendaran, and so were able to leave alive. The whole thing read like a dream sequence in the best possible way.

 

The Dwarves did it, in the dark, with the Cauldron of Khath Meigol! But we’ve only made the acquaintance of one Dwarf so far, and he is not representative of his people. What do you make of this last-minute revelation? And care to make any predictions about future developments?

I’d been wondering if we were going to meet any more Dwarves, or if Matt would be the only one, so I was glad when Brock turned up. I was glad too to finally understand what happened with Matt’s kingship, although I found it oddly sad that he is so torn between these two things, his kingship and his being Loren’s source, neither of which he can properly give up. (This kind of made me think of Jack’s being a faerie raised with humans in The Darkest Part of the Forest read-along, which makes him similarly trapped between two things).

But what the heck were the Dwarves thinking? I know that Matt says that his people are “not what we once had been”, but there’s still a big leap from seeing lamentable developments in your culture to freeing The Big Bad god-thing that once nearly destroyed your world. Just saying. I want to know a whole lot more about how this happened (and why) asap.

 

Finally, reaction shots on Maugrim the Unraveller – go!

I keep thinking about the comment that Maugrim is from outside the Tapestry, just as the Weaver is – which makes him a formidable, but more importantly, an indestructible power.

I also think that GGK may just have won the bookforager prize for best worst Big Bad ever. No tying you up, threatening to kill you and then telling you all his nefarious plans … oh no, Maugrim is on a whole other level. And that chapter was one of the most disturbing, upsetting scenes I’ve read. Ever. I don’t know whether to condemn or applaud how completely it messed with my equilibrium.

 

Which makes this a pretty successful read-along from my point of view!

 

9 comments

  1. I do think people are being a bit hard on Aileron and that speech. As Kim backs him up – everything he said was true. One of the flaws of English is that the word “my” does a lot of heavy lifting “my thing that I exclusively have” “my thing that I share ownership of with others” “my thing that I have a heavy emotional tie to despite having no control over” – they’re all just “my”. I don’t think Aileron was ever trying to claim the former, and is immediately contrite when Paul attacks him for it – but it is nevertheless the purpose of his days. It is his. That doesn’t stop it from being other people’s.

    And re the objects… since a goddess was able to let them rediscover the horn, I’m guessing a goddess had something to do with it being removed in the first place.

    And assuming the cauldron has similar properties to most cauldrons in Celtic mythology, I’m guessing nobody felt like paying the price to destroy it.

    And re the Baelrath – given that it’s wild magic, maybe it just popped into existence, or predates humanity on this continent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awww, now I feel bad about Aileron! I do hear what you’re saying and agree that “my” is a catch all that doesn’t allow for the subtlety of what he’s saying.

      As for your other notes: thank you! I don’t think I’d quite picked up on the goddess’s role in the Horn being found (and I should have done, of course).

      You know I’m only gently poking fun at these tropes, right? I don’t mean to come across like an asshat – I just think I’m funny sometimes! ☺

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know – I may be coming across as a little terse right now as I’m just go go go and not really taking the time to manage my delivery that I usually do (sorta like Aileron :P) – I just find it interesting what we do and don’t know about those items. Particularly given how much we know about as many things – we know Lokdal’s history (the dagger Ysaine used), about the wardstones, about the hall… but these items are a lot more shadowy, with the Baelrath the most shadowy of all! That line between the magic that humans know about (or think they now about) and those that don’t is intriguing.

        And don’t get me wrong – the exultation of “whoo! my war!” is… well, yeah, I’d have reacted like Paul. But he’s a young man who’s had a rough few years with familial tragedy and exile and a ton of stress – and he’s finally worked out what his purpose on that earth is. *Of course* he’s going to be a bit excited. And of course that’s inappropriate. But it’s also true. Just like Paul is true. I guess I love them all here?

        Incidentally, I think Aileron’s actions here increases my view that he should be seen as ND in some way. I kind of want to go back over this sort of classic fiction and pick out the ones that have me going “hang on” now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! I am loving the magic we know about/magic we don’t know about divide and am fascinated to see where that will go in the following books.
        And I like your ND theory – that’s an interesting study right there, and something I’m going to take forward with me when we carry on reading.

        I’m totally cool with direct delivery, no worries there. I wanted to be sure I’d come across how I meant to. ❤

        Like

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